Article By Breanne Hill — Photo by Megan Parks

Buying a new luxury horse trailer is not an immediate option for every horse owner these days. Instead, many riders have become resourceful, recognizing the importance of taking care of and making improvements to the rigs they already have at home.

Improvements, or upgrades, can be extremely valuable to both the eventual resale price of a horse trailer and to a horse’s safety and comfort while he is being hauled in it. For this reason, Pete Zanetti, whose Zanetti’s Trailers, based out of Weatherford, Texas, is one of the premier trailer repair and upgrade operations in the United States, is a proponent of upgrades in older or even slightly used trailers.

In order to get this same type of long life out of your trailer—and to make it drive and ride like new again—Zanetti suggests opting for at least one of the following upgrades, which range in price from from $600 to $6,500.

Making Tracks
When was the last time you sprang for new tires for your trailer?

trailer mp sgNew tires are one of the least expensive improvements you can make to your trailer, but their importance is paramount. Good tires with proper air pressure provide a more comfortable ride for your horse and can give you peace of mind that you won’t have to worry about blow outs and easy flats while you’re away from home.

“I would advise anyone who is making upgrades to think of tires first,” Zanetti says. “It’s not the most glamorous upgrade, but it can make a huge difference in the life of your trailer.

“We’re putting on these 17.5 inch and 19.5-inch tires now, and they’re just bulletproof.”

In Zanetti’s trailer repair businesses, the preferred brands of tires are Michelin, for those tires that are 17.5 inches and up, and Hankook, which are used for almost everything else, especially 16-inch tires.

“The Hankook is actually a cheaper priced tire,” Zanetti says, “but it’s a really, really good tire.

“There are tires we won’t use in our business. If we see a brand of tire that comes in with a blowout a lot, we won’t use it here.”

Buying new tires and having them put on is just one half of the tire upgrade process. The other part of the upgrade falls to the responsibility of the trailer owner—keeping appropriate air pressure in the tires at all times.

“If you keep your tires up to pressure, say, for instance, you have new tires put on, and they pump them to optimum range, in the first week, they’re going to leak down 4 or 5 pounds,” Zanetti says. “It’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure they are aired back up to optimum range, and then they should be good for a long, long time.”

Zanetti stresses that tires should be aired up to whatever the manufacturer lists as that tire’s optimum range for the life of the tire.

“Those tire manufacturers are a lot smarter than we are, and they know what poundage their tires should have,” he says. “People say, ‘I lowered the pressure on my tires to give an easier ride to my horse,’ and that’s really not the case. All you’re doing is asking for maintenance trouble when you get out on the road.”

Window Wonders
As far as a horse’s health is concerned, the number one priority when hauling should be appropriate ventilation. Trailer windows have evolved over the years to include many options and, fortunately, if you don’t like the windows and window accessories that are in your current trailer, they can be changed.

Quality repair shops can add whatever window options you want in trailers of all ages. For example, drop down windows have become a top means of properly ventilation, and they can be added on one or both sides of your trailer.

“Almost every trailer can be modified for drop-down windows,” Zanetti says. “If you’ve got a trailer with drop downs on the left, but just sliders on the right, a good modification, for instance on a four horse, would be to make at least two of those be drop downs on the right to get that ventilation moving all the way through.”

After drop downs are added, the window options continue. From bars on the windows to screens to Plexiglas covers, drop dow window coverings can be selected to match both the weather and an owner’s preference.

Zanetti, however, warns against drop down decision mistakes, such as buying covering options that are appropriate for only one season.

“The strange thing is, people order trailer options differently in summertime than they do in winter time,” Zanetti says. “That’s something I often run into. I tell people, ‘Okay, so you’re going to put Plexiglas on the right-hand side because it’s winter time, and your horse doesn’t need that much ventilation. What happens in summer?’”

All temperatures considered, screens are Zanetti’s favorite window option.

“Screens cut down on 40 percent of blowing wind, and they keep the bugs and rocks out of your horse’s face, unlike bars,” he says. “People say, ‘Well, with screens you can’t get hay in’ or whatever. You just unsnap the screens at the bottom and open the curtain. It’s that easy.”

Brake Time
It’s not unusual for truck and trailer owners to focus on the quality of their truck’s brakes over those on the trailer. However, having even the best, most expensive truck brakes really has very little to do with your trailer’s ability to come to a timely stop both in normal circumstances and in case of an emergency.

There are two types of brakes generally used in horse trailers—shoe brakes and disc brakes. Shoe brakes, which are drum brakes that contain two sets of shoes that press against the drums to stop the trailer, are usually electric and are the kind found on most new trailers. Although, according to Zanetti, shoe brakes may not last as long as disc brakes, which are rotors sandwiched by brake pads that stop a trailer through the use of hydraulic pressure, they are strong and a popular improvement choice.

Whatever kind of brakes you choose, the most vital point is that you’re actually getting new brakes and making travel as safe as possible for you and your horse.

Roof Proof
Owners should never underestimate the role that their trailer’s ceiling plays in the life of their rig. A horse trailer’s ceiling is subject to not only the normal wear and tear of caulking problems and rust, but there are also the added complications of horse-head dents and hail damage.

“You can’t see up on your trailer’s ceiling, but if you walk up in your trailer and look up, you can see hail damage or where the horses have banged their heads and dented it upwards, instead of down,” Zanetti says. “Plus, you should check your ceiling and make sure that the original caulking that the manufacturer put in is still good, and there are no holes or leaks, especially in a living quarters trailer.”

Just like you’d put new shingles on your house, you can upgrade your trailer’s ceiling, and it’s an improvement that comes with more than a few added benefits. The most popular ceiling upgrade involves adding a layer of foam and silicone to the entire ceiling, creating an actual roof instead of just a sheet of metal.

“Usually, without changing the whole ceiling sheet, we can put a roof up in there, not a ceiling, but a roof,” Zanetti says. “We basically cover the whole thing and insulate it.”

One inch of hard foam covered in silicone not only prevents leakage and cuts down on dents, it can actually make a difference in the temperature of the inside of your trailer.

“It will keep it about five degrees cooler in the summer and five degrees warmer in the winter,” Zanetti says, “because now instead of a single sheet, you’ve got a full ceiling up there.

“It balances out the temperature of the whole trailer, and you sure won’t be seeing any dents.”

Hit The Floor
Aluminum trailers have made a huge splash in the horse industry thanks to their light weight and slick looks. But, according to Zanetti, trailers with aluminum flooring require more care and upkeep than those with traditional wooden floorboards.

“Trailers with aluminum flooring need to have the mats pulled out of them, and they need to be cleaned and dried regularly,” he says. “What ruins aluminum is urine, and it always seeps through no matter what kind of shavings or mats you have down.

“A good, treated wood floor will last much longer than aluminum, but that doesn’t mean if you have an aluminum floor you should change it out.”

Instead, Zanetti recommends adding a new aluminum overlay to your trailer’s floor.

“If you pull your mats up, and your floor is chalky white, that’s the urine,” he says. “Your floor has become stripped, like a car without paint on it, no protection, weaker. So when it gets chalky like that, you’ve got to start worrying about holes and stuff like that.

“When it gets that bad, we recommend overlaying the whole floor with brand new 3/16-inch aluminum. You don’t have to change out your original floor, you just overlay it, and it’s good for another however many years—depending on how well you upkeep your trailer and how well you keep it washed out.”

Foam Alone
Zanetti credits Charmayne James with introducing him to special flooring upgrade that uses foam to give horses an easier ride. Much like an air ride suspension system, only less expensive, this flooring improvement is meant to take pressure off a horse’s legs and body by sparing them the jarring effects of uneven roads and bumps.

“We have a foam that’s 1-inch thick,” Zanetti explains, “and we put that foam underneath the trailer mats to give it more cushion. It just goes under the regular mats, and the horses will eventually walk it out to about the thickness of a dinner plate, but it will still provide cushion.”

This foam cushion costs about $6,000 less than having an air ride suspension installed, however, it does require upkeep. The foam can hold a great deal of moisture, and if it is installed over an aluminum floor, owners should expect to have to keep the foam cleaned and dried out regularly due to, you guessed it, the effects of urine.

“The foam is a great upgrade and really good for your horse,” Zanetti says, “but you’ve got to be prepared to care for it. Still, it can give you the air ride effect for a lot less money.”

Nothing But Air
The most expensive trailer upgrade that Zanetti recommends can also have the biggest positive impact on your horse’s hauling experience. Air ride suspension kits fit on the bottom of your trailer and attach to the frame and the axels. Their whole purpose is to give your horse the smoothest, least damaging ride possible.

“Air ride is a lifesaver for horses,” Zanetti says. “It cushions the ride. You’re not going to feel the bumps in the road. In other words, you can go down the road, hit a bump and just kind of float along.”

You can have a nice air ride suspension kit, and there are many to choose from, and new axels put on your trailer for less than $6,500.

Zanetti places great importance on getting new axels along with your air ride suspension kit.

“What’s the one thing that wears out on a trailer?” he asks. “The axels. A trailer is a sort of dumb machine. There’s no transmission. There’s nothing. So, that’s why you’ve got to have really good tires and axels and wheels and think about getting air ride suspension because those are the only things that move.

“If you’ve equipped your trailer right, then your life is going to be so much easier. From then on, your trailer shouldn’t require anything but run-of-the-mill servicing to make it last as long as you need it to.”

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