If you intend to tow horses, you need a vehicle that can safely and efficiently handle the task. Buyers can now choose from hundreds of SUVs and trucks, but the choice can become overwhelming if you don't really know what you're looking for. If you're in the market for a new vehicle to tow your horses, talk to your dealer about the five following specifications before you choose a particular model.
Before you can hitch your horse trailer up to your vehicle, you need to make sure the truck can cope with the weight. To do this, you'll need to check various numbers listed in the vehicle's owner's manual.
Statistics to look for include:
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) – the recommended maximum loaded weight of the vehicle without the trailer attached
- Gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR) – the recommended maximum loaded weight of the tow vehicle and trailer
- Gross trailer weight rating (GTWR) – the recommended maximum weight of a fully loaded trailer that the vehicle can cope with
Carefully consider the GTWR that may apply when towing horses. This type of live load is different to a static haul like luggage or equipment because the horses may throw their weight around in transit. As such, you should aim for a GTWR that is higher than the actual weight of a loaded trailer, so you can still cope with shifts in weight.
The curb weight tells you how much a fully fueled towing vehicle weighs when empty of passengers and cargo. Heavier towing vehicles can generally cope better with the strain of a trailer, and you're also less likely to lose control if the trailer lurches suddenly.
That aside, you don't necessarily need a towing vehicle that's larger than your trailer. A strong, compact truck or SUV can often cope with a larger trailer, and this combination should mean that the horses get a smoother ride. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to get a vehicle that largely matches the weight of a loaded horse trailer.
The wheelbase is the distance from the front axle to the rear axle of the towing vehicle. A longer wheelbase will make the drive more stable, with less risk that the horse trailer will push down on the rear axle and lift up the front end of the towing vehicle.
A heavy, powerful truck or SUV may still struggle to cope with a trailer if the wheelbase is too short. As such, you may want to consider a longer wheelbase, or you can talk to your dealer about an optional weight distribution system that you can use when towing.
Rear-wheel drive directs power to the axle bearing the most weight while you are towing. Front-wheel drive offers better traction control, but isn't as effective at controlling the rear end of the towing vehicle.
Four-wheel drive constantly directs power to the front and back wheels of the towing vehicle, while all-wheel drive systems redirect the power as necessary. All-wheel drive systems add weight to the towing vehicle, which can affect the vehicle's maximum towing power. Nonetheless, if you need to tow your horse trailer on trail rides or across rough terrain, this type of system is probably worth considering.
Many SUVs and trucks are now available with optional tow packages. These packages offer enhanced braking systems, more efficient cooling technology and refined transmission systems that improve towing performance. Some packages even include accessories like towing mirrors that will improve the driver's visibility on the road.
Tow packages will add weight to the vehicle, cutting gas mileage and towing capacity. As such, if you only occasionally tow your horses, you can probably cope without this type of extra. However, if you regularly tow your horses, these kits can extend the life of your towing vehicle and improve performance en route.
There are plenty of options on the market if you need a vehicle that you can use to tow horses. Talk to your nearest auto dealer for more advice, as he or she can help you better understand how to choose a truck or SUV that meets your needs.