A Tundra Owner’s Guide To Horse Trailers
The Toyota Tundra offers an impressive towing capacity, with the 2011 model maxing out at 10,400 lbs with the optional tow package installed. While five tons of towing power might seem like more than anyone would ever need to use, there are a few applications that routinely touch – or even crest – this lofty weight figure. Of those, one of the most common can be found in the equestrian world, where horse trailers, the animals themselves and the gear that goes with them can add up to a hefty load to haul around.
What follows is a description of the basic horse trailer options for 2007+ Tundra owners, including an interview with Sundowner, a horse trailer manufacturer.
Gooseneck Horse Trailers
For those who might need to haul only a single horse from time to time there are a number of small bumper pull trailers available on the market. For everyone else, the most popular option is to select a gooseneck-style trailer. Gooseneck trailers are named for their extended upper section that reaches into the bed of a pickup truck and connects to a special gooseneck hitch that mounts in the middle of the bed. These trailers are frequently much longer and heavier than bumper pull trailers – due to their ability to haul multiple horses and reams of cargo – and they exhibit a number of different towing characteristics when compared against other in-the-bed or bumper pull trailers.
While gooseneck trailers offer impressive load stability and tons of interior room, there are a number of caveats that go along with their design that can be a turn-off to Tundra owners looking to use them to haul horses. The first is their weight – even the lightest of gooseneck trailers can strain the capabilities of the 5.7-liter Tundra when fully loaded.
The second has to do with the design of the hitch itself. A gooseneck hitch is installed towards the middle of the pickup truck bed, which can place the front of the trailer dangerously close to the cab of short box Tundra models. This adds extra anxiety while negotiating sharp corners or reversing a trailer. The hitch also requires drilling through the truck bed and connecting the hitch much farther ahead than where the Tundra was originally designed to bear a tow load. While this is not a problem on three-quarter and full-ton trucks where frame designs can handle this type of displaced load, on a half-ton truck there can be concerns regarding the security of the hitch mounting point and the stress it places on the frame – particularly for very heavy gooseneck trailers.
Expert Advice from Sundowner Trailers
To get a better idea of whether a gooseneck horse trailer was the best option for Toyota Tundra drivers, and to find out more about how these trailers stack up against the alternatives, I spoke with Tim at Sundowner Trailers. Sundowner is one of the premier horse trailer manufacturers in the United States, and the company sells both gooseneck and traditional bumper pull units.
One of the first questions that I asked Tim was whether Tundra owners might be better off using a fifth wheel-style hitch in place of a gooseneck trailer for hauling horses and other livestock. A fifth-wheel hitch offers more weight carrying capacity than a gooseneck without the worry of impacting the cab of the truck with the long overhang of the gooseneck. Tim explained that there are a number of factors that drive livestock haulers away from fifth wheel setups and into gooseneck trailers.
Fifth Wheel Sacrifices
Unlike a gooseneck hitch – which is relatively compact and which can even be turned over in some cases to make the hardware completely flush with the truck bed – a fifth wheel hitch takes up a lot of space in the cargo area. This big rig-style hitch can wipe out the practicality of a pickup truck fairly quickly and require the installation of a forward-mounted toolbox in order to recover some of the utility of the now crowded truck bed. Another problem with a fifth wheel trailer is that the truck’s tailgate needs to be removed in order to use it, which is not an issue with gooseneck installations.
Goosenecks also have a little more connection flexibility off-road, where horse trailers often go. 5th wheel hitches are designed for car haulers, RVs, etc., and they’re not likely to be hitched or manuevered on a horse-trail access road. While most new fifth wheel hitches have the ability to accommodate some “tilting” of the bed, they simply don’t have the off-road range that a gooseneck trailer hitch has. This is one of the main reasons horse trailers continue to use a gooseneck setup while nearly every other larger trailer utilizes a 5th wheel hitch.
Loaded Trailer Weights
I also asked Tim if there was a good rule of thumb for horse trailer users to employ when estimating the weight of their horses and tack. Tim explained that most horse owners are familiar with the weights of their individual animals, but that when designing its trailers Sundowner uses a figure of 1,200 lbs per animal to represent the average horse. This is something that gooseneck trailer buyers can keep in mind when looking at the listed capabilities of Sundowner’s trailer offerings.
I wrapped things up with Tim by asking him his advice for half-ton truck owners, like those driving a Tundra, who are interested in a gooseneck setup. He said that the most important factor to keep in mind when selecting a gooseneck trailer was the need to stay within the listed weight limits for the truck in question. Tim explained that for Sundowner products, this would mean sticking to a two or three horse trailer on the outside. He also explained that for those concerned about the front of the trailer impacting the rear of the truck’s cab, it is possible to install an offset gooseneck hitch that will give between four and six inches of additional breathing room.
Gooseneck horse trailers, which offer a maximum capacity of close to 30,000 lbs, are still essentially the province of three-quarter and full-ton trucks. However, if carefully selected in order to respect the Tundra’s maximum towing capacity when fully loaded with horses and gear, a gooseneck trailer can offer a serious upgrade in stability and security when compared to bumper pull units.
Horse Trailer Advice for Tundra Owners
1. Don’t trust the trailer salesperson when it comes to figuring out what your truck can and can’t haul. Ask the trailer dealer for weight specs on the trailer (you need total dry weight as well as estimated tongue weight), and then bust out your calculator and start figuring out if your truck can manage the trailer safely. This post on Tundra towing basics (and the comments below the main article) contains a lot of advice on figuring this stuff out. Sundowner uses an estimate of 1,200 lbs for the average equine, so that’s probably a safe figure for most Tundra owners doing the math at home.
2. Don’t rely upon the Tundra’s max trailer weight rating to determine horse trailer compatibility. Many Tundras are rated to pull 10k lbs, but that doesn’t mean you can necessarily buy a 10k lbs horse trailer. The tongue weight of the trailer must also be less than the Tundra’s max payload rating (1600 lbs, give or take). A typical 2 horse trailer will weight less than 8k lbs fully loaded, but if the trailer requires the use of a gooseneck hitch, it’s probably at the Tundra’s maximum safe rating. Since a gooseneck trailer has a 20-25% tongue weight, an 8k lbs trailer is at or slightly over the rated payload max.
3. Good horse trailer rules of thumb for Tundra owners:
- A 2 horse trailer with a “changing room” or “utility room” is just about the max a Tundra owner can expect to pull safely, based on an informal survey of trailer manufacturers at this year’s National Western Stock Show. You may be able to find a very light-weight 3 horse, but that could be a long-shot.
- It’s harder to pull a gooseneck horse trailer with a CrewMax – at least not without an offset hitch. The 5.5′ bed is just a little too short. If you can get a double-cab with a long bed, you’ll be rolling with a large margin of safety, but a 6.5′ bed should work just fine with most horse trailers.
- Bumper pull horse trailers are probably the best choice for CrewMax Tundra owners, just be sure to verify the weight rating
4. When it comes to pulling more than 2 or 3 horses, you need an HD truck. There’s no substitute for a really big truck if you need to pull a really big trailer, and because so many horse trailers use a gooseneck hitch, the high tongue weights necessitate a 3/4 or 1 ton. The biggest trucks you see on the road – big one-ton duallys – are often used to pull very large horse trailers. If you imagine the weight of 4-6 horses, plus gear, plus the trailer weight, and then you imagine 20-25% of it must be carried as payload because of the way a gooseneck works, you understand why a big giant dually truck is needed.
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com