The drive and determination to build the best horse trailers in the world has made Sundowner into a $100 million enterprise. Gloria P. Cahill tracks a company that treats its 750 employees as part of the family.
People who know about horses also know about the importance of high-quality trailers for transporting them. Sundowner Trailers has made it the company’s business to provide horse owners with trailers that meet and surpass every expectation for quality and safety. That commitment has made the company an industry frontrunner with a growth rate of 20 percent annually.At Sundowner’s state-of-the-art plant located on an 80-acre site in Coleman, Okla., the company will design and build more than 6,000 trailers this year. The large product line offers an array of models ranging from a basic 18-foot bumper pull to a huge 42-foot gooseneck version that carries up to 10 horses. Each model is built with the same meticulous standards of craftsmanship.
Sundowner’s network of more than 75 dealer locations in the United States and Canada provides sales and service with the same quality hallmark as the manufacturing process. The Shipmans – Gary, Larry, Jerry and John – regard this network as part of their commitment to every purchaser, every product and every horse transported in their trailers.
A Name That Tells a Story
When the Shipman brothers started their trailer business in the backyard of the family home in Coleman, it was a small enterprise with a big objective – to be the best. With only three people on the job, they worked day and night building horse and stock trailers. In fact, working past sundown in order to meet production deadlines was not unusual. Hence, the name Sundowner – an appropriate nod to the Shipmans’ dedication.
At first, Sundowner built only steel trailers for transporting horses and livestock – precious and heavy cargo. Then in 1988, the company began building aluminum trailers. Most recently, 1996 saw the introduction of the ValueLite trailer, a more affordable line. Using only the best materials – top-grade steel, aluminum, plexiglass, rubber, wood and padding materials – each Sundowner trailer is constructed to exacting specifications. Safety features are incorporated inside: padded dividers and walls, head ties, breast bars, butt chains, non-skid plank floors, dome lights, floor mats (to name a few). Safety features are also part of the exterior elements, including: steel frames, aluminum skins, extruded sides, cam locks on doors, coated windows, vents, loading lights, conspicuity tape, chute guides and railings.
Not to be overlooked is the styling of Sundowner trailers – they’re available in 11 basic models. Crisp, classic lines accented with striping accents in custom paint colors add to the pride of ownership.
On the frame, Sundowner uses protective powder coating. Using this method, an electronically charged powder coating is sprayed onto the trailer to help prevent wear, corrosion, impact and chemical action. Powder coating also adds a high-gloss finish that is not only beautiful, but durable and resilient, and easily color-matched for each trailer.
A Commitment That Inspires Loyalty
Building the best trailers is the primary Sundowner business. Providing the best sales and service is just as important. Both objectives are met with Sundowner’s commitment to customer service and its philosophy of continuous improvement. The result is that the company has created a strong, loyal customer base.
From its inception, the company has been focused on customer needs and on providing the product value that meets those needs. The Shipman brothers have accomplished their goals by building an organization based on quality principles. To that end, every Sundowner trailers is designed from the group up to offer the ultimate in comfort, convenience, safety and performance.
Within the company, the Sundowner philosophy is described as “commitment to quality in the workforce, workplace, choice of materials used, sales force and training program.”
Another area of the trailer business in which the Shipmans have applied their quality standards is in the company product line of living quarters. These luxury trailers offer every amenity for people who want a home away from home. Features on these lines – Siesta, Trailblazer, Pueblo and Sierra – include:
¥ Spacious interior layouts
¥ Sleeping accommodations for up to six people
¥ Roof air conditioner with chill chaser
¥ Top-quality bathroom fixtures, including Sealand bowls
¥ Built-in cabinets
¥ Gas cook top and range hood with exhaust fan and light
¥ Microwave oven
¥ Power-roof vent fan in bathroom
¥ Monitor panel for fresh water, waste water and battery condition
Sundowner living quarters are offered with seven decorator fabric packages, five wood-grain designer packages and a range of options that includes decorative accents and entertainment equipment.
Safe and Sound
In keeping with Sundowner’s reputation for providing quality and safety, the company’s living-quarters trailers are code approved in all 50 states. Some of the safety features include:
¥ Consumer protection seals
¥ Heavy-duty 45-ampere, 12-volt power converter with battery charger
¥ 12-volt line to truck
¥ Smoke alarm and fire extinguisher
¥ Full fiberglass insulation
¥ GFI-protected electrical receptacles
¥ Tempered safety glass windows.
The Sundowner logo features the company name and the graceful silhouette of a horse against a sunset-orange sky. This symbol says a lot about a company that values the people who make its products, the people who buy and use its products, and the animals transported in the trailers – a job well done at the end of the day.