The Who and Why of the Invention of the Horse Trailer

Written by Beulah Martin
Horse trailer being pulled by truck

I have always enjoyed the freedom of a good horse trailer that let me get my horses to the places we needed to go. Thinking about it though, I decided to do some research on how the horse trailer was invented and by whom.

Who invented the horse trailer? The man who is given credit for inventing the horse trailer is Lord George Bentinck in 1836.  The colorful Lord was from the United Kingdom and he owned and raced horses. He wanted a way to get his horses to the track without having to walk them there.

The invention of the horse trailer, or horsebox as it was known in the UK, quickly became popular with other owners and trainers. There is more to the story of this historical invention that changed the great sport of horse racing.

What Prompted the Invention of the Horse Trailer

This Lord Bentinck was the owner of some race horses. He had a fast racehorse by the name of Elis. He was planning on entering Elis in the St. Leger race at Doncaster Racetrack in England. This race was very competitive and had a large purse for the winner.

In 1836 the only way for a horse to get to the race track was to be ridden there on foot. This could count up to a lot of miles if the race track was a distance away. Also it might take anywhere up to 4 days or more to get there.

You can imagine how tired and worn out the horse would be when it finally got to the place the race was held.

Lord Bentinck was quite a gambler and in the particular race he had made a large wager with a friend of his that his horse Elis would win the race. This got Lord Bentinck trying to think of a way that he could get his horse there in the safest and least tiring way possible.

There was also another thing that Lord Bentinck was aware of. His horse Elis was considered one of the favorites in the race, and the odd makers were sure to place his odds in accordance to that.

If a horse was planning on running in a race, he would be out on the road and headed to the race track in time to get there for the beginning of the race. The bookmakers would start adjusting the odds as soon as they knew which horses were headed that way. If Lord Bentinck could disguise the fact that his horse was actually going to race, his horse would be given the best odds possible, and Lord Bentinck was sure he could win a lot of money.

Lord Bentinck had a trainer by the name of John Doe who remembered an incident years earlier, when a farmer hauled a load of his bulls on a float pulled by horses. He told Lord Bentinck about it and they agreed that if they could construct something like that to haul their horse to the track, it would solve all the problems.

They were able to find a coachbuilder to follow their instructions and construct what was considered the first horsebox to be used to haul the horse. Of course the horsebox had to be pulled by horses as they did not have vehicles with engines in those days.

They hooked up 6 horses to pull the trailer loaded up with one race horse.

The Results of the Invention

About four days before the St. Leger was to be run, it was obvious that the horse Elis was not headed there on foot. So just as Lord Bentinck hoped, it was believed he would not be a contender in the race. I don’t know how come they were still recording odds if they didn’t believe the horse would run, but they kept lengthening the odds until on race day the odds were 12 to 1 on Elis.

There was a big reaction when Elis stepped out on the track rested and ready to go. He easily won the race and Lord Bentinck won the wager and the prize money.

The race was won and the total money collected so high,  that others were quick to see the wisdom of a horse trailer to transport their horses. They too needed to have a horsebox or a trailer to be able to haul their horses around. So the horse racing industry was changed forever.

Modern horse trailers today

We have come a long way from having our horse trailers pulled by horses.  A company in England about 1914 began to produce horseboxes which were motorized. The British army used these in WW1 as transports and ambulances to carry injured horses.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s and 1960’s  that the first trailers were starting to be manufactured here in America. A company in Chickasha, Oklahoma, in 1958 by the name of Stidham,  built a two horse trailer that hooked up to the bumper.

The need for having a horse trailer increased and evolved through the years.  The horse trailers became larger and better built. The cost actually came down as production lines were used and quality materials were available.

When the trucks had engines that were strong and powerful enough to pull the trailers they began to be more popular. Some owners built their own horse trailers which were actually just a box made of wood on wheels.

Here is a picture of one that still sits here at our house. My Uncle built this himself and it serviced us for a long time as you can see by it’s looks.

Antique custom built horse trailer
Very old home built single horse trailer

Horse owners everywhere were suddenly in the market for a good horse trailer. With the many uses of the horse increasing and the more free time people had it was inevitable that the value of a good horse trailer was to be appreciated and loved.

People trailered their horses not only to race tracks, but to rodeo’s, horse shows, out to trail rides and any number of events that are held now.

Horse trailers became more sophisticated. There are models of every kind and description. Whatever your need is you can find a horse trailer that will fit it. You can get a horse trailer to fit every type of horse from the smallest to the largest. Trailers for one or two horses and trailers for multiple horses.

It’s not a one size fits all. Every size, shape and model is available. There are horse trailers that are called bumper pull, because the trailer is hooked up to the ball of your bumper. This is usually the style for the lighter and fewer horse requirements.

There are gooseneck horse trailers that are used for multiple horse loads and needs. This has a front that reaches over the back of the truck with a hitch that fits over a ball or a receiver that is fastened into the bed of the truck. This is the type of horse trailer that my son has. It has sleeping quarters in the front of the trailer. HIs wife, Jacquie likes to do endurance events and she takes along her own bed and facilities.

What would the world be like without horse trailers. I am glad we do not have to know. A great invention that benefits all.  Good Luck & Happy Trails

Related Questions

How much does a 2 horse trailer weigh? A 2 horse trailer will weigh about 2400 lbs. You have to also take into consideration anything that you might be hualing along with you. Like mats, hay bales, and any tack including saddles & bridles. These will also increase the  weight.

How much does a used horse trailer cost? At the low end you could probably find a good used horse trailer for $1,000 to $1500. As your needs and wants go up of course, the cost will be somewhat higher.