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Keeping Horses Comfortable During Winter Travel

As horse owners, many of us fear trailering in the winter due to lack of poise that the horse is comfortable. While we have the amenity of a heated vehicle and some of us with heated seats, our horses comfort during travel depends on the owner.

One of the most common questions: Should I blanket my horse for a trip? While some of this depends on how cold the temperature is, it also depends on the thickness of your horse’s winter coat – if he has one. Most horses that are in the show industry are kept under lights for 16 hours or more per day to prevent a winter coat from growing; thus calling for heavy layered blankets during subzero temperatures. Horses that are body clipped fall under this category as well. Whereas if your equine partner is au-natural (A.K.A: fuzz ball), he may not call for a heavy blanket but rather a sheet to block wind (this is if you have a stock trailer with open sides or windows that do not close).

Your trailer should be well-ventilated. Hay, dust, shavings, manure and urine can create toxic air. Body heat also plays a big role. Horses are most comfortable in 50-60°F (12°C), so a cold horse is less of a problem than an overheated horse. If you have an enclosed trailer, heat can build up quickly triggering sweating leading to dehydration. Air should be circulating throughout your trailer, but try to keep from direct air flow onto your horse. If you have roof vents, run them in reverse (open to the rear) so they will draw air away from the horse. You can get quite a breeze going when traveling on a highway. You can also crack your trailer windows to allow continual airflow.

Keeping your horse hydrated is just as essential in cold weather as it is in hot weather. When horses are in a trailer with heavy blankets, they sweat causing fluid loss and allowing dehydration to set in quicker than you think. If you are making a long haul cross country, you should stop every 3-4 hours to water your horse. While some horses are likely to drink less in winter, it is still crucial to offer them warm water. If you have a rather nervous horse, this is especially imperative because they sweat much more.

Now and again Old Man Winter decides that you don’t really need to make that show and relics your plans. You now not only need to find a place for you to stay, but also a suitable stable (with appropriate shelter) for your equine partner. While there is places that offer overnight stabling, this abrupt planning can be evaded by checking the weather every day throughout your journey. If you see that you’re headed for bad weather, call ahead to a place and make arrangements. USRiderrecommends Have a plan B before roads become impenetrable. Food for thought- Keep common sense and safety at the top of your list rather than the need to meet a schedule in menacing weather.

Equine Vaccination Basics

Over the past 75 years, vaccines have saved the lives of thousands of horses and rendered a number of terrible equine diseases exceedingly rare. They remain among the most effective weapons for protecting horses against the ravages of disease.


Vaccinations work by introducing weakened or killed microorganisms into the body to train the immune system to destroy specific disease-causing agents. In the vast majority of cases, this process results in long-lasting immunity.

Occasionally, vaccination causes local swelling or soreness. Rarely, a horse may suffer an allergic response that is itself a threat to his health.

Most equine vaccines are administered via intramuscular injection, which delivers the preparation into muscle tissue, where it is selectively taken up by the body and processed.

Intranasal vaccines,which are delivered via a spray into the nostrils, are also available for horses. Because these vaccines induce a strong immune response in the respiratory tract, they are used for influenza and strangles,which attack the body there.

Intravenous vaccines,which are delivered straight into the bloodstream, are available for people, but currently none are manufactured for equine use.


Not every horse needs to be vaccinated for every disease. Your veterinarian is your best resource for evaluating your horse’s circumstances. As you discuss what’s appropriate for your horse, consider four variables that influence his risk of disease:

Age. Very young horses are at the greatest risk once the immunity they acquire from their dams begins to wane. Elderly horses, too, may have a compromised immune response.

Occupation. The more demanding a career, the greater the physical stress,whether a horse is an elite athlete or a broodmare. In addition, horses who routinely travel–to shows, events or for breeding–are likely to encounter more potential pathogens than those who rarely or never leave home.

Housing arrangements. A solitary horse who seldom journeys any distance from the farm is at far less risk of disease than the residents of a large boarding stable with lots of incoming and outgoing equine traffic.

Location in the country. Certain diseases that affect horses are prevalent in particular areas.

Whatever vaccination regimen you and your veterinarian choose, periodically reevaluate and adjust it based on new threats, changes in local/regional conditions and any modifications that have occurred in your horse’s lifestyle.


The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends vaccination, when appropriate, against the following diseases that affect horses. (They are listed below alphabetically and not in order of priority).

Botulism: food poisoning caused by the toxin secreted by Clostridium botulinumbacteria,which can contaminate feed and water. The condition is characterized by paralysis, beginning with the muscles of swallowing, and it is usually fatal.

Equine viral arteritis: a respiratory and venereal disease that can cause abortion.

Equine viral encephalomyelitis: brain and spinal-cord inflammation caused by several species of alphaviruses in the Togaviridae family that are usually transmitted bymosquitoes. The disease is characterized by fever, erratic behavior and/or stupor and is almost always fatal. Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) and Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE) are present in North America; Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) has not occurred in the United States for decades but outbreaks still occur in South America.

Influenza: an acute viral infection involving the respiratory tract. Signs of influenza include inflammation of the nasal mucosa, the pharynx, the conjunctiva, the lungs and sometimes the heart muscle.

Potomac horse fever (monocytic ehrlichiosis): a disease caused by a rickettsial organism, Ehrlichia risticii. Named after the Potomac River Valley where it was first recognized in 1979, the disease is characterized by fever, diarrhea and laminitis0.

Rabies: a fatal viral disease of the central nervous system. There is a long incubation period, and signs of rabies usually develop over many days.

Rhinopneumonitis: a highly contagious disease caused by herpesviruses (EHV-1, EHV-4). Rhinopneumonitis is characterized by fever, mild respiratory infection and, in mares, abortion. In rare cases, some strains of these herpesviruses also cause potentially fatal neurological complications.

Rotavirus A: a type of virus that causes profuse diarrhea in foals younger that 3 months of age. In addition to diarrhea, signs of rotavirus A infection include failure to nurse, depression and difficulty/inability to stand.

Strangles (distemper): a highly contagious infection of the lymph nodes, usually of the throat, caused by Streptococcus equi bacteria. The abscesses may become so large as to obstruct the airway (hence the term “strangles”) and may break internally, draining a thick, yellow pus through the nose, or externally, draining through a spontaneous or surgical opening in the skin.

Tetanus: a rigid paralytic disease caused by the toxin of Clostridium tetani, an anaerobic bacterium that lives in soil and feces but that also can infect wounds.

West Nile virus: a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile virus can infect birds, horses, people and other mammals. In horses, as in people, infection usually causes little or no illness. However, for reasons not yet determined, West Nile infection sometimes triggers swelling of the brain (encephalitis) that produces limb weakness, muscle twitching (fasciculation), incoordination, behavioral changes, paralysis and recumbency. In severe cases,West Nile encephalitis can lead to coma and death.


The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has produced a suggested vaccination schedule for horses of varying ages and activity levels–foals/weanlings, yearlings, pleasure horses, performance horses and broodmares. Here are the guidelines for pleasure and performance horses; for the others, go to The AAEP recommends that you consult with your veterinarian regarding the specific needs of your horse.

Botulism Consult your veterinarian Consult your veterinarian
EEE (in high-risk areas)
Annual, spring
WEE, EEE (in low-risk areas) and VEE
Annual, spring
EEE (in high-risk areas)
Annual, spring
WEE, EEE (in low-risk areas) and VEE
Annual, spring
Equine viral arteritis Annual for colts intended to be
breeding stallions
Annual for colts intended to be
breeding stallions
Influenza Inactivated injectable
Annual with added boosters
prior to likely exposure
Intranasal modified-live virus
Every 6 months
Inactivated injectable
Every 3 to 4 months
Intranasal modified-live virus
Every 6 months
Potomac horse fever Semiannual Semiannual
Rabies Annual Annual
(EHV-1 and EHV-4)
Optional; semiannual if elected Booster every 3 to 4 months up
to annually
Rotavirus A Not applicable Not applicable
Strangles Injectable
Optional; semiannual if risk is high
Optional; semiannual if risk is high
Tetanus toxoid Annual Annual
West Nile virus Annual booster prior to expected risk.
Vaccinate semiannually or more frequently (every 4 months) depending on risk.
Annual booster prior to expected risk.
Vaccinate semiannually or more frequently (every 4 months) depending on risk.

By Equus | 9/27/2016

Protect Your Tack From Thieves

Theft is something we prefer not to think about—until it happens. But the right time to safeguard your gear is before thieves come calling. Here are the precautions you should consider in order to keep your stuff safe. (To protect your horse, see the note at the end of this article.)

Mark your tack. Your best bet is to engrave, die stamp, or emboss your driver’s license number onto all your valuable gear. Place the mark where it’s not unsightly but where law enforcement can easily find it. The markings create a significant deterrent to thieves, plus make it easier for items to be returned if they are stolen and then recovered by investigators.

Inventory it, too.
 Maintain a detailed list of your gear, and take identifying photos. File the list and photos along with purchase receipts in a safe deposit box. This is especially important for saddles and other expensive items. Update the list whenever you add to your collection. Ideally, keep two sets of everything—one for your insurance company (see box) and one for law enforcement. (Sheriff’s detectives can make good use of photos, especially, when trying to track down stolen items.) A video of your tack room, updated periodically, is a great backup to your written list.

Keep tack under wraps. At home, keep your equipment in a locked tack room (ideally one without windows, or add bars to the windows). Control who has access to that room. At shows or other events, keep tack rooms and your trailer locked. Even when you’re around, don’t leave expensive gear out where thieves can size it up. It only takes a moment’s inattention for something to disappear. Or thieves can come back later, knowing a little snooping or even a break-in is worthwhile based on what they’ve already seen. On trail rides, don’t leave valuable items visible in your trailer or vehicle; lock them unseen inside the tack compartment.

Keep track of strangers. Take note of unfamiliar vehicles in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily see them around your barn. If yours is a busy place with a lot of traffic (for lessons, horse-shopping, etc.), consider a sign-in sheet requesting in/out times and license-plate numbers.

Use deterrents. A watchful dog is best, as burglars hate noise. Floodlights or motion-detecting lights are also helpful, though the latter can result in false alarms. Barn security systems work well, and even a dummy video recorder can be effective—mount it up high where criminals can’t tell it’s not real, and be sure to post the warning signs that go with it.

Supervise your trailer. Thieves can hit rigs parked in out-of-the-way locations when you make brief rest or purchasing stops along the road. If you must park your rig out of view, have someone keep an eye on it if possible while you’re away.
Be savvy about ‘buyers.’ Barns get cased when would-be thieves respond to sale ads for horses, gear, or property. Be extra vigilant any time strangers have been to your place for any reason.

By Horse & Rider

Reminder to Equestrians to Check Tires

A flat tire is one hiccup that we all fear, especially as equestrians.  USRider reminds equestrians to check their tires as they can lose their footing long before they’re worn out. Testing by Consumer Reports shows that tread can give up a significant amount of grip when it’s still at the half-way point. Checking your tires on your tow vehicle and trailers should be part of your regular maintenance. Tires should be checked once a month.

When the grooves of a tire reach 2/32nds of an inch deep, they are considered bald. A new tire has grooves of about 10/32nds. Tire manufacturers have made bald tires easier to spot by placing a series of mold horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. The bars become flush with surrounding tread when wear reduces groove depth to 2/32nds.

With diminished tread comes the augmented risk for an accident. As a tire wears, there becomes a reduction of performance in rain and snow. When those summer storms hit, hydroplaning is a big risk due to standing water from a heavy downpour. If your tires have 2/32nds remaining tread depth, resistance to hydroplaning in the rain at highway speed is significantly increased.

If you’re about to leave on a long trip, a tire check is essential. Most people in general do not worry so much about their tire tread, but more about air in their tires. While this is just as important as your tread, checking the tire in its entirety is crucial, as tire issues are the #1 reason for disablements with horse trailers.

The best way to check the depth of tire tread is with a depth gauge. However, U.S. coins can be substituted for a tire-tread-depth gauge as tires wear to the critical final few 32nds of an inch remaining depth. Consumer Reports offers the following guidelines:

  • Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32nds tread depth remaining.
  • Place a quarter into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Washington’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32nds tread depth remaining.
  • Place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32nds tread depth remaining.
  • Once you have determined the approximate remaining tread depth in the first location, you can complete your measurement of each tire by placing the coin into additional locations at least 15 inches apart around the tire’s central circumferential groove, as well as in its inner and outer grooves. This will help detect uneven wear caused by mechanical or service conditions.

While inspecting your tires’ tread depth, be sure to check for dry rot and pressure as well. Trailer tires typically deteriorate due to dry rot from age before they wear out and should be replaced every 3-5 years regardless of tread wear. In addition, trailer tires are more prone to uneven wear due to under-inflation. Upon inspection of the tire, the outer edges of tread would show more wear than the center. This condition also leads to blow-outs – the number one reason for disablements relating to horse trailers.

Learn How to Read the Tires on Your Horse Trailer

When was the last time you took a really good look at the tires on your horse trailer? While air pressure is very important, it’s not the only thing that counts when it comes to tire safety.

Everything you need to know about your horse trailer tires is printed on the sidewall of the tires, and knowing what all those markings mean could prevent you from having a blowout:

Tire size and Application

Among the largest listings on the side of the tire will be a number that starts with LT or ST, such as ST235/85R16F.   The LT stands for Light Truck, such as an F-150 or Chevy 3500.  The ST stands for Special Trailer.  Either LT tires or ST tires can be used on horse trailers, but ST tires are specifically made for towing, and have some decided safety advantages.

Because LT tires are made for trucks, they are engineered to provide good mileage, proper traction and a good ride.  It is the last part about the “good ride” that makes them decidedly less appropriate for use on a horse trailer.  A towing vehicle (truck or car) has a sophisticated suspension with struts or shocks, torsion bars and springs.  A horse trailer has a much less sophisticated suspension.  As a result, trailer tires are forced to endure much more pounding when they go down the road.

ST tires have stronger sidewalls to handle this pounding.  When a towing vehicle rounds a corner, the LT tire sidewall actually permits the tire on the road to flex significantly.   This isn’t a problem, as the truck has a suspension that assists to compensate for this action.  However, when an LT tire is on a horse trailer with a high center of gravity, this flexing action can contribute to trailer sway, a very dangerous situation, and one that will make your horses think twice about loading for the next trip.

ST tires, with their much stiffer sidewalls, will stand up straight when cornering, which is much safer for drivers and their horses.  Therefore, ST tires are safer and superior to LT tires on a high-center of gravity vehicle, such as a horse trailer.

Load Range This is the maximum weight a tire is engineered to carry when properly inflated. For example, for tires that are listed as load range F, each tire is designed to carry 3,858 pounds when properly inflated at 90 pounds per square inch of air pressure.  The four tires will carry 15,432 pounds total, which is appropriate for the total weight of the trailer, four average horses, hay, water, tack and incidentals.

Tire Date of Birth

All tires manufactured since 2000 are required to have a Born On Date.

Here is how to find it:

Simply look for a four-digit number that will be standing all alone, such as 0612. The first two numbers are the week of the year.  So a tire with “06” was made about mid February, or the sixth week of the year.

The second two numbers are the year of manufacture.  So “12” means 2012 was the year it was made.


One thing to consider is that the ST tires are speed rated to only 65 mph.


YES, tread is important on a trailer tire, so if the tires are getting thin, it’s time to replace them. BUT, even if horse trailer tires have lots of tread left, it is the age of the tire that becomes more important.  A general rule of thumb is that five years is the maximum amount of time for the service life of a tire.

When a tire becomes aged, it can cause weakening of the tire structure, and that can cause the tire to fail—such as in the case of a blowout.

For safety’s sake, inspect the tires on your horse trailer as well as your towing vehicle.

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Winter Driving Tips From USRider

Winter is coming. For some of us winter is already here! USRider reminds everyone who travels with horses to be careful, and to invest time performing routine preventative trailer maintenance to enhance overall travel safety.

While it is imperative to maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s service schedule, it is also important to take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic. This is especially crucial for heavy-duty vehicles towing precious cargo. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive.

USRider recommends that you check tire pressure before each trip. This is especially essential with temperature changes. If you are traveling from a warm climate to a cold climate, air pressure in your tires will drop. On the other hand, when traveling from a cold climate to a warm climate, the air pressure will rise.

During winter months, traction tires are recommended. In order to qualify as a traction tire, tires must have at least an eighth of an inch tread and be labeled Mud and Snow, M+S, All-Season, or have a Mountain/Snowflake symbol. Since tire performance can vary, a trusted area dealer may be able to advise you on the best tires for your vehicle and your area of the country. Plus, look at the date on the inside of the tire to be sure it has not been on the dealer shelf too long.

Another travel issue that could raise its ugly head during cold weather is a weak battery. If you have a battery that is more than a couple years old, be sure to check it prior to cold weather setting in. Otherwise, you may find yourself on a cold morning inconvenienced with a dead battery.

When driving, a good rule of thumb to follow on the road is “Rain, ice & snow – take it slow.” Before setting out on a trip, take time to check weather reports and plan accordingly. Be sure to allow extra time for inclement weather. Mother Nature doesn’t care that you need to be somewhere at a certain time. Keep in mind that weather and driving conditions can change rapidly, so be aware and drive accordingly.

During inclement weather, always drive with your headlights on- even if it is not dark. USRider recommends when trailering horses, owners drive with their headlights on, regardless of weather because of the increased visibility afforded by headlights.

Also during inclement weather, be sure to increase distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room. USRider recommends that you double the normal distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

Since it’s difficult to know what road conditions you may encounter during your trip, make it a practice to re-fuel when your vehicle fuel gauge drops below the halfway mark. In many states, you can dial 5-1-1 for travel conditions and road closures.


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Trailer Tires vs Tow Vehicle Tires

There are differences in the driving requirements between the tires on your trailer and those on the car or light truck you use to tow it. Therefore, there are distinct differences between the way trailer tires and tow vehicle tires are engineered.

Your tow vehicle is a leader, which means traction is a key focus in the design of its tires. Traction allows your tow vehicle to accelerate down the road, turn around the corner and brake to a stop. Another important consideration is tow vehicle tires are designed for ride comfort, which is achieved in part by allowing their sidewalls to flex.

Your trailer is a follower, which often makes tire sidewall flexing a negative. Sidewall flexing on trailers, especially those with a high center of gravity (enclosed/travel trailers) or that carry heavy loads, is a primary cause of trailer sway. Typical passenger radial tires with flexible sidewalls can accentuate trailer sway problems. The stiffer sidewalls and higher operating pressures common with Special Trailer (ST) designated tires help reduce trailer sway.

“Trailers will be more stable and pull better on tires designed specifically for trailer use. Since Special Trailer (ST) tires are constructed with heavier duty materials, they are tougher than typical passenger vehicle tires.”

Also consider that Special Trailer (ST), as well as Light Truck (LT) tires are fully rated for trailer applications. This means ST- and LT-sized tires can carry the full weight rating branded on the sidewalls when used on a trailer.

However when P-metric or Euro-metric tires are used on a trailer, the load capacity branded on the sidewalls must be reduced by 9%. This means P-metric or Euro-metric tires with a maximum branded load rating of 1,874 lbs. for use on a car is only rated to carry 1,705 lbs. when used on a trailer.

Comparing the load capacities of a pair of tires of the same dimensions fitted to a single axle trailer, ST225/75R15 Load Range C-sized tires inflated to their maximum of 50 psi provide 4,300 lbs. of load capacity, where P225/75R15 Standard Load-sized tires inflated to their maximum of 35 psi would be limited to 3,410 lbs. of load capacity, a total reduction of 890 pounds.

Trailers will be more stable and pull better on tires designed specifically for trailer use. Since Special Trailer (ST) tires are constructed with heavier duty materials, they are tougher than typical passenger vehicle tires. This is a plus because trailer suspension systems are generally stiffer and less sophisticated than automotive suspension systems.

Special Trailer (ST) Tire Speed Ratings
Industry standards dictate tires with the ST designation are speed rated to 65 MPH (104 km/h) under normal inflation and load conditions.

However Goodyear Marathon and Power King Towmax STR tires featuring the ST size designation may be used at speeds between 66 and 75 mph (106 and 121 km/h) by increasing their cold inflation pressure by 10 psi (69 kPa) above the recommended pressure for the rated maximum load.

Do not exceed the wheel’s maximum rated pressure. If the maximum pressure for the wheel prohibits the increase of air pressure, then maximum speed must be restricted to 65 mph (104 km/h).

The cold inflation pressure must not exceed 10 psi (69 kPa) beyond the inflation specified for the maximum load of the tire.

Increasing the inflation pressure by 10 psi (69 kPa) does not provide any additional load carrying capacity.


10 Tips for Hot Trips

Planning a summer trip that involves a long haul? Learn what it takes to keep your horse safe on the road when temperatures soar.

An important show, a destination trail ride, a permanent move that involves transporting your horses…whatever the reason for the ride, you and your horse are facing a long-haul road trip. Not only is it a long way to go, but you’ll also travel in summer weather, i.e., the hottest time of the year. How can you minimize the risks of hot-weather travel to ensure that your horse is safe, and that he arrives in top-notch form when it really counts?

You’re smart to ask, because trailering horses is always risky. Every time you load a horse in that little metal box, close the doors, and head down the road, he could stress out, hurt himself, or end up sick. And when temperatures soar, risks increase. I’m going to explain the added risks of hot-weather travel so you’ll understand what you and your horse are up against when you travel in the heat. Then, I’ll give you 10 time-tested tips to help you keep him safe.

Oh So Hot
To help you understand the risks, let’s start by looking at the basic mechanisms that help your horse cool down—and how those cooling strategies are compromised when he’s locked in a box.

Convection: Heat is carried away from your horse’s body as air flows over his skin, as in response to a cool breeze or fan. Often, airflow in a horse trailer is severely limited, especially if it’s standing still (picture a breakdown or other long wait on the freeway). If there’s no air movement, your horse’s ability to use convection to cool is completely lost.

Heat is lost into the environment because of a difference in temperature between your horse’s body and the surrounding air. When your horse is loaded in the trailer, his body heat goes no farther than the trailer walls. Simply put, there’s nowhere for the heat to go. With other horses in the trailer, this problem just gets multiplied.

Heat is lost when liquid is converted into a “vapor” in the air; this is the mechanism that occurs when your horse sweats. Sweating is your horse’s most important cooling strategy. Have you ever unloaded your horse on a hot day, only to discover that the interior of your trailer feels a little like a sauna? Your horse’s sweat is trapped in that air, and when the air is filled with moisture, your horse stays wet. Evaporation can’t help to keep him cool.

Conduction: When your horse’s warm body comes into contact with something “cooler” (like a spray of cold water or an ice bag), the heat transfers to the cooler object. Unfortunately, the inside of a trailer is likely to be hot, and hot divider walls won’t help cool him down.

Now let’s look at your horse’s own functions. When it’s hot, a number of physiologic changes occur to allow his heat-loss mechanisms to work. These changes transfer heat from his core to his body surface, so that the heat can be lost into the environment.

First, his heart rate increases, and the tiny blood vessels in his skin and the lining of his respiratory tract become enlarged. This improves blood flow to his periphery to aid heat loss via radiation, conduction, and convection. This transfer of blood flow means that blood is being shunted away from his vital organs, including his brain. Your horse may start to breathe more rapidly, or “pant,” allowing increased amounts of cooler outside air to pass by the blood vessels in his nasal passages. Finally, he’ll begin to sweat to take advantage of evaporation. When he sweats, fluid from his body will be lost. This compromises blood flow and makes it even more difficult for your horse to cool himself. A vicious cycle begins.

When your horse can’t cool down, these physiologic mechanisms go into overdrive. His heart races, his breathing becomes very fast and shallow, and he sweats profusely. Eventually, he becomes dehydrated—compounded by the likelihood that he won’t drink while on the road. In severe cases, blood flow to his vital organs completely shuts down. Heat stress, or even life-threatening heat exhaustion can result.

10 Hot-Travel Tips
What can you do to ensure that your horse can make the most of his basic cooling mechanisms? Employ the following time-tested tips.

1. Plan ahead. Know exactly where you’re going, plotting the coolest, most efficient route to get there. Check DOT (department of transportation) Web sites for updates on construction-site detours and delays. If you’re planning overnight stays, be sure you have current directions. Getting stuck or lost on the way to your horse’s “hotel” means extra time in the trailer—and the less time he spends in the trailer the better, especially when it’s hot.

2. Prepare your paperwork. Be sure you have the appropriate travel papers in hand before you leave for your trip. Few things are worse than arriving at a border crossing, only to find out you have to wait for the local vet to arrive and inspect your horse before you can continue down the road. Oh wait, there is something that can make it worse: waiting at a border crossing when it’s very hot. Can it really happen? You bet it can. In fact, one of our Olympic team members had to cool his heels for several hours just weeks before the Games, all because of a paperwork debacle. To avoid watching your horse bake in the trailer because of paperwork problems, call your veterinarian well in advance to find out what you need, and make sure it’s all in order before you leave.

3. Set your alarm. The time of day you choose to travel can really make a difference—so plan to get an early start! Many seasoned long-distance haulers will load up and hit the road in the wee hours of the morning, when it’s nice and cool. Depending on your destination, try to plan your travel schedule so you’ll be hauling through the hottest areas when it’s cool, and resting, horses safely unloaded, when it’s hot.

4. Go naked! Resist the temptation to wrap your horse in clothing before you load up. Naked is best! Remove blankets, coolers, and even scrims or “anti-sweat” sheets. If it’s very hot and he’s an experienced and stable traveler, this may even be a time to forego protective boots or bandages on his legs. The more of his skin that’s exposed to the air, the better off he’ll be.

5. Open up. Open every possible vent and trailer window (those with bars or screens) to maximize ventilation. Air movement is necessary for your horse to cool via convection. And by allowing the wet, hot air within the trailer to be exchanged with the cooler air outside, you’ll help your horse use radiation and evaporation more effectively.
6. Plan a fluid pre-load. Preventing dehydration is just as important as keeping your horse cool when hauling in the heat. He needs plenty of fluid in his system to keep his cooling mechanisms functioning well. To help him load up on moisture, consider giving him soaked hay, bran mashes, soggy beet pulp, or other wet feed sources for several days before you leave. If he’s notoriously bad about drinking on the road, you might even ask your vet about administering fluids via a nasogastric tube or IV catheter, right before you leave.

7. Boost electrolytes. Your horse loses electrolytes (a medical/scientific term for “salts”) when he sweats, and his electrolyte balance is important for his fluid balance and bodily functions. If you don’t administer electrolytes on a regular basis, consider adding them to your horse’s feed or water beginning five to seven days before you hit the road. If you add electrolytes to his water, make sure to provide fresh, non-electrolyte water as well, because many horses refuse to drink electrolyte water. And don’t make the mistake of just giving your horse a dose of electrolytes right before you leave. He needs time to drink enough water to balance what you give; otherwise, the electrolytes can actually cause him to become more dehydrated by drawing fluids out of his blood stream and into his intestinal tract. Commercial preparations of electrolytes are available in paste or powder form. If you want to make your own, you can mix three parts sodium chloride (normal table salt) with one part potassium chloride (“lite salt”) and give your horse two to four tablespoons per day.
8. Carry familiar water. Nothing is more stressful than an overheated horse that won’t drink. And you know what they say about leading a horse to water! If your horse is a fussy drinker, he might refuse to drink “funny tasting” water on the road. To circumvent this, carry plenty of familiar water from home. You also can consider adding a small amount of flavoring (such packaged lemonade) to his at-home water source for several weeks before you leave and use it once you’re on the road. This will allow you to mask unfamiliar flavors and might encourage him to drink.
9. Soak his hay. If you’re going to provide hay while on the road, consider soaking it to provide extra moisture. Not only will this help keep your horse hydrated, it’ll also minimize dust and help protect him against irritation to his respiratory tract that can also threaten his health when hauling. If he won’t eat hay, a twice-daily mash or ration of soaked beet pulp could also help.
10. Arrive early. Research has shown that your horse is likely to lose as much as a pound of bodyweight per hour during travel—even in ideal circumstances. That loss is likely to be more when it’s hot. To ensure that your horse is at the top of his game come competition time, plan to arrive at the venue with enough time to allow him to recover from his travels. As a rule of thumb, if your journey is 15 hours or longer, allow a minimum of three days to recover.
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Safety Tips for Driving w/ a Trailer

Take time to practice before driving on main roads and never allow anyone to ride in or on the trailer. Before you leave, remember to check routes and restrictions on bridges and tunnels. Consider the following safety tips each time you drive with a trailer.

General Handling

  • Use the driving gear that the manufacturer recommends for towing.
  • Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speed increases.
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the trailer.
  • Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
  • Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer’s wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
  • To control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.


  • Allow considerably more distance for stopping.
  • If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse.
  • Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.

Acceleration and Passing

  • When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane.
  • Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades.
  • If necessary, downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance.
  • When passing on narrow roads, be careful not to go onto a soft shoulder. This could cause your trailer to jackknife or go out of control.

Downgrades and Upgrades

  • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills.
  • On long downgrades, apply brakes at intervals to keep speed in check. Never leave brakes on for extended periods of time or they may overheat.
  • Some tow vehicles have specifically calibrated transmission tow-modes. Be sure to use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer.

Backing Up

  • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all of the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you, whenever possible.
  • Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.


  • Try to avoid parking on grades. If possible, have someone outside to guide you as you park. Once stopped, but before shifting into Park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into Park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in Park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear.
  • When uncoupling a trailer, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released.
  • An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before un-coupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.

15 Horse Trailer Safety Tips

1. Drive carefully. With operator error factors, such as driving too fast, causing the majority of trailer accidents, it’s imperative for you to be very careful and remain attentive. Drive as though you have a cup of water on the floorboard of your vehicle, and stay slightly under the speed limit to make allowances for adverse driving conditions. Double the following distance recommended for passenger cars. Maintain that distance even when cars cut in front of you.

2. Hang up, and pay attention. Avoid talking on a cell phone while pulling a trailer. Transportation experts have determined that talking on a cell phone while driving proves to be just as dangerous as driving while impaired by alcohol.

3. Pull over safely. If your vehicle becomes disabled, continue driving, whenever possible, until you can pull over to a safe area. Do this even if you have a flat tire, and it means destroying a wheel. Wheels can be easily replaced. Stopping on the shoulder is extremely dangerous, particularly on an interstate highway, and can put you, your horse, and emergency responders at great risk. Pull over on the grass as much as possible, away from the white line.

4.Use your headlights. Drive with the headlights on at all times to increase your visibility.

5. Use reflective material. Apply reflective material to the back of your trailer. If you lose trailer lighting or experience an electrical failure, this material will help other drivers see you as they approach.

6. Replace your tires. Replace your tow-vehicle and trailer tires every three to five years regardless of mileage. Make sure that tires are rated to support more than the gross weight of the trailer and its contents. Check the air pressure in all tires (tow vehicle, trailer, and spare) at least every 30 days. Purchase a high-quality air pressure gauge, and learn how to operate it.

7. Check your inside dually tires. If you pull your trailer with a dually truck, check the inside tires for wear. Since these tires are “hidden” behind the outside tires, they’re easy to neglect. Also check the inside tires’ air pressure. Even if an inside tire is completely flat, it’ll be supported by the outside tire, making it appear properly inflated.

8. Leave tire-changing to the pros. Even if you know how to change a tire, don’t do it by yourself if you have an on-the-road breakdown; call for professional help. Your life is worth the time waiting for help.

9. Maintain your vehicle and trailer. Perform regular maintenance on your tow vehicle and trailer. Have your trailer wiring inspected for uninsulated, loose, and/or exposed wires, and poor connections. This applies to old and new trailers alike. New trailers aren’t trouble-free; inspect them closely. Have your trailer axles serviced annually or every 6,000 miles, whichever

10. Use ICE. Make use of the ICE program; ICE stands for “in case of emergency.” This simple program is designed to help emergency responders identify victims and determine who needs to be notified. Make it easy for first responders to know who to contact for information on handling your horse: Program an entry into your cell phone called “ICE – Horse.” Key in the contact information of someone with the authority to make decisions about your horse’s care, should you become incapacitated.

11. Draw up a power-of-attorney document. In conjunction with the ICE program, initiate a power-of-attorney document with a trusted friend or relative. If you become incapacitated, this will provide for your horse’s emergency medical treatment. Also, prepare the corresponding Notice to Emergency Responders document. Keep copies of both documents in the glove box of your tow vehicle.

12. Hitch up safely. Improper hitching is a common cause of trailer accidents. Use a hitch that’s the correct type, size, and rating to match the coupler. Make sure the hitch is properly installed onto your towing vehicle. Securely fasten the safety chains and breakaway switch actuating chain.

13. Balance your load. An unbalanced load can cause a trailer to overturn in an accident. When loading your trailer, load the heaviest cargo on the left. If you’re loading only one horse, load him on the left side of the trailer. After loading, secure trailer doors and hatches.

14. Use protective gear. To help ensure your horse’s safety, always apply shipping boots and a head bumper.

15. Carry a first-aid kit. Carry a current veterinarian-approved first aid kit.