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Recreational vehicles are a long-time staple at tailgating parties that traditionally usher in football games and NASCAR events.
A similar phenomenon is occurring in the parking lots of stadiums and fairgrounds around the country that host equestrian competitions and shows, as today’s equine enthusiasts are spurring demand for a new type of RV – horse trailers with built-in living quarters.
“The main thing is convenience,” said Troy Compton, a third-generation horseman from Purcell, Okla., who is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading horse trainers. “People want to stay close to their horses and, just like with NASCAR or other sporting events, people want to be where the action is going on. It’s a social scene.”
The nation’s leading horse trailer manufacturers have been building units with living quarters for a number of years, but recent consumer demand has significantly increased production.
Ten years ago, only a small percentage of the units manufactured by El Reno, Okla.-based Exiss Aluminum Trailers Inc. and Sooner Trailer Manufacturing of Duncan, Okla., contained living quarters, based on consumer requests.
“Now, it’s kind of taken over,” said Bobby Morrow, director of marketing for Elkhart, Ind.-based Universal Trailer, which owns both Exiss and Sooner, the latter of which it acquired in late 2003. “This year, 25% of our business is horse trailers with living quarters.”
Sundowner Trailers Inc. of Coleman, Okla., has experienced a similar spike in demand. “Around 25 to 30 percent of Sundowner trailers have living quarters in them,” said Darren Hays, who manages Sundowner Interiors, the Elkhart, Ind., business that installs the living quarters for Sundowner trailers.
Cresco, Iowa-based Featherlite Inc., another major manufacturer of horse trailers housing living quarters, is also seeing increased demand for its units, said Randy Lewis, Featherlite’s national sales manager.
As manufacturers increase their production, dealers are finding it easier to provide horse trailers for their customers. “Five or 10 years ago, only a couple of manufacturers had off -the-shelf horse trailers with living quarters. Now, a lot of the manufacturers have them, which simplifies ordering for the dealers,” said Mark Podeyn of Action RV, a horse trailer dealer with locations in Albuquerque, N.M., and Phoenix, Ariz.
In addition, the stadiums, fairgrounds and other venues that host equestrian events are also becoming increasingly RV-friendly. “Five or 10 years ago, you were pretty much on your own. You wouldn’t find power hookups,” said Tony Happel, national sales manager for Sidekick Trailers in Milton, Fla. “Just like cities worldwide compete for the Olympics, a lot of cities that are known for horse activities are having to update (their equestrian facilities with power hookups) to keep events in their city.”
Equestrian trailers are typically fifth-wheel units that carry two, three or four horses, while living quarters range from eight to 14 feet in length. Retail prices vary depending on the size of the unit, but generally range from $23,000 to $200,000 or more, with high-end units featuring everything from granite countertops to surround sound stereo systems.
Trailer weights vary widely, but one of the most popular models – a three-horse trailer with 10-foot long living quarters – weighs about 9,000 pounds.