Spring is on the way, but winter is still challenging many haulers. Brady Weaver shares his tips for staying safe.

While the entire country is springing forward from winter to more sunshine in coming months, the cold weather isn’t finished sweeping through many states. Rodeo rigs are burning up the highways for the big winter rodeos, prepping for regional associations to get started with this year’s events and more, which means that temperature changes from where the road trip starts to where it ends are going to impact travel.

“It can be cold here in Utah when we leave but warm up when we head south,” says Brady Weaver. “If you have a horse covered up with [sheets] and you run into warm weather, you can’t be lazy and say you’ll take it off when you get there. Vice versa, if it is warm when you leave and gets really cold, you need to get some cover on them or adjust the temperature in the trailer by the windows. You have to be cognizant of the horse’s comfort.”

Weaver, who trains out of Enterprise, Utah, starts barrel prospects alongside his reined cow horse focused horses. He’s no stranger to running the roads for big shows based in Texas those months where the winter is just arriving, like October, or making one last push, like February. He focuses on his horse’s comfort and his rig’s safety to be sure he and the equine athletes he hauls will arrive at the event in good shape to compete.

Brady Weaver
A former racehorse jockey, Brady Weaver starts horses and trains out of his home in Enterprise, Utah. Weaver has started prospects bound for the barrel racing, cutting, roping, reining and reined cow horse arenas. Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

Follow the Three P’s

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration isn’t the first place many go to look for advice on hauling horses and stock in the winter, but the commonsense maintenance tips the OSHA touts are on point. In fact, the “three P’s” of safe winter driving align with Weaver’s personal plans.

First, prepare for the trip. For Weaver, that means taking a hard look at this tires and brakes at the end of each summer after hauling long miles to horse shows.

“If you’ve let tires get bald in the summer and haul somewhere with a little ice or snow, now you’re spinning out trying to get going or stopped,” Weaver says.

A quick stop at a tire shop can get the truck and trailer ready to handle any weather. Weaver recalled one tip he picked up in October on the way home from Texas: pack a shovel.

“If you have enough tread on your tires, you may not need it, but if an ice storm puts a thin layer on the road and you can’t get traction, get out a shovel and put some dirt or gravel around the tires,” he says. “Last year, we were coming home from Texas, and we hit New Mexico where a small, early-season storm hit. We were sitting on I-40 for two-and-a-half hours. Big trucks slowed down and lost traction on a little ice and stopped traffic. Finally, a New Mexico State Trooper go there and pulled out a shovel, scooped up dirt from the side of the road and piled it in front of the tire and behind it and kept doing it while the semis started creeping forward. In 10 minutes, he had it going. That’s a smart guy!”

Next, protect yourself. OSHA and Weaver both suggest checking fluids for all tanks to make sure everything is winterized. A diesel truck will gel up in freezing temps without proper prevention, leaving you stranded.

The third “p” is prevent. Weaver not only checks his brakes prior to winter but maintains them year-round to prevent the trailer jackknifing and to ensure he can stop the rig. 

“Everything now days is oversized – giant barrel races and team ropings – and so are the trailers to haul all these horses,” he says. “Any of these trucks nowadays can pull trailers, but you must be able to stop them! It doesn’t matter what city you go into, everybody that drives with a trailer leaves room but the guy in the little car dives right in front of you, so you have to get that rig full of horses, hay and stuff shut down. You have to slow down from the backend with good brakes and tires on a trailer. Getting those checked seasonally is so important. When the brakes slow you down from the trailer, it won’t swing that trailer around like it will if your truck slows and the trailer doesn’t.”

Critter Comfort

The horses in the trailer are valuable and their comfort is key to Weaver. The first thing he does before a trip is stock up on shavings.

“Hot or cold, it insulates the trailer,” he says. “If it is super cold outside, the shavings help insulate and keep the trailer warmer. If you need air flow, you can let more air in there and the floor isn’t zero degrees on their feet.”

Before he hits the road and while hauling, he checks the weather and temperature. Depending on what it looks like, he’ll adjust either how much he covers a horse with a sheet, blanket, or neck sleezy, or he will adjust the airflow and direction through windows and vents.

“If you get a horse sweated up or if you get one shivering the whole haul, they will be sick and then it is not going to work out for you when you try to perform,” Weaver advises. “You can adjust vents on top or back windows. The air that comes in, and the air through the windows, can get sucked right down on a horse. If it is cold in the morning when I leave, I don’t like to open the front windows all the way, but keep the back windows open for air flow. That way, it’s not blowing on their face. In the summer, I open all the windows, but you don’t want it just blowing cold into their faces.”

The other key factor to consider is how much water a horse is drinking on the trip and when you arrive at your destination. Weaver carries paste electrolytes to ensure his horses are hydrated.

“It’s a big deal to provide water. Think about yourself, when you’re hauling or when it’s cold you don’t drink as much,” he says. “When it is cold, you don’t drink, and your skin starts to crack. Often, I give electrolytes when they are cold and when it is hot. They need fluids when it is cold just as much as in the summer. You can see in a horse’s manure if they’re constipated, and their manure is dry. When a horse doesn’t drink, it can get tied up or stiff. A lot can go wrong.”

For the most part, Weaver says hauling on the road is common sense and awareness. The goal is to arrive safely but also with the horse ready and able to perform at the top of their ability.

“If a horse is a ‘steady Eddie,’ will haul and drink good, eat the same, that means a lot. You can have a freak of an athlete, a super star, but if they don’t eat or drink and have a consistent pattern on the road, it will not be consistent performing with them,” Weaver says. “A pattern of hauling, eating and drinking, and warming up, the horse knows what is coming and you can count on them.”

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