It can seem a bit disconcerting to load your beloved equine onto a metal box in the dead of winter to go rolling down the highway. Won’t they be too cold? Is it safe?
Hauling in hot weather is more hazardous than cold weather, as overheating is a real possibility when temps are soaring. But hauling in cold weather – as long as the roadways are safe – is typically fine to do with a few modifications.
First: To blanket or not to blanket? If it’s really bitter outside, or if your trailer is very open (like a stock trailer), or if your horse is clipped, they’ll appreciate having a rug on. Consider hauling in a quilted cooler or a blanket without belly/leg straps. This way, if you find that your horse gets too warm along the way, you may be able to undo the chest straps and remove the blanket safely while the horse is still loaded on the trailer.
The other most important thing to consider is hydration. When it’s cold, horses tend to drink less to begin with, and they drink even less than that when they’re travelling, which puts them at greater risk of colic. Every few hours, stop and let your horse have a drink, and incorporate electrolytes or Gatorade or a supplement like Horse Quencher to encourage them to slurp down a gallon or so. A clean gasoline can or a big plastic water jug for horse trailers can carry water from home if your horse is picky about the taste of water. You can throw in a few alfalfa cubes to make “alfalfa tea” to encourage drinking. If you’re travelling over 10 hours and your horse really refuses to drink, your veterinarian can administer IV fluids upon arrival to rehydrate.
Finally, think about ventilation. Many people like to close every window of the trailer to keep the bad weather out, but some ventilation is crucial, even in cold weather. If your horse trailer has roof vents, open them towards the back of the trailer so that humid, dead air can escape, but the breeze from driving isn’t being swept directly down onto the horses’ backs. If you’ve got more than one horse in the trailer, that amount of body heat will warm it up significantly, and the last thing you want is for horses to sweat and then catch a chill. It’s better to keep them a bit cool and dry, so when in doubt, cracking a trailer window is a good idea.