Researchers from the University of Sydney are studying the impact of horse transport management practices on horse health and welfare.

The resulting study, ‘A Survey on Transport Management Practices Associated with Injuries and Health Problems in Horses’ has been published in Plos One, the world’s largest open access scientific journal.

The study is the brainchild of veterinarian Barbara Padalino, who is completing her PhD at the University of Sydney on the topic of horse transport and its impact on horse health and welfare.

Barbara says, “It is really important that equine industry members are educated on transportation risk factors and best practices. When transport is managed properly, the incidence of transport-related disease is lower. I am going to present the results of the survey and describe best practices of transportation at Equitana at the Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17 – 20.”

Key findings
• Experience and training seems to play an important role in reducing the impact of transport on horse health, with researchers pointing to both horse handling and driving experience with horses on board as key factors.

• Heat stroke was associated with restriction of access to hay and water prior to transport.

• Traumatic injury risk was generally increased by use of tranquilizers and also with use of protective equipment such as leg protections and head bumper guards.

• Two horse trailers pose a higher risk of injury than horse trucks or gooseneck trailers, with forward facing being the least preferred orientation in transit.

• Longer journeys experienced a higher incidence of transport pneumonia, and racing horses were also more susceptible, potentially because of their breeding or the combined effects of transport and strenuous exercise.

• Pre-transport health checks to ensure fitness for travel were strongly recommended.

• Laminitis risk was substantially increased where post transport management such as rehydration and walking were not employed.