Do Horse Trailers Have Brakes? Types & Why They’re Important

Do horse trailers have brakes?

Yes! And considering the weight and precious cargo in your trailer, you should always use transport that has brakes.

In fact, 31 states have laws in place regarding brakes and safety for trailers with an unladen GVW weight of over 3,000 pounds. (1)

Horse trailers can have different types of brakes, which I’ll get to next, along with other need-to-know info!

Key Takeaways

  • Many states have laws that require horse trailers to have good, working brakes
  • Breakaway brakes are an emergency braking feature
  • Electric brakes can be used without pressing the foot pedal
  • Hydraulic brakes have more stopping power

READ MORE: Best Living Quarters Horse Trailer

Do Horse Trailers Have Brakes?

Yes, the majority of horse trailers have brakes. Not only is this setup much safer, but many states also require it.

horse trailer

A horse trailer on its own, let alone carrying one or more horses, is far too heavy to be safely towed without brakes, even if you have a powerful truck.

However, you will come across different trailer braking systems.

Do Horse Trailers Come With Different Types of Brakes?

Yes, there are four different types of horse trailer brakes. Two apply to braking the trailer itself, and the third is an important safety feature.

Hydraulic Horse Trailer Brakes

Hydraulic trailer brakes are interesting, but they can have efficiency issues. (2) The operate by the resistance that the tow vehicle causes and this only. So when you press the brakes in your truck, the hydraulic brakes are activated by the pressure.

However, as these brakes, also called surge brakes, rely completely on the towing vehicle, it can cause problems. This system does not work well when reversing because the towing vehicle is generally going slow when doing this and thus not creating a lot of pressure on the trailer brakes.

They also don’t work well if you are braking when going down a hill or encountering sway. However, many feel that hydraulic brakes are better at dissipating heat and still give your more braking power than electric brakes. (3)

Electric Horse Trailer Brakes

Electric brakes are usually cheaper to install than hydraulic brakes but cost more to maintain. They work via a trailer brake controller placed in your truck cab.

When you press your foot down on the brake pedal, the system controller senses the amount of pressure and the speed at which your tow vehicle is slowing. It then uses the equivalent braking pressure to your trailer brakes.

They are the better option for rougher terrain when off the road but do not have as much braking power as hydraulic brake systems.

However, with the trailer brake controller box in your truck cab, it is possible to activate the trailer’s brakes with reach and without pressing on the tow vehicle brake pedal.

This video explains more about how electric trailer brakes work:

European System Brakes

You will come across these less often in North America, but some brands of two horse trailers sold there, such as the Bockman, will have this system.

This is a type of mechanical braking system that starts to slow down your trailer before you press the brake pedal in the brief time it takes to move your foot from the accelerator of the towing vehicle.

They help prevent the trailer, which is almost always heavier than the tow vehicle weight, from getting pushed by the trailer. (4)

Breakaway Brakes

A Breakaway device is a backup brake that acts as a safety measure in an emergency. It’s separate from the main brake system and run on a battery.

If your trailer becomes uncoupled, these brakes will activate and attempt to stop your trailer. They will apply pressure to your trailer brakes for 15 minutes.

Over 17 states legally require horse trailers and other types of trailers to have fully charged and operational breakaway brakes installed. (5)

ALSO READ: Paint for Horse Trailer Guide

Why Are Trailer Brakes Important?

Trailer brakes are an essential safety feature that will reduce the risk of accidents. A study in Australia on injuries to horses during trailering was higher when trailers did not have well-maintained brakes. (6)

This goes to show that good working brakes that are well maintained will reduce the risks associated with trailering your horse.

They also give you more control over your vehicle.

This video gives you an idea of trailer brake control:

How To Check If My Horse Trailer Has Brakes?

The best way to check if your horse trailer has brakes is to bring it to a mechanic the specializes in trailers. They will not only be able to tell you if you have brakes, but they can also tell you what kind of system it is and the condition it is in.

When shopping for a new or used trailer, ask the dealer. If buying a used trailer privately, you can check for brakes by looking for brake shoes near the tires.

However, always get an expert to inspect the trailer for brake safety and other major issues before purchasing.


How much weight can you tow without trailer brakes?

dodge ram trying to pull a trailer but can a dodge ram 1500 pull a gooseneck trailer

In many states, the maximum weight you can tow is 2,999 pounds without brakes. However, different states and countries might have stricter laws regarding weight limits, so also check what’s legal in your area.

How do I know if my trailer brakes are working?

To test if your brakes are working, engage them with a helper standing outside looking at the vehicle to see if the trailer wheels drag. Of course, the best way to check is to take it to a mechanic who can also check if they are working efficiently.

How do I know if my trailer brakes are worn out?

Noise, vibration, and pulling can indicate your brakes are worn out. You can also take the tires off and inspect the brake pads and discs. 


Yes, horse trailers have brakes in most cases and should have them in all cases, in my opinion. They improve your and your horse’s safety when traveling, which is only a good thing.

Remember to service brakes regularly; they are just as important as wearing your seat belt every time you get in the car, which means safe hauling. This goes for both your trailer and motor vehicle.

truck pulling a horse trailer on the road

Do you have questions about a horse trailer with brakes? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Horse Trailer Brakes: What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Trailer [Internet]. Double D Trailers. Available from:
  2. How to maintain your trailer brakes [Internet]. Farmers Weekly. 2020 [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from:
  3. Goode J. Hydraulic Disc Trailer Brakes [Internet]. PJ Trailers. 2019 [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from:
  4. Braking System | Maple Lane Equestrian Trailers | Böckmann [Internet]. Maple Lane Equestrian Trailers | Böckmann Horse Trailers for Sale Ontario Canada. [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from:
  5. Horse Trailer Safety FAQs [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Nov 30]. Available from:
  6. Riley C, Noble B, Bridges J, Hazel S, Thompson K. Horse Injury during Non-Commercial Transport: Findings from Researcher-Assisted Intercept Surveys at Southeastern Australian Equestrian Events. Animals. 2016;6:65.
Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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