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Winter Driving Tips

By By Lindsey Mulvany, Guest Writer

Winter is coming. For some of us winter is already here! USRider reminds everyone who travels with horses to be careful, and to invest time performing routine preventative trailer maintenance to enhance overall travel safety.

While it is imperative to maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer's service schedule, it is also important to take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic. This is especially crucial for heavy-duty vehicles towing precious cargo. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive.

USRider recommends that you check tire pressure before each trip. This is especially essential 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.

During winter months, traction tires are recommended. In order to qualify as a traction tire, tires must have at least an eighth of an 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 and your area of the country. Plus, look at the date on the inside of the tire to be sure it has not been on the dealer shelf too long.

Another travel issue that could raise its ugly head during cold weather is a weak battery. If you have a battery that is more than a couple years old, be sure to check it prior to cold weather setting in. Otherwise, you may find yourself on a cold morning inconvenienced with a dead battery.

When driving, a good rule of thumb to follow on the road is "Rain, ice & snow - take it slow." Before setting out on a trip, take time to check weather reports and plan accordingly. Be sure to allow extra time for inclement weather. Mother Nature doesn't 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 accordingly.

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

Also during inclement weather, be sure to increase distance between vehicles to allow more stopping room. USRider recommends that you double the normal distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

Since it's difficult to know what road conditions you may encounter during your trip, make it a practice to re-fuel when your vehicle 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 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 my.usrider.org online or call (800) 844-1409. For additional safety and travel tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider website at my.usrider.org. About the Equine Network 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, HorseBooksEtc.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, AmericanCowboy.com, and Horse-Journal.com. - See more at: http://www.usrider.org/article/usrider-winter-driving-tips-horse-owners-27872#sthash.yKMQr1Ip.dpuf

Choosing a Horse Trailer

Choosing a Horse Trailer From the Horse’s Point of View

by Neva Kittrell Scheve, Guest Writer

In the Trailer

Whether you are looking to buy a new horse trailer or a used one, it’s easy to be influenced by fancy options and shiny construction materials. But, for a horse owner who wants to promote safe and stress free hauling for the horse, choosing a trailer from the horse’s point of view is very important. Since many horse trailers are built to appeal to the human perspective, this may not be as easy as one may think.

Considering the nature of the horse as a species, it’s a minor miracle that our equine friends get into a trailer at all. Horses are creatures of the prairie who are designed for life in wide open spaces.

Because they are prey animals, they have a highly developed “flight or fight” response. When danger threatens, horses run away. That is how they survive. Feral horses who don’t run fast enough end up as dinner! They also have to watch their footing so they don’t fall into a hole or quicksand!

Whenever we deal with a horse, we have to consider this flight response and reluctance to step on suspicious ground in our training. Because a horse trailer is small, dark, and shaky, it goes against the horses’ very nature, but because horses are also trainable, they learn to put their natural fears aside and do the crazy things we ask them to do.

However, even if they do what we ask, it may not be comfortable for them, and they can suffer stress in ways that we don’t even notice. It’s easy to notice when the horse won’t load, but it’s less obvious that illness and some injuries can be caused by design features in a trailer that make trailering more stressful for the horse. Some trailering problems have become so commonplace that people just accept them as part of the process. Things like breaking halters and loading and unloading problems are some of those “acceptable” incidents that don’t need to happen. Other problems like shipping fever, dehydration, colic, and even the acute stress of injury can be prevented by a stress free trailering environment.

Stress can be defined as an external stimulus which is beyond the control of the animal. When a horse is exposed to stress, the autonomic nervous system kicks in to physically prepare the animal to react to the stress. Heart rate elevates, adrenaline and epinephrine are secreted, and other bodily functions such as hormone levels, change to help the animal survive. For the horse, the reaction is to run away to avoid the object of the stress and the system returns to normal, so therefore, this system works in the horse’s natural environment. However, if the horse cannot escape the object of stress over a long period of time, the health of the horse begins to suffer. The chronic stress can have a negative impact by changing the immune functions that can predispose the animal to disease.

Putting a horse in a trailer goes against it’s very instinct. He cannot get away from the stress of this small enclosed box. He is also put at risk of injury from the trailer itself or the possibility of a traffic accident. Whether your horse is a pet, or you only think of your horse as an investment or a tool, avoiding illness and injury can save you money and heartbreak, and at the very least, can actually improve his performance.

Of course, horses travel all the time without incident, and trailering can be a safe and enjoyable experience. Buying the safest horse trailer will increase your chances of arriving at your destination with a healthy, happy horse.

Manufacturers must build horse trailers to conform to the requirements of the road, but because there are no industry or government regulations concerning the safety of the horse, there are wide differences in horse trailers. Look at your prospective trailer from the horse’s point of view.

What does the horse want? Room and light, good ventilation, and safety in design.

Room and light: An average sized horse ( 15.1h - 16.3h) needs about 10 feet of usable length to be comfortable. A larger horse may even need more. A horse needs to be able to spread his legs for steadiness, but is also important that he be able to use his head and neck freely for balance. A light colored interior and lots of windows or slats will make the trailer much more inviting and less claustrophobic.

Good ventilation is important for the horse’s respiratory health and to control the temperature and environment of the trailer. Hay dust and noxious gasses from manure and urine compromises the horse’s respiratory system and predisposes him to diseases such a shipping fever. Roof vents will remove contaminated and/or hot air from the trailer. A light colored exterior, especially the roof, will make the trailer cooler in hot weather.

Safety in design: There should be nothing sticking out to harm the horse in anyway. Tie rings, and latches should fold flat against the wall. All center posts and dividers should quick release, but should be strong enough to not break apart until you can make the decision. (Exception - dividers should come up and out if a horse would get under it.) No sharp edges anywhere. All parts of the trailer should be strong enough to hold up to the largest, strongest horse who will be hauled in it.

Ramps should be low to the ground and not slippery. It should be possible to reach every horse individually in the event of an emergency. (This is a special problem with many slant load trailers.) Butt and chest bars should quick release.

Safety in design also includes road safety. All brakes and lights should be in perfect working order and the emergency breakaway brake battery should be charged. Safety chains on tag-along trailers must be crossed underneath, and ball hitch gooseneck hitches should also have safety chains or cables. Tires should be inflated to the recommended capacity, and rubber torsion suspension will not only reduce road shock for the horse, but will be an added safety feature if the event of a flat tire. It is most important that a tag-along trailer be hitched to a frame mounted Class III or Class IV hitch, and that the trailer be towed in a level position. Whether you are towing a gooseneck or a tag-along trailer, you must have a properly rated tow vehicle to insure your own safety.

This article was written by Neva and Tom Scheve, authors of the, “The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer” and the owners of EquiSpirit Horse Trailers…

Spring Maintenance

Spring Clean Your Stable

Spring Barn Maintenance Tips,  Contributed by... Katherine Blocksdorf,  About.com

Prevent stables from flooding next year. Now is the time to find out where the drainage problems are and make plans to correct them before next year. Taking photos of the problem will help you decide what action to take and show a contractor exactly what needs to be prevented or repaired.

Clean stalls right down to the floor and allow them to dry thoroughly on a bright breezy day. Let as much sunlight in as possible-it's a great disinfectant.

Stalls with dirt floors may need to have the top layer removed and new soil brought in.

Consider putting up a length of eaves troughs above doorways to prevent ice build up next winter and avoid those annoying icy drips of water down your neck as you go in and out.

Spring clean: clear out accumulated feed bags, baler twine, give windows a cleaning, sweep down dust and chaff.

When sweeping out aisles put the dust and manure in the wheel barrow or muck bucket, don't sweep it out the door.

Sweep out the hay loft. If the chaff is too dusty for horses to eat put it on your garden. It makes great mulch.

Spring clean run-in shelters too. Remove any manure, bedding, or spilled feed and consider replacing soil if has become too saturated. We've found after a few years of cleaning out our run-in that it has become lower than the surrounding area. We have to build up the soil every so often so it doesn't become an indoor swimming pool.