Most of the country – with the exception of southern Florida – is really cold right now. We are in the heart of winter. Horses, however, can survive even in bitter cold. Their winter coats, if intact, will provide them plenty of comfort. Hauling horses during cold weather is a greater challenge. Unable to move about, horses will need ventilation. But you must balance that by keeping temperatures level so the horses will neither sweat nor freeze. ~ HfH
BATON ROUGE, La. – Most performance horses are accustomed to being transported, but doing so in cold temperatures presents challenges for animals and their owners. The stress that horses experience during hauling can lead to decreased reproductive performance, increased disease and temporary reduction in performance ability, according to LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker.
“While hauling during cold weather can be challenging, proper planning will keep you and your horse performance-ready,” Walker said. “Keeping your horse comfortable during transportation will ultimately reduce the amount of stress experienced.”
One of the most critical areas to manage is the trailer environment. Most people’s instinct during the winter is to close trailer vents and windows, but ventilation is still important, Walker said.
Even in extremely cold weather, heat inside a trailer can build up quickly, which may cause a horse to sweat. Fresh air also helps circulate mold spores, dust and urine and manure fumes out of the trailer.
Walker recommends opening the roof vents toward the rear of the trailer to draw out heated air. If additional fresh air is required, slightly open the trailer windows.
Blanketing is not always necessary, even when hauling in the winter months, Walker said. A horse that is body-clipped and being hauled alone should wear a weighted blanket, but a horse with a full winter coat probably doesn’t need a blanket.
As the number of horses in a trailer increases, so does body heat, reducing the need for blanketing. Use common sense and consider the horse’s condition when deciding to blanket, Walker said.
Horses are more likely to become dehydrated in cold weather because they tend to consume more dry forage, such as hay, to maintain body temperatures. Many horses will not drink while being hauled, so plan to stop every three to four hours to water them, Walker said.