(Post by Jason) We thought our truck blog from Tuesday would probably elicit some strong opinions and we were right ! I will back down and say that in certain situations a full size half ton pickup is probably (barely) adequate to haul one or two horses locally. But I'm not backing down completely on the subject and I will attempt to explain why. Most American trucks and SUV's have plenty of engine power and torque to haul any sort of horse trailer, loaded or not. This isn't a question of engine power. This is a question of braking, handling and mechanical wear.
The first problem is braking. In an ideal world heavy duty trailer brakes would be de rigeur on every horse trailer and the brakes on every trailer would be set up in such a way that the trailer did most of the braking. Not only should trailer brakes come on slightly harder than vehicle brakes, they should also come on slightly sooner. Unfortunately the brake pads/shoes on most trailers are far from heavy duty and I'd say it's likely that trailer brakes rarely get serviced. In addition, a lifetime of experience in dealing with them would suggest that most brake boxes aren't set up even close to correctly. Thus an inordinate amount of braking gets done by whatever vehicle is towing the trailer. Most SUV's and full size half ton trucks have light duty brakes that are designed to stop the vehicle in question. They are not designed to stop the vehicle in question PLUS a loaded horse trailer weighing several thousand pounds.
The same thing can be said of transmissions. Despite the hype on TV commercials, SUV's and light duty vehicles have light duty transmissions that are designed to tow minimal loads on an infrequent basis. Hauling one or two horses fifty miles once a month probably qualifies. Hauling two or more horses hundreds of miles a month probably doesn't. You may get lucky and not experience problems with your vehicle. However I promise very few people who are mechanically in the know are going to want to buy your used SUV or 1/2 ton pickup if they know it's been used to tow a horse trailer on a regular basis. There is a big step up in transmissions, drive lines, oil coolers, and perhaps most importantly, brakes when you move from a 1500 series half ton to a 2500/3500 series 3/4 ton or one ton.
I also think frame of reference is important. In most cases the vehicle most people haul horses with is the largest vehicle they've ever owned, and because of their frame of reference the vehicle feels more than adequate when hooked to a trailer. I've had lots of people tell me that their half ton gas truck felt HUGE. Back in the day, the only hauling I did was in a semi-trucks or trucks that were one size smaller.....think International dump trucks for a size reference. These trucks had power to spare, air brakes (thus brakes to spare) and were designed to haul heavy trailers all the time. Thus the first time I hooked onto Melissa's horse two horse trailer with my 1/2 ton gas truck I was appalled at everything about the experience. Relative to my previous frame of reference my new truck and trailer combination felt ridiculously small, had no power, no brakes, and was dangerously unstable when turning any corner. I still feel that way with our 3/4 ton diesel and two horse trailer, but less so. For towing anything larger I would not feel comfortable using a 3/4 or 1 ton diesel pick-up truck.
We're curious to see what sorts of comments my rebuttal brings. Bring 'em on !
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