What Are The Best SUVs For Towing Horse Trailers?

No matter what anyone may tell you, towing horse trailers is not easy work. First off, horses are big creatures so to transport them from one place to another, you can only imagine how big the hose trailers have to be. Aside from having a strong horse trailer, you will also need a strong SUV as well. So if you have been wondering, “what are the best SUVs for towing horse trailers” then you have come to the right place. We have compiled a list of some of the best SUVs for towing horse trailers. Check it out and see if any of your favorite SUVs have made the list or maybe you will be lucky enough to discover some new ones.

What Are The Best SUVs For Towing Horse Trailers 1 What Are The Best SUVs For Towing Horse Trailers?

Table of Contents

What is the Best SUV for Towing a Horse Trailer?

The best SUVs for towing a horse trailer are the Ford Expedition and the Dodge Durango. These SUVs have the towing power to pull the trailer, gear, and horses which is between 7000-8000 lbs. Factors that are important for consideration are the GVWR, GCWR, GVW, and GTWR.

(7,000 to 9,000 lbs)
Cadillac Escalade
Chevrolet Suburban
Chevrolet Tahoe
Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Lexus LX 570
Lincoln Navigator
(4,000 to 5,000 lbs)
Chevrolet Traverse
Dodge Durango
Ford Explorer
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Toyota 4Runner
(10,000 lbs)
Chevrolet Silverado
Dodge Ram
Ford F-250
Ford F-450
GMC Sierra

Weight of Horses

The most important thing to consider is your horse; that is your priority. Making sure that you give them a comfortable and safe ride in a suitable trailer will be crucial to making it a worthwhile journey for them.

It is important to consider the breed of horse you have. If you are going to tow a Shetland pony vs. a palomino, you’ll have to factor in wildly different weight ranges. A Shetland pony weighs from 400-450 lbs, whereas a palomino weighs anywhere from 1000-1200 lbs. This is going to significantly influence the type of trailer and towing power necessary for the SUV to handle.

Calculating the horses’ weight is the first step to figuring out what type of SUV you need. You also need to consider how much force your horse is able to exert. If you’re transporting an animal that moves around a lot and disrupts the trailer’s torque, you may need to get an SUV that has a higher towing capacity. For example, if your trailer weighs 4,000 lbs total, which includes the gear and horse, it would be wise to find an SUV that can tow at least 5,000 lbs. This will help to account for the extra force that the horse can apply.

Weight of Trailers

What is the Best SUV for Towing a Horse Trailer?

The next thing to take into consideration is the trailer that you are going to use for your horses. You want to make sure that is something that fits them comfortably. Once you have found that, you need to assess what the GVW and GTWR are. The GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) accounts for the weight of the empty trailer. The GTWR (Gross Trailer Weight Rating) accounts for the total mass of the trailer. This includes all of the equipment you are going to use, the horses, and the weight of the empty trailer.

To give an example of this, the average GVW of an empty trailer is between 2,300-3,900 lbs. Once the equipment and the horse(s) have been loaded, the GVWR increases significantly ranging from 7,000-8,000 lbs. Of course, these numbers are going to differ according to the amount of gear you are hauling and if you are towing one or multiple horses.

Know Your Horse Trailers | Different Types of Horse Trailers

Generally speaking, a horse trailer typically weighs around 2,900 lbs but we are talking in the most general take. In order to figure out if the SUV you are looking at or the SUV you own can tow a horse trailer, you first need to figure out what horse trailer you want to tow and how much that specific trailer (or even trailers) weigh.

Take for the instance this little tidbit of knowledge, there are more than three hundred and fifty different breeds of horse known to man today. That is right, three hundred and fifty different breeds of horses. And those are just the ones that we know about! If you keep that information in mind, then it is easy to understand why there are many different types of horse trailers to accommodate all these different horse types.

Just how many you ask? Let’s find out!

What Are The Best SUVs For Towing Horse Trailers?

Bumper Towed Horse Trailer

Weight: 2,400 lbs to 3,200 lbs (two; when empty).

First on our list, we have the bumper towed horse trailer.

Bumper towed horse trailers are great if you want to tow less than three horses.

Bumper towed horse trailers are sometimes called tag-alongs. Bumper towed horse trailers connect to the tow vehicle with a coupler on the front of the trailer, and that couple then attaches to a hitch on the bumper of the vehicle.

Do keep in mind that bumper towed horse trailers are normally smaller than most gooseneck horse trailers (if you are carrying larger horses or more than three horses we would not recommend bumper towed horse trailers). Instead we would recommend gooseneck horse trailers, which we will talk about later down the list, but gooseneck trailers were designed to fit more than three horses. Not only that but they are also spacious enough to carry three horses as well as tack and other gear and cargo.

This is important to note because travel time is usually quite long and you do  not want to make the horses uncomfortable by jamming them into a horse trailer that is too small for them.

If you are traveling with a single horse or three or less smaller horses then the bumper towed horse trailers are great for you.

Bumper towed horse trailers are seen to be low maintenance because they are (generally speaking of course) the least expensive horse trailers to buy.

Straight Load Trailer

Weight: ~2,000 lbs+.

Straight load trailers and the next item on our list, slant load travels are not specific types of trailers per se but they are more or so trailer configurations.

The first on our list is the straight load trailer.

Straight load trailers just means that the horses are walked straight into the trailer from the backgate, they then stand side-by-side facing the forward tanist.

Of the two methods, straight load is the most common.

straight load trailers are also great for smaller horses or a one-or-two horse pattern.

Straight load trailers also have a safety feature that many drivers love-a door at the front that allows the driver or the handler to easily exit after walking the horse (or horses) into the trailer.

It is easy and to the point which is why many handlers are a fan of straight load trailers.

Slant Load Trailer

Weight: ~2,000 lbs+

Slant load trailers are great if you are considering traveling with two or more horses.

This is because slant load trailers are bigger than straight load trailers and it will be more comfortable for your horses since they will have more space.

The horses will then travel side-by-side, separately by diagonal stalls.

Living Quarter Horse Trailer

Weight: 240 lbs approximately* (for each 1 living quarters, add 500 lbs. If your trailer is around 8’ wide, add another 1,000 lbs).

The living quarter horse trailer is next on our list.

Living quarter horse trailers are great if you are planning to travel on the road for quite some time either for work or for shows.

Living quarter horse trailers are a mix between a horse trailer and a fifth wheel travel trailer. This is because living quarter horse trailers include a room for the horses, as well as gear in the back. However, they also include travel trailer-like rooms in the front such as a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, and some space for storage.

What turns many people off from living quarter horse trailers is yes, you have guessed it…the price tag. Most people like the idea of traveling in luxury until they have to pay for it and we understand that completely.

However, you do get what you are paying for when it comes to living quarter horse trailers.

For those that understand the tough living conditions of the road and do not mind spending a bit more, we have great news. Some more advanced and luxurious living quarter horse trailers even come with fireplaces, entertainment centers, and big, spacious bedrooms. Talk about traveling in style, right?

Gooseneck Horse Trailer

Weight: 3,700 lbs to 4,700 lbs (two; when empty).

Last on our list we have the gooseneck horse trailer.

We touched base on gooseneck horse trailers a bit when we talked about bumper towed horse trailers. But basically, gooseneck horse trailers are great for carrying more than three horses.

Gooseneck horse trailers are also great if you are planning on making extended trips.

Gooseneck horse trailers include a main trailer body as well as an overhang that slides over the bed of the towing vehicle to where the coupler will then connect to the truck.

Gooseneck horse trailers are very similar to fifth wheel travel trailers in the sense that they are more stable than the average bumper towed trailer. They are also safer to drive and easier to maneuver.

Granted they are a bit pricey than your average trailer, most owners feel that they are well worth their high price tag.

With gooseneck horse trailers, you will have room for the horses that are traveling in the back and most gooseneck horse trailers will include an area for your tack in the front as well as some saddle racks.

All in all, if you are looking to transport more than three horses then the gooseneck horse trailer is one trailer option that you might want to take into consideration.

Before we end this segment, it is important to note that while new horse trailers can be quite pricey, used horse trailers are a good option to consider. If you are planning on going down the used route, be sure to be very cautious about what you are actually paying for. $1000 or $1500 for a used horse trailer may sound like a dream bargain but if the horse trailer itself is in poor condition or the brakes do not work properly, then the money you save upfront will just be sent on maintenance down the line.

If you are planning on buying a horse trailer off of an online website, be sure to ask the owner to send as many photos of the horse trailer as possible, and in different angles.

Be sure to look both inside and out and ask as many questions as needed before you  purchase the horse trailer to ensure the safety of both yourself, and your horses.

Best SUVs for Towing Horse Trailers

So now that we know all the different types of horse trailers, we can figure out which SUVs are truly the best for towing horse trailers. What type of SUV you want to tow a horse trailer does depend on how much weight you need to haul. For example, Gooseneck trailers require a pickup because they are so heavy.

Heavier Horse Trailers (light trucks): 10,000 lbs

If you are pulling a trailer that weighs as much as 10,000 lbs then we would consider a light truck such as the ones below.

Bigger SUVs : 7,000 lbs to 9,000 lbs

For horse trailers weighing around 7,000 lbs to 9,000 lbs we would recommend either a smaller truck or larger SUVs.

Down below are our top choices for smaller trucks and larger SUVs.

All of these smaller trucks and bigger SUVs are more than capable of pulling a more moderately sized two-horse trailer as well as a track room with gear and cargo.

One of the SUVs mentioned above, the Ford Expedition has a high towing capacity. A normal Ford Expedition can tow between 6,600-7,200 lbs, which applies to most models made in the 2000s. There are options to buy a heavy-duty trailer package that has been added in recent years. This allows the towing capacity to maxed out at 9,300 lbs and 9,200 lbs in 4WD.

The Lincoln Navigator has a significant amount of towing capacity as well. The towing capacity without a heavy-duty tow package ranges from 6,200-6,600 lbs of weight. With the package installed, this car’s towing capacity increases to 8,700 lbs and 8,300 lbs for cars in 4WD.

Although not mentioned above, the Nissan Armada is unique to the other models mentioned above because its towing capacity is consistent for all lines. There are no heavy-duty towing packages. The towing capacity of this vehicle model makes begins at 6,000 lbs and maxes out at 8,500 lbs. These towing capacities remain consistent whether the car is in RWD or 4WD.

Moderate sized SUVs : 4,000 lbs to 5,000 lbsa

Do not think that bigger is always bigger and this case rings true when it comes to horse trailers.

Many people think that you need a large truck or a bigger sized SUV to tow a horse trailer but sometimes a moderate sized SUV can do the job, and a lot better than most people might think.

For example, smaller trucks and moderately sized SUVs are perfect if you are more on the minimal size. If your trailer is small and you do not travel often or even if you do travel often but you do not carry much cargo or gear, then a truck or SUV in this range will be more than enough for your needs.

Here are some vehicles that can tow in the range of 4,000 lbs to 5,000 lbs for you to consider:

The Dodge Durango SRT, R/T model also has a decent towing capacity. The towing capacity of these models ranges from 6,200-7,400 lbs. This model of car is also smaller to the Ford Expedition, which may appeal to those who don’t want a big vehicle. A heavy-duty trailer package can also be added to this model which has a maximum of 8,700 lbs.

Before we end, we just wanted to say a quick reminder. A longer wheelbase will definitely give you more control than a shorter wheelbase. You will most likely need to add some a weight distribution system to stabilize your rig.

What Are The Best SUVs For Towing Horse Trailers?

Disadvantage to SUVs

Perhaps the biggest argument as to why a truck is still the classic choice for towing a horse trailer is the difference between the make. truck has a chassis design, which is a much more rigid structure. The ladder-like form of the back of the truck helps to provide more stability to the horse trailer being towed. In comparison, the SUV is built with a more body-like form. When traveling, this means that there will be more air pressure hitting the trailer.

Most trucks are rear-wheel drive. This means that the power is generated from the back of the wheels, which is a more effective use of force when pulling a horse trailer. An SUV typically functions in forward drive, which does give it more traction in the rain and snow. However, this limits the control of the trailer because the force reaching the trailer is weaker.

SUV Towing: Additional Thoughts

Not all SUV models are rated equally. As such, the best SUV for towing a horse trailer should have a recommended curb weight of 4,800 pounds because horses are not the dead weight and they shift inside a trailer. This is also so because a typical horse trailer weighs just under 3,000 pounds.

Although the answer seems so simple, the truth is, your SUV may fail to pull the trailer. Weight is all that matters. And to understand weight, you must familiarize yourself with the following terms:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW or GW) – This refers to the actual weight of your SUV, including passengers and other cargo, or your trailer with the dressing, the horse(s), the necessary equipment, and the hay if any. 
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – This is the maximum loaded weight your vehicle can handle, as specified by the manufacturer. 
  • Curb Weight – It is the total weight of your vehicle or trailer with the standard equipment it comes with. This value is not usually indicated on the trailer. 
  • Towing Capacity – Refers to the maximum allowable weight your SUV can safely tow as indicated by the manufacturer. 
  • Gross Combination Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR) – This is the sum of the maximum weight your SUV and trailer can weigh, as determined by the manufacturer.

Armed with these terms, you can safely determine whether the rig is safe regarding weight distribution.

Usually, it is always a smart move to choose an SUV with the capability of pulling at least 10 percent more than the trailer’s GVWR.

You can confirm this by checking the GCVWR when the whole rig is set up and ready to tow. If your load exceeds these ratings, your SUV will struggle and your engine, transmission, brakes, and other parts might fail. 

So, if for instance, you have a two-horse tag-along trailer weighing at least 2,400 lbs., two horses, one weighing 1,000 lbs. and another 1,500 lbs., hay weighing 50 lbs., and 50 lbs. for the bridle, saddle, and a tack box; the trailer’s GVW will be 5,000 lbs.

This is still within its safety limits. As long as the load is equal to or less than this value, then the trailer is towable, but what it means is that you cannot add anything else.

Now, even though we are using these figures as an example, note that you would be better getting a trailer with a higher rating. In this case, a GVWR value of at least 7,000 lbs. is recommended. And that is your horse trailer – enter your SUV.

Don’t make the common mistake that people usually fall for. Some think that because their SUV has a GVWR of 9,000 lbs., for example, they can haul a 7,000-lb trailer.

No. It is more complicated than that. This is because SUVs are not entirely like trucks, they are a little different. Particularly in this context.

How Is Towing A Horse Trailer With An SUV Different From Using A Truck?

Horses are not dead weight

Although it is entirely possible to tow more than the specified GTWR, it is wise to remember that in this case, you are not pulling dead weight, you are towing a trailer with animals in it. The center of gravity of a horse cannot be compared to that of an inanimate object, it is higher than that.

Also, unlike unmoving objects, horses throw their weight about the inside of the trailer even as you tow. You’d know this if you have ever seen a horse shift his weight or paw and kick while in transit.

When this happens, the otherwise calm trailer will suddenly feel like it is coming to life. And this is why to compensate for the stresses caused by the animal(s), the 10 percent rule applies.

Some experts argue that the actual limit should be between 10 and 20 percent lower than your SUV’s rating.

The Wheelbase

The wheelbase of your SUV also contributes to the whole maneuverability of the rig. By wheelbase, I mean the length in relation to the trailer, that is, the distance between the front and the rear axle of your vehicle. The argument here is simply that a longer wheelbase increases the safety of towing.

A long wheelbase reduces the chances of the horse trailer’s tongue weight – the force it exerts on the hitch – exceeding the required limits. When the tongue weight is more than the recommended amount, the front end of your SUV could be lifted.

Also, if you have a longer wheelbase, you have more control of the whole rig and your SUV will perform better as you tow.

Notably, there is no rule of thumb for how the wheelbase affects towing in SUVs. Neither is there a standard length for how long a wheelbase should be for it to be safe to tow with an SUV.

It is, however, true that even if your SUV meets the towing capacity requirement as well as the curb weight, if it has a shorter wheelbase, it may be challenging for you to control the trailer. The tongue weight will rock the rig from front to back, resulting in floating or trailer hitching.

In such a case, you need a set of other towing equipment to make some modifications. This equipment, which will include additional springs, bars, and brackets will stabilize the hitch allowing for a balance in weight distribution. 

Those two factors are what make SUVs different from trucks in terms of towing. They can combine to create a potentially dangerous situation.

What SUVs Can Tow a Horse Trailer?

There is a significant number of capable SUVs on the market today that can tow a horse trailer. Some of them include:

Type of SUVMax Towing Capacity
Ford Expedition9,300 lbs.
Dodge Durango SRT8,700 lbs.
Lincoln Navigator8,700 lbs.
Chevrolet Tahoe8,500 lbs.
Infiniti QX808,500 lbs.
Jeep Grand Cherokee7,200 lbs.
Land Rover Discovery8,201 lbs.
Toyota Land Cruiser8,100 lbs.
Nissan Pathfinder6,000 lbs.

There are a lot more types of SUVs suited for this task. But bear in mind that the type of vehicle you want for your horse trailer depends a lot on the kind of horse trailer you want to buy. 

All things considered, here are some safety tips on how to tow with an SUV.

How to Tow Horse Trailers Safely with Your SUV

1. Don’t overload the hitch

Regardless of the type of load you are towing, inanimate or alive, it is always important to ensure that the hitch you use is the right one. This is determined by the weight of a loaded trailer and its tongue weight.

If you cannot establish this information easily, you can easily check from the owner’s manual and any specifications indicated on the trailer. Your SUV’s maximum towing capacity will only be attained if you distribute weight evenly.

2. Consider the weight of the load

Horses move, even when inside the trailer. Moreover, due to their height – which is usually about a meter high – horses are quite heavy. This is higher than the base of your trailer, which will make it even heavier.

Factor this in your calculations and don’t go by assumptions. This way, even when the load shifts, you will remain in control of the vehicle and the trailer for the sake of your safety and that of the horse. 

3. Secure your horse inside the trailer

It isn’t recommended, or even legal, to ride in a horse trailer. But some owners try it to determine how it will feel for the horse. This way, you can better understand how comfortable your horse will be.

Also, ensure that your horse is secured inside the trailer to prevent them from turning around or sticking their heads out through any openings.

But while you do this, always remember that your horse will do what it can to maintain its balance as you drive along. 

4. Give the loaded rig a test drive

After your horse(s) is secure inside the trailer, tow the trailer for a short distance and pull over to check if the horse(s) are comfortable and to confirm if everything is okay with the rig.

If everything is in order, you can hit the road, but maintain a low speed. Corners are now very crucial, and you should be careful because of the heavy and shifting load.

Before making turns, brake gently and go through them smoothly. Also, allow your horses to regain their balance before accelerating again. And most importantly, keep a safe distance between you and any other vehicle in front of you.

5. Give yourself more time to break

Hauling a horse trailer may make braking in your SUV quite challenging.

Therefore, before you brake, give yourself time. Avoid making any hasty moves. And if you must park, ensure that the rig is on a flat surface. If you have no choice but to park on a slope, chock your wheels properly and turn the front tires in a direction that limits a freewheeling vehicle.

In Conclusion | Which SUV is best for You and Your Horse Trailer?

The type of SUV you want for your horse trailer does depend on what kind of horse trailer you want to buy and what kind of horse trailer you should consider buying depends on two factors.

The first is, how many horses you are thinking of taking or will need to take. Do not force bigger horses or many horses into small trailers as it would be very uncomfortable for them. However, if you are only taking smaller horses then there is no need to get a fancy large travel.

Secondly, consider how often you will be needing the horse trailer. For example, is it your job to transport horses? If so, how often do you go? And more importantly, how long are these trips?

If you go often and the trips are quite the drive, then do consider getting a more luxurious ride since you will be spending more time on the road than off. However, if you are only traveling less than a few hours a week then you might not want to spend so much on a horse trailer.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, but it is nice to know that there are numerous options available to you and this is just the beginning. With the years to come, we would not be surprised if more and more horse trailers become readily available.