Winter Travel Tips for Equestrians

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Credit: Thinkstock

Credit: Thinkstock

With winter right around the corner, USRider--the national provider of roadside emergency assistance for equestrians--reminds those who travel with horses to be careful when traveling and to invest time doing routine preventive trailer maintenance to enhance their travel safety.

It is imperative to make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving. Be sure to maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s service schedule. It’s also important to take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic.

“When it comes to vehicle maintenance, especially heavy-duty vehicles towing precious cargo, it is better to be proactive than reactive,” said Bill Riss, general manager of USRider. “If you have not already done so, establish a relationship with a trusted ASE (www.ase.com) mechanic. It is essential that you do this before your vehicle breaks down on the side of the highway while towing your horse trailer.”

USRider recommends that you check tire pressure before each trip. This is especially important with temperature changes. If you are traveling from a warm climate to a cold climate, air pressure in your tires will drop. On the other hand, when traveling from a cold climate to a warm climate, the air pressure will rise.

A weak battery will usually reveal itself during cold weather. If your battery is more than a couple of years old, be sure to check it prior to cold weather. Otherwise, you may be inconvenienced on some cold morning when the battery fails to start your vehicle.

When driving, a good rule of thumb to follow on the road is “Rain, ice and snow--take it slow.”

Before setting out on a trip, take the time to check weather reports and plan accordingly. Be sure to allow extra time for inclement weather. Mother Nature does not care that you need to be somewhere at a certain time. Keep in mind that weather and driving conditions can change rapidly, so be aware and drive appropriately.

During inclement weather, always drive with your headlights on--even if it is not dark. USRider recommends that horse owners drive with headlights on anytime when trailering horses, regardless of weather, because of increased visibility afforded by using headlights.

Also, during inclement weather, be sure to increase the distance between you and other vehicles to allow more stopping room. USRider recommends that you double the normal distance between vehicles when towing a horse trailer. “Stopping on snow or ice without skidding and/or jackknifing takes extra distance. Use brakes very gently to avoid skidding,” added Riss. “If you begin to skid or jackknife, ease up on the brake and steer into the skid to regain control.”

During winter months, traction tires are recommended. In order to qualify as a traction tire, tires must have at least one-eighth inch tread and be labeled Mud and Snow, M+S, All-Season, or have a Mountain/Snowflake symbol. Since tire performance can vary, a trusted area dealer may be able to advise you on the best tires for your vehicle.

Since it’s difficult to know what road conditions you may encounter during the winter, make it a practice to re-fuel your vehicle when your fuel gauge drops below the halfway mark. In many states, you can dial 5-1-1 for travel conditions and road closures.

USRider--in its 14th 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 www.usrider.org or call 800-844-1409. For additional safety and travel tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider website at www.usrider.org.

The Equine Network provides, creates, and distributes relevant content and services to passionate horse enthusiasts while connecting them to each other and the marketplace. The Equine Network is the publisher of award-winning magazines: Horse & Rider, EQUUS, Dressage Today, The Trail Rider, Spin to Win Rodeo, American Cowboy, Practical Horseman, and Horse Journal. The Equine Network also publishes a proprietary line of books and DVDs for sale through its store, equinenetworkstore.com. The Equine Network provides emergency roadside assistance through its acquisition of USRider, and is home to several websites including: EquiSearch.com, Equine.com, MyHorseDaily.com, DiscoverHorses.com, Horse-Journal.com, and AmericanCowboy.com