Even for tire retailers that receive feedback from thousands of customers using different brands of horse trailer tires, it is difficult to know the very best tires for horse trailers. There are many online horse enthusiast discussion forums, and seemingly endless commentary from tire “experts” with opinions and personal experience about a specific tire brand or horse trailer tire style. But this information can lead to more confusion for the average horse trailer tire shopper since there is inevitably conflicting views and different individual experiences with any specific tire brand.
What follows is our best attempt to provide you with the key criteria to consider when buying horse trailer tires based on the concerns and experience of horse trailer owners. The article also features the best-selling horse trailer tires on tires-easy.com. These are the horse trailer tires that consistently meet or exceed our customers’ expectations. Installing one of the tires recommended, and good preventive maintenance can help keep your family, horses and equipment safe on the roads.
1. ST (Special Trailer) tires for a Better, Safer Ride
One of the biggest debates about tires for horse trailers is whether ST tires are better than LT tires. The LT stands for “light truck”. The ST stands for “Special Trailer”. The tire size is molded on the side of your tire, and the numbers are preceded by an LT or ST depending on the type. For example, ST235/85R16 or LT225/75R16. Both LT tires and ST tires can be used on horse trailers, however ST tires are specifically designed for use on trailers and have some important safety advantages.
Because LT tires are designed to go on a truck, they have to provide the proper traction, long tread-life and a good ride. Tires are always designed to work in conjunction with the suspension of the target vehicle or equipment. A horse trailer has a much less sophisticated suspension compared to the tow vehicle. Therefore, trailer tires absorb more of the road shock, and take much more of a pounding since they play the role of shock absorber in addition to carrying the load. To handle this, ST tires have much stronger sidewalls. The tire for any towing vehicle cannot have such rigid sidewalls because they need to flex during cornering. The tire on a horse trailer only follows the direction of travel, so it does not have to flex nearly as much. This means that compared to an ST tire, an LT tire can cause the trailer to sway more. This makes for a much less comfortable ride for your horses.
If there is a LT and ST option in a particular size, with a similar load carrying capacity (more about that next), we always recommend the ST tires for horse trailers because of the sway factor, particularly on high-center of gravity horse trailers. The Carlisle Radial Trail RH tire has the two most popular 16 inch horse trailer sizes, and is one of the best-selling and reliable horse trailer tires. It is important to remember that most ST tires are speed rated to a max of 65 miles an hour. In the last few years, a few manufacturers have introduced L, M or J-rated ST tires, but a good safety rule is to not exceed 65 mph regardless.
2. Higher Tire Load Range to Lower Risk of Blow-outs
We all hear and read about tire blow-outs. While the most common cause of blowouts is low tire pressure, the risk is always compounded when the trailer is heavily loaded. The reality is horse trailers are very often loaded to maximum capacity with a lot more than the horse and one set of tack. The load capacity of a tire is the maximum weight a tire is engineered to carry when properly inflated, and is always marked on the side of the tire. Load range on LT and ST tires are from C to F. The letters correspond to a “ply” equivalent (for example C = 6 ply, D= 8 ply, E = 10 ply load equivalent. The higher the ply rating, the higher the load capacity of the tire. In numerical terms, a load range F tire is designed to carry 3,858 pounds when properly inflated. On a dual axle four tire trailer, the four load range F tires will carry 15,432 pounds in total.
For horse trailers in particular, we recommend you invest in the tire with the highest Load Range available. As a minimum, the tires on your trailer must always have a sufficient load range to cover the GVW (gross vehicle weight) specified by the trailer manufacturer. This information can usually be found on a plaque on the trailer frame, or in the Owner’s Manual.
3. Go with a Quality, Reputable Horse Trailer Tires ManufacturerWhile brand name is not always a guarantee of quality, constantly good product reviews and feedback from thousands of users can give us a pretty good idea of over-all quality and reliability. Not all tire manufacturers make specialty ST tires. Notably, Michelin, Continental, Pirelli and Bridgestone ignore this segment. The best-known brands, and largest market share in horse trailer tires are Carlisle, Towmaster and Milestar. Not exactly house-hold brand names, but proven brands for quality in the horse trailer tire segment. Here are the three best selling horse trailer tires from among the hundreds of brands and models sold on tires-easy.com.
- Carlisle Radial Trail RH tire – the official trailer tire of the American Bass Anglers tour. The load range F ST235/85R16 is reinforced for a stable ride and long-mileage.
- Towmaster SS tire – This tire has an F load range, ST tire size common on horse trailers. It is specially designed for high heat applications. If you live in the southern states and haul long distances, this Towmaster tire comes highly recommended.
- Milestar Steelpro AST tire – this tire is super heavy duty and has a load range G tire in ST235/85R16. Instead of nylon and fabric casing plies, the Milestar Steelpro AST tire comes with steel belts, like those found in heavy-duty, over-the-road truck tires.
Frequent Tire Inspections and Tire Pressure Checks
For your own safety, and the safety of your family and horses, do not forget to inspect the tires on your horse trailer and towing vehicle before every long trip. If you do frequent short trips you will want to check the tires at least once a month. If your trailer has sat unused for months at a time, it is even more important that you check the tire pressure before use. Air does escape slowly from tires when parked, typically in the range of 1 to 2 psi per month in colder climates. Even on a short trip, an under-inflated tire on a heavily loaded vehicle can be disastrous. It only takes a few minutes to do a thorough tire inspection, and the added piece of mind and safety makes it well worth the effort.