Without a doubt, horses prefer to stand diagonally, with their tails in the direction of travel. This doesn’t mean there aren’t horses that don’t mind standing straight. There are probably horses that could be in any position and don’t really care. But we all know many horses are more like prey animals than pets.
In this next drawing I finally get to use my mechanical engineer background to explain why it is so much better for a horse to be able to stand diagonally. The round symbol marks the horse’s point of gravity. The arrows show the distance between the point of gravity and the leg which is used for counterbalance. The larger the distance, the less power is needed. (comparison: if you push the door shut near the doorknob, you will need less power than when you push close to the hinges.) Also here it is obvious that the horse can keep his balance best in turns and when you brake when he is standing on an angle.
Are there any disadvantages to slant loading?
Some say that there are. I don’t really agree, because I think this has other reasons. Their argument is that when horses are on a diagonal angle, they need to compensate the weight of braking and taking turns on one leg instead of two. They say this can lead to the horse becoming sore over a long haul.
I believe that the soreness will not be caused by being on a diagonal angle, but by one of these:
1. The driver did not use the principle of ‘having a full cup of coffee on the dashboard’. Breaking and turns should be done with grace and should be smooth. I don’t think accelerating fast is a problem as long as it is done smoothly (only it will increase your fuel consumption). If you want to accelerate so fast it brings your horse off balance, you should take up racing and forget about hauling horses.
2. The haul was too long. In Europe there is a law that limits hauls to 8 hours. I also think this is long enough.
3. Many sores, if not most, come from heavy training with too much tension. If the horse comes off the trailer sore, it is easier to blame the trailer trip than the training.
I read many different opinions on the choice between straight load and slant. Maybe if your horse is very tall and long, slant load may not offer him enough room to drop his head and neck and relax. Comfort is very important. Ideally, you want to make the slant wider, so the horse has enough space.
Also you read comments on the fact that you can’t take the first horse out in an emergency, or the middle one, in case of a three horse trailer. Well, with the proper preparation, like I describe in my E-book, what could possibly go wrong. If something does go bad. Stay centred and calm, panic will only make things worse.
Drive smoothly. There’s no place for ego when hauling horses. Actually, you get the utmost respect when you drive smooth, considering the horse; at least from me, your horse and other horse owners on the road. Maybe a good idea for a bumper (trailer) sticker: “I consider my horse while I drive”.
You’ll still have to make your own decision. I have had a straight load trailer for years. Slant load was less common, because the trailers are a little wider and heavier. But personally I would definitely recommend that you go for Slant load if you can.