There are two most important factors to consider when choosing an SUV for towing a horse trailer, and that is the trailer’s weight and your vehicle’s tow rating. Should the load weigh more than your car, you won’t be able to safely pull it, or even move it, for that matter. So, your vehicle’s tow capacity must match the trailer.
But with different manufacturers packing their SUVs with different specifications and tow capacity, which is the right one for the purpose?
What Is The Best SUV For Towing A Horse Trailer?
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 SUV||Max Towing Capacity|
|Ford Expedition||9,300 lbs.|
|Dodge Durango SRT8,700 lbs.|
|Lincoln Navigator||8,700 lbs.|
|Chevrolet Tahoe||8,500 lbs.|
|Infiniti QX80||8,500 lbs.|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee7,200 lbs.|
|Land Rover Discovery8,201 lbs.|
|Toyota Land Cruiser8,100 lbs.|
|Nissan Pathfinder||6,000 lbs.|
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.
Towing A Horse Trailer
Towing your horse trailer, whether it is a single trailer or a bumper-pull horse trailer, can be done safely with your SUV. It might even be the most economical solution for owners who have only one vehicle.
However, it is highly recommended that you spend some time researching the specifics about your type of SUV and the available horse trailers, and I hope this article will help.
Remember that there are hazards that could compromise your safety on the road, so, make sure that you match the trailer with the capabilities of your vehicle.
And if your SUV needs a weight-distribution hitch, have one installed before hauling the horse trailer. Don’t look at the maximum towing capacity of your SUV and assume that it is big enough to handle the task. Ensure that you understand the equipment you need before deciding to haul a horse trailer.