Winter Trailering Tips, by Dr. Rachel Bourne ( Wisconsin Equine Clinic & Hospital )
Many people do not choose to trailer in the cold winter months, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Many will trailer to warmer climates for the winter show circuit, others enjoy trail riding in the winter and at times, a visit to a veterinary hospital or an evacuation is necessary. In the winter, you are faced with cold weather, icy roads and sometimes blizzard-like conditions. Below are some tips and reminders to make your winter trailering a better and safer experience for you and your horse(s).
The first thing to do is plan ahead for your winter. Make sure you store your trailer in an easily accessible place ““ not where the snow pile will be and make sure everything is in good working order so you can fix it in the warmer times, rather than last minute trying to fix trailer lights when you have a colicky horse.
Our initial response to the cold weather would be to close-up the trailer. Horses actually do worse with overheating and they actually tolerate the cold very well! Some degree of ventilation is required to keep airflow moving and to avoid condensation and associated respiratory problems, but try to avoid having air blowing into the horses face. You can open the roof vents in reverse to draw the steam off the horses. You can also crack the windows slightly.
If it is exceptionally cold, or your horse does not have any kind of hair coat, a blanket may be necessary. Several horses in a trailer can share body heat. When you stop, check whether or not the horses are sweating under their blanket(s), if they are you can remove a layer. A fully sweated horse, however, should not be left naked, as they will get chilled very quickly. In this situation, provide more airflow into the trailer whilst leaving the blanket on. If you are travelling long distances, offer plenty of water on the trip, especially if your horse is sweating.
When loading / unloading, make sure it is not icy underfoot. Either back into an arena or put some sand or shaving on the ground behind the trailer. If the weather becomes too unsafe to drive, plan ahead for possible rest areas that accommodate horses along your route. One final tip is to watch the weather ahead of time ““ and obviously employ safe driving practices.
Keeping all of these things in mind should contribute to a safe winter trailering experience. Safe Travels!