How safe is your horse when you hook your trailer to your truck and start down the road?
The answer is in the numbers!
The numbers you need to know are Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating, Towing Capacity (TC), Tow-Vehicle Weight (TCW) and the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW), rating.
To learn your GVW you can load your horse in the trailer, along with everything else you can stuff into all open spaces, and then pull the trailer and its contents to a scale, or you can just take the best estimates of experts.
It is pretty much agreed a steel, pull trailer with no dressing room and two 1200-pound horses will have a GVW of 4200 to 5700 pounds. Add a 4-foot dressing room and you've bumped up the weight to somewhere between 5700 and 6500 pounds. The bigger the trailer, of course, the more weight you add.
You can use the figures above, or you can let the GVW rating given your trailer by the manufacturer be your guide. It's a good guide. You'll find the GVW rating on the trailer tongue or in the tack compartment. Don't mistake this number for the weight of the trailer. The weight of your trailer is probably far less than the GVW rating, which is the amount your trailer is most likely going to weigh when carrying a full load of horses and tack.
Okay, now you need to match your truck to your trailer's GVW figure by determining the towing capacity, the amount of weight your truck can safely pull.
The towing capacity is calculated by considering the tow-vehicle's weight, the engine size, rear-axle ratio, wheelbase and transmission type.
All new trucks and SUV's come with a towing capacity guide. The number is usually rounded off, such as 5000, 5500 or 6000.
The problem with this number is that it is not figured on hauling horses, which are not a stable or inert load. Horse's move around and shift their weight. Whatever the suggested towing capacity rating your vehicle manufacturer offers, reduce it by about 500 pounds to be on the safe side.
If your trailer's GVW is 5000 pounds and your half-ton pickup has a towing capacity of 6000 pounds, it'll pull the loaded trailer alright, but it may not be totally safe. If you reduce the towing capacity by 500 pounds, then its rating is now 5500. That 500 pound separation should be kept in mind…you don't want
the GVW to reach the maximum towing capacity leaving you no power for hills and passing.
And you never want the weight of your trailer to greater you're your tow vehicle.
Experts agree that the tow-vehicle weight is ideal if it matches the weight of the trailer, because things are balanced. The weights don't have to be exact, but they should be within 1000 pounds.
The weight of your tow vehicle also has an effect on towing capacity. The Gross Combined Vehicle Weight rating is how much the loaded tow vehicle plus the loaded trailer can safely pull. To find the trailer's maximum allowable gross weight, the manufacturer subtracts the weight of the loaded tow vehicle from the GCVW to determine the trailer's maximum allowable gross weight.
If your trailer weight, when loaded, is greater than the maximum allowable gross weight, you need a bigger truck or SUV.
Do the math to be sure you are doing all possible to make hauling your horse as safe as you can.