Traveling Backward Less Stressful For Transported Horses

Horses that travel facing backward in wider stalls may arrive at their destination less stressed than those who face forward in smaller bays. A study completed by Drs. Barbara Padalino and Sharanne Raidal of Charles Sturt University in Australia compared horses that travelled for 12 hours to those that were standing in stocks for the same amount of time.

The duo used 26 mares for the study, which was completed in two parts: the first part confined 12 horses overnight to breeding stocks without feeding; the second part transported all 26 horses overnight for the same amount of time. The horses were transported either facing forward or backward in a 15-horse trailer, in bays that were wide or narrow.

During the entire study, researchers recorded each horse’s behavior for the first 20 minutes of each hour and analyzed it using a behavior sampling ethogram. Blood samples were taken before and after confinement; gut activity and an endoscopy to check for ulcers were also performed both before and after the study.

The scientists found that behaviors related to stress and balance were recorded most-often in the horses being transported; the horses that faced backward and that were in wider bays had less issues that those facing forward in smaller compartments. Horses that were in smaller bays had increased cortisol, white blood cells and neutrophils.

Additionally, the researchers found that travel both exacerbated and induced ulceration of the squamous cell mucosa. This was especially true with horses that had feed withheld; because of this, the study team recommends horses have access to feed until they step onto the trailer and potentially during transport.

Read more at Equine Science Update.

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