Keeping Horses Comfortable During Winter Travel

By US Rider

Winter travel for horse owners creates a fear of trailering due to the lack of confidence as to whether or not your horse is comfortable. While we have the amenity of a heated vehicle and some of us with heated seats, our horse’s comfort during winter travel depends on the owner.

When preparing for a trip, one of the most common questions is: Should I blanket my horse? 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 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. If your equine partner is au naturel (aka: fuzzball), he may not need a heavy blanket, but rather a sheet to block the wind, especially 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 F–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 direct air flow from 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 when traveling 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 three to four 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 nervous horse, this is especially imperative because he sweats much more.

USRider—in its 13th year of operation—is the only company to provide emergency roadside assistance for horse owners. Through the Equestrian Motor Plan, USRider provides nationwide roadside assistance and towing services along with other travel-related benefits to its Members. The plan includes standard features such as flat-tire repair, battery assistance, lockout services, and roadside repairs for tow vehicles and trailers with horses, plus towing up to 100 miles. As an additional service, USRider maintains a national database that includes emergency stabling, veterinary and farrier referrals. For more information about the USRider Equestrian Motor Plan, visit online or call (800) 844-1409.