The Evolution of Converting a Horse Trailer into a Tiny Home

Editor’s Note:  This month, we introduce you to a different type of conversion.  It’s an interesting concept and shows how some people think outside of the box.  This also may be ideal for bus conversion owners that have children and want to travel with them but do not want to be crowded into a bus. 

Simply help them convert a horse trailer with their own living quarters and bathroom so when parked, they will have their own independent living space.  Then when they grow up, let them take the trailer on their own to tow behind a pickup truck or large car to do their own camping.  This way, you will not have to dismantle bunk beds and remodel your bus when they decide they no longer want to travel with mom and dad.

This would also work for the couple with children that want to buy a bus that does not already have sleeping quarters for children.  Rather than remodel a bus to provide room for the children, simply convert a horse trailer to tow behind the bus for as long as they want to travel with you.  Then when they no longer want to travel, leave the trailer behind.  

This is also ideal for people with children that want to invite their friends along. This gives them their own space. Just be aware, it is not legal to ride in a trailer like this while traveling down the road.

Thinking of converting a vintage or utility trailer into an RV or tiny home?  That was me and I purchased both, but after spending thousands of dollars, I had to look at a plan C. I purchased a 1971 Aljo travel trailer and it was a great vintage trailer but needed a complete overhaul.  

However, I did a small remodel job and took it on a few trips. It was a great travel trailer but I wanted it to be bigger and have more amenities and you just couldn’t accomplish that with this one. Vintage trailers have great strong structures but the work required leaves a lot of them partially done and you can spend thousands of dollars renovating them.

1979 Horse Trailer
This jewel, I’m saving to convert for another day. A 1979 Neko Horse Trailer.

Also, I had a 6×12 enclosed utility trailer and used it for a utility/work trailer plus maybe be a good conversion project as I have seen a few before. Shortly after using this for a while, the leaf springs broke on one side, which was not sustainable and is very dangerous.  I ruled this option out as a conversion.

I was talking to a friend and she said, “You know you see those old horse trailers are still fully functioning on the highways, you should convert one of those.”  Ironically, two days later, I randomly met a retired jockey and he mentioned an out of commission horse trailer he had from another jockey who had passed away and he graciously let me take it for my tiny house conversion project. 

I promised him I would make this into something special. I began to look for a newer model to work with.  I searched the internet and visited several horse trailer dealers finally purchasing the largest bumper-pull horse trailer I could find on the market. 

Horse Trailer
Horse trailer exterior front.
Horse Trailer interior
Horse trailer interior.
Horse trailer exterior rear.
Horse trailer exterior rear.

The horse trailer I purchased, can easily be pulled with a 1/2-ton truck.  As soon I backed up my truck and loaded it on my hitch, it sat down and was ready to ride. There was no bouncing or swaying at all.  The secret is out!

4H Trailswest
4H Trailswest Adventures 4-Horse Trailer.

The Trails West Adventure, a 4-horse trailer from the stocked position, can accommodate four thoroughbred horses which means it’s taller than the average horse trailer with a height of seven feet on the inside.  Each thoroughbred horse could weigh as much as 1,500 lbs.  Using this trailer as a conversion, I knew I had a steady foundation to build on.

Plexiglass installation overexposed areas.
Plexiglass installation overexposed areas.

The overall width is 8’ 5” wide by 21’ long by 9’ 5” tall.  The trailer sits lower to the ground vs most RVs and Tiny Homes making it a great option for those wanting fewer stairs and want to carry mobile transports i.e., motorcycles or ATVs. I was excited to get back to the shop and start this project.

 The Build-Out

Upgrading the tires and rims were first the items on my list.  A 4-horse fully enclosed bumper-pull model was hard to find, so I purchased this open one. I closed off the open exposed areas using aluminum L brackets, rivets, and smoked plexiglass.  No real issues with this process and it’s held up well for years. 

Horse trailer interior with 3/4” rubber mat.
Horse trailer interior with 3/4” rubber mat.

The smoked plexiglass gives the horse trailer a stealthy look and the only maintenance is to keep an eye on the marine-grade clear sealant I used around the aluminum L brackets.  This sealant was used to keep the plexiglass in place as well as to serve as a sealer. 

The plexiglass has proven to be much cooler than glass.  With no windows, I get plenty of circulation from the two ceiling fans/vents I added and even more when both doors are open for a cross breeze.

Trailer base steel frame with 2 x 10’s wood plank supports left in place.
Trailer base steel frame with 2 x 10’s wood plank supports left in place.

Once I closed off the open areas, I moved inside to remove the horst dividers and all metal brackets.  Because it was all metal, I had to grind them off.  Trying to be as sustainable as possible, I sold these items to ranchers wanting to update their stalls. On raw metal, a coat of good quality metal primer and paint was required.

I left the original flooring which consisted of 2×8’s as the underbelly and a 3/4” rubber mat in the interior.  I installed a 12-mil luxury vinyl floor on top of the rubber mat and 2×8 planks. The interior floor now is well insulated. The metal walls have 1-1/2” foam board insulation in most of the area.

I left some areas empty under the plexiglass and metal walls to show how it was originally a horse trailer. The ceiling has 1” of insulation and plastic corrugated ceiling panels as I evaluate adding more wiring to add additional solar panels, allowing the AC to run longer.

Adding additional solar panels and lithium batteries would allow me to stay off the grid in the summer months. With the doors open during the day, I generally don’t need to run the AC.

The Bedroom/Living/Dining Room

View from the rear with doors opened.
View from the rear with doors opened.

I specialize in innovative living spaces.  I knew I needed a Murphy bed which is one of my signature custom furniture builds.  Murphy beds allows a room to have multiple purposes with the inclusion of a full bed lowered when needed.

The mattress is a 10” memory foam mattress.  To maximize storage, I built a shelf above the bed to serve as a huge nightstand with additional hidden storage. The bench under the bed serves as two very large storage bins. There is also additional storage behind the storage bins. 

12mm luxury vinyl flooring over rubber mat.
12mm luxury vinyl flooring over rubber mat.
Great wide rear view from the sofa.
Great wide rear view from the sofa.

The sofa was made from two custom-ordered 10” memory foam/regular foam mattresses and custom outdoor fabric covers. These are placed above the Murphy bed when not in use to bring down the Murphy bed. The best part about my custom Murphy beds is you can leave the bedding in place when you raise the bed.

After the custom full-size Murphy sofa bed was laid out, I started designing the remaining spaces.

Large counter space with skim coat concrete and stain.
Large counter space with skim coat concrete and stain.
Kitchen with refrigerator and gas stove with oven.
Kitchen with refrigerator and gas stove with oven.

The Kitchen

 ho doesn’t want a kitchen with plenty of prep space?  Since the sofa/dining/bed areas were combined with the bedroom space, I built and installed large cabinets to store a deep sink, refrigerator, microwave, toaster, and stove with oven.  There is still tons of miscellaneous storage leftover! I even store the lithium batteries under the cabinet along with an AC that is mounted under the cabinet.

As far as the countertop goes, I wanted to make sure the countertop would be durable for travel and also lightweight while producing a dramatic look.  Using feather finish, I built a concrete countertop with industrial water-based concrete stain. There are several coats of acrylic concrete sealer on top of the water-based stain. The finished look is like stone at a fraction of the cost and weight.

Corner 25-gallon fresh water tank.
Corner 25-gallon fresh water tank.
Original tack room.
Original tack room.

The Bathroom

The horse trailer came with a tack room with a door on the passenger side and was separated from the rest of the trailer.  I removed the carpet, swivel saddle holder, and miscellaneous hooks shown in the photo.  I removed the spare tire and mounted it on a bracket on the back door.

The stocked corner 25-gallon fresh water tank was left in place and will be described in the plumbing build section of this article. To create more of an open floor plan, I cut an opening into the metal wall. 

Then, I began to design and build a full bathroom with sliding doors for privacy when needed.  These doors are made from two 18” bi-fold closet doors.  I used sliding closet door hardware to create the barn door effect.  Very lightweight.

I installed a corner sink using a stainless-steel bowl and drilled a hole in the center. I built bottom storage under the sink.

Full bathroom installed in the tack room.
Full bathroom installed in the tack room.

The shower consists of a horse trough keeping with the theme of the tiny house and a trickling shower head to save water. A flush toilet was installed and only uses 1-2 liters of water with every flush.

There is plenty of storage for towels and toiletries including the original tack room storage pockets attached to the door.

Electrical in the Conversion

A 30-amp electrical panel is installed inside. I installed six flexible solar panels on the roof using metal screws and eternal bond as a sealant.  There are three 100 amp-hour lithium batteries installed in a kitchen cabinet with a transfer switch and a 4,000-watt inverter. 

An exterior 30-Amp shore power connection is installed as well for easy home or RV park connections.  12-volt, 110-volt outlets are located throughout the trailer and a 20-amp outdoor outlet.  There is a small air conditioner that is only used when connected to shore power.

I installed two 12V Maxx air ceiling vent fans. These use very little energy and provide a lot of ventilation with direct and indirect air. The original trailer lights and other factory wiring connections are still in tack.  New wiring for everything else was installed on this project.

Plumbing in the Conversion

Using the 25-gallon fresh water tank that is tucked in the corner and is original to the trailer, is easy to fill with the fill slot on top and drain on the bottom. A 12V water pump was installed under the fresh water tank.  Hot and cold-water supply lines are installed where needed, to service the bathroom, kitchen sinks, shower, and toilet. 

The indoor hot water on-demand heater is quick and uses very little propane. It is installed right by the fresh water tank.  A 27-gallon gray and a 27-gallon black tank were installed. This has RV drains for ease of draining. Wrapping up the plumbing, I installed an outdoor shower by the door on the passenger side.

My dual-regulated propane tanks are located by the tongue of the trailer which services the stove and hot water on-demand tank.  I can’t believe how little propane is used for all these items.

New converted horse trailer in tow.
New converted horse trailer in tow.

The Trailer’s Weight

The trailer is all metal, not aluminum.  The dry weight was 5,500 lbs.  With the improvements, the trailer’s weight is 7,040 lbs.  The gross weight capacity of the trailer is 10,000 lbs.  There is plenty of room to add an ATV or other items like the sofa cushions and bottom storage bins are removable, providing more flexible storage. 

The tongue weight is 1,100 lbs. when most RVs are only 500 lbs.  This horse trailer does not require sway bars or weight distribution systems. If you are used to towing RVs, this is a big safety feature.  I have been the only person who has towed this horse trailer and have not had any issues.  It sits on the road and you can cruise very easily.

I installed an electric jack on the tongue to make it easy to hook up.  Because of the tongue weight, I installed hydraulic airbags in the bed of my Ford F-150. This provides ease of moving and hauling my horse trailer tiny home all over the country.

Display at TinyFest California.
Display at TinyFest California.

I have had my horse trailer for three years and I can’t be happier with the build.  It has plenty of space and I am not missing anything when I travel. 

K7 Productions posing at the horse trailer.
K7 Productions posing at the horse trailer.

This horse trailer is often displayed at the tiny house festivals and other events across the country.

For a full video tour of this horse trailer, click HERE

Please feel free to contact me regarding any additional questions you may have regarding this build or if you have an interest in a custom-built tiny home.

By Felisa Benton

Felisa has been a designer and builder for more than 20 years. She started her career building custom home furnishings and completing remodeling contracts for residential and commercial clients.

Her first conversion was a 1971’s Aljo travel trailer. Today, she builds custom tiny homes and home furnishings.

You can connect with Felisa via telephone: (602) 881-1554
Email: Felisa@bentoncustomhomes.com
Website: BentonCHF.com
Instagram: Tiny_house_conversions

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