Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Horse Showing On A Budget: Is it Cheaper to Haul Your Own Horse (PartOne)?

Owning a horse trailer is a personal preference.  I know some people that have no desire to haul their own horses.  If you are not comfortable learning how to safely haul, learn about trailer maintenance, what to do if you break down, safely back up and maneuver, then no you should not own a trailer.  If you keep your horses at home it's a no brainer.  You need a trailer and need to learn these things.  If you are boarding and have access to someone to haul for you then you may not need one.  But maybe you want one and maybe you think it's cheaper than paying someone.

First you need a vehicle to tow the trailer. Just because a truck or SUV has a trailer hitch doesn't mean it should tow something.  You need to look at wheel base, towing and braking capability of the vehicle.  Smaller wheel base, less stability.  Also keep in mind that by maxing out your vehicle's towing capabilities is causing excess wear and tear and poor fuel mileage.  I tow long distances and prefer a gooseneck trailer as it has minimal to no sway and easier maneuverability.  Therefore I need a pick up truck.  I have a 7.3L Ford diesel Super Duty.  

With my 4 four horse trailer fully loaded I get about 13.5 mpg.  About 14.5 with one horse.  Now my husband is a diesel mechanic so my truck is "tweaked" which gives it more horse power and better fuel economy.  However a gas truck pulling the same would likely get about 6 mpg.  

You also need to look at tires on your vehicle.  What weight are they rated to tow?  If you are towing more than say a 2 horse you will likely need low range E tires (and yes they are more money).  Do you know how much air your tires hold?  You need to and you need to check this regularly for hauling.

The heavier the trailer you are pulling then you are better off with the stability of a dually.

My red truck is a regular bed and I wish it was a long bed (like husband's dually pictured above that he doesn't let me drive).  I have to be careful turning in tight spots so the overhang of the gooseneck doesn't hit my tool box or back window.  The long bed also gives you more room to put stuff in the bed for long trips.  I like having the tool box to keep supplies in.  

Not all trucks come with a gooseneck hitch.  Installation of one is about $600.  Not all trucks come with a brake controller for the trailer.  Basic ones are about $50 but can go up over $100.  What about mirrors?  Are your mirrors sufficient enough?  Most new trucks have the new big mirrors.  Mine did not so we put bigger slide out ones on at a cost of around $200.

Prices for diesel trucks vary by brand and bells and whistles.  Expect to pay $20K (used) to $75K plus.  I won't get into brands as that is a whole can of worms.  And being married to a diesel mechanic we have our opinions.

This is an excellent article on selecting tow vehicles.

Personally I do not use my truck for daily driving.  Tires are expensive as well as oil changes ($90-100 for a diesel) and I like to keep the mileage down on it.  If you know trucks then you know the 7.3 engine was the best Ford made so I want it to last as it's not replaceable.  I have what I call my crappy commuter car to drive back and forth to work.  I save my truck for hauling and feed store runs.

This is just a basic run down.  I am no expert, that would be my husband.  I just follow his advice (when it comes to trucks).  I have 170K on my truck and he has a Dodge work truck with over 300K so he's doing something right.  Next I will talk about horse trailers...


  1. This makes my head hurt. I will gladly, GLADLY write a check for shipping.

    1. This post has been in the works for a couple weeks. It made my head hurt to write it!

  2. I have just a 3/4 ton truck with a 2horse, and while it's expensive I wouldn't give it up in a heartbeat. The security in knowing I could get my horses out and go for whatever reason is really nice. And I'm with you, only use the truck for hauling or hay and have a commuter car for work.

  3. super useful article. buying my used truck for towing was WAY harder than i expected - esp given my limited budget... there was so much i needed to learn!

  4. This is a great topic and one I'm always interested in learning more about! I don't own a truck/trailer of my own, but it's something I've briefly considered for the future.

  5. Great topic. I'm fairly new to hauling and have 2 trucks in my driveway (only 1 do I trust with my pony, though...).

  6. Great post :)

    My hubby was a mechanic for almost 10 years - we ate lucky girls to have them at our disposal lol!

    We are working on saving for a truck and trailer... Big purchase ha!

    1. That's funny, that's how long
      Mine lasted working at dealerships! Now he does it as side work!

  7. Our horses are at home so having a rig is a requirement. I used to have the same truck... F350 7.3. That was an amazing truck and I loved it so much. Transmission lasted till 205K miles and we replaced it, but then we had random stuff start to break and since it was more than 15 years old, could no longer get the parts except from the junkyard. Sadly, no mechanic on hand here and it became cost prohibitive to maintain it. I now have a 2011 6.7 F350 and while I can't say I've had it long enough to REALLY compare, I do love the new engine. SO much power and acceleration, better mileage, and a smoother tow. Time will tell if it's going to last like the 7.3s, but one can hope. I had the other one for 15 years and I'd be thrilled to get 15 out of this one!

    I do use mine to commute, but it's only 5 miles each way so it's not so bad. Cheaper than a second vehicle, for sure. Parking it at the grocery store sure is a pain in the a$$, though!

  8. This is a whole lot to take in! My son wants to start riding and I am struggling with the cost of everything, without owning the horse. I didn't even factor in once you own the horse you have to transport it to shows. Ugh, maybe it will be just a phase and he will outgrow it.

    Jackson Kaufman @ Hansen & Adkins Auto Transport