With bitter cold, snow and ice sweeping over much of the country, USRoper – the national provider of roadside emergency assistance for equestrians – reminds those who travel with horses to be careful when traveling and 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.

“Yes, it’s cold outside, but you still need to take the time to perform safety checks on your tow vehicle and trailer before traveling,” said Bill Riss, general manager of USRoper. “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, especially in bad weather.”

Here are some winter driving recommendations from USRoper:

  • 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 into a warm climate, the air pressure will rise.
  • Test your battery. 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 setting in. Otherwise, you will most likely be inconvenienced on some cold morning when the battery fails to start your vehicle. Make sure to check the “crank” capabilities of the battery, or its ability to turn over.
  • Watch your speed. 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 doesn’t care that you need to be somewhere at a certain time.
  • Turn on the lights. Always drive with your headlights on during inclement weather – even if it is not dark. USRoper recommends that horse owners drive with headlights on anytime when trailering horses, regardless of weather, because of increased visibility afforded by using headlights.
  • Double the distance. Also during inclement weather, be sure to increase distance between vehicles to allow more stopping time. USRoper recommends that you double the normal distance between vehicles when towing a horse trailer.
  • Brake gently. “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.”
  • Get a grip. 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 of 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.
  • Gas up. Since it’s difficult to know what road conditions you may encounter during the winter, 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.
  • Check on chains. In some states, vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), including some passenger trucks, SUVs, RVs, and vehicles towing trailers, must carry chains on certain highways Nov. 1 through March 31. Check with the Department of Transportation or Department of Motor Vehicles for information on the states you will be traveling through.
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