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 www.horsetrip.com. 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.