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Blanketing when Trailering

I will be keeping one of my horses in a heated barn this winter. I will trailer her back and forth to team penning events and would like to know what type of blanket I should use when I am transporting her. She will be sweated up when I leave the event, and I live in Iowa. KB

Dear KB,

If you’re keeping your horse in a heated barn this winter, I’m going to make the assumption that you’ve bodyclipped her. That means whenever she goes outside she’ll need a blanket because she no longer has her natural winter coat to protect her from cold, especially when it’s windy and rainy. So I can tell you she’ll probably need a blanket whenever she’s hauled, but without knowing a few of the details, it’s hard to give you concrete advice. Feeling her when she comes off the trailer will be your best indicator of how much clothing she needs to keep her comfortable. But here are the factors I would consider when making this decision for my own horse:

First, if you have a small two horse trailer with solid walls and another horse alongside her, she’ll only need a sheet or light blanket because these two horses will give off a lot of heat that won’t be lost in the wind. Be sure and crack open some of the windows (especially in the ceiling) so they get plenty of fresh air. On the other hand, if she’ll be traveling alone in a stock trailer with open sides she’ll need a fairly heavy blanket.

Second, even if it’s January and the ground is frozen, if it’s a warm day (like in the 50s or 60s) she’ll only need a sheet, even if she’s in an open trailer. Remember that the “thermoneutral zone” for horses—where there neither too hot nor too cold—is said to be between 20 and 60 degrees, cooler than for us. However, if it’s below this, I recommend a full blanket, or perhaps layering a couple of light ones.

Third, how far and how fast will you be going? A quick 10 mile trip down backroads won’t warrant as much protection against the cold as four hours on the interstate. So take your route into consideration when you’re deciding how to dress her.

Last but not least, make sure she’s completely dry before you trailer her back home. If you’re in a hurry, speed up this process by handwalking her in a cooler designed to wick away moisture. Then put your dry horse under a dry sheet or blanket for the return trip and she should be in great shape! Oh, and if she’s sweating a lot, consider adding a loose electrolyte salt to her meals this winter, at least around days you’ll be traveling and competing. It’s easy and inexpensive insurance against dehydration and the ills that can come from it, such as colic.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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3 comments on “Blanketing when Trailering
  1. Bella G says:

    I’m trailering my horse about 30 minutes down the road… She doesn’t have a thick winter coat because she wears jackets 24/7 … I’ll be trailering her every weekend… She’s only 6 and easy to stress…I don’t know weather to put a jacket on her… Our trailer is enclosed with good ventilation … And she normally does pretty good in it… But it worries me… She means everything to me and stressing her out is the last thing I would want to do

  2. Devlin says:

    I’m buying a new horse and he is currently located in New Jersey. I will be trailering him all the way back to buda Texas. It’s about a 22 hour trailer ride. I’m planning on taking three days for the trip and boarding him at an overnight stable after each day until we arrive. So we would be traveling 7 hours every day. How often should I stop during one day to give him water? Do you think 7 hours is too long? Thank you so much!

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Thanks for your question, Devlin. Long trips can certainly be stressful on our horses, so it’s great that you’re planning ahead to help your journey run as smoothly as possible! The general rule of thumb is to not travel more than 12 hours at a time, however 8 hours is preferable. Of course, you’ll still want to check on your horse more frequently than that, ideally every 4 hours. For more suggestions that may be helpful for your trip, see the blog below on trailering long distances. Best of luck with your new horse!

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