How Do Horses Get Injured in Transit?
A recent study in Australia indicates that horses are injured in transit more often than previously believed.
Several institutions teamed up to conduct the research. The group looked at 223 drivers who pulled various styles of trailer to twelve different events in Australia. A quarter of all drivers reported that one of their horses had sustained an injury whilst in transit. This number seems rather high!
Whilst people tend to document serious injuries to horses, minor incidents tend not to be so it has always been difficult to assess just how often horses run into trouble in their trailers. It is important to understand how often these injuries occur if we are to learn how to avoid them.
The Injuries to the Horses
More than half of the reported injuries in the study involved the lower limbs. Other reported injuries include the head and muzzle, chest, flank/hindquarters, neck and tail. Nearly 84% of the injuries occurred while the trailer was moving and not during loading or unloading.
Horse Activity or Driver Behaviour?
Interestingly, the participants in the study attributed most of the injuries to horse-related activities such as loss of balance and conflict with other horses. But the researchers believe that there was a significant difference between what the drivers believed was happening and what was actually happening in the trailers.
The researchers had previously conducted tests during which the trailers included cameras to monitor the horses. It soon became clear that the design of most trailers did not neutralise the effects of cornering and braking. The researchers were forced to conclude that what appears to be injuries caused by horse activity are often, in reality, injuries resulting from the horses’ inability to cope with the stresses placed on them by the driver and the vehicle.
Further studies should enable researchers to make recommendations to vehicle manufacturers for improvements in design. It may also be possible to evolve better guidance for drivers.
Mobile Phones and Lack of Sleep
The study also suggested that certain driver behaviours increase the risk of equine injuries. Drivers who used their phone during their journeys were twice as likely to arrive at their destination with an injured horse. Drivers who had enjoyed less than eight hours sleep before travelling were also twice as likely to arrive with an injured horse.
It looks as if drivers may inadvertently be causing more injuries to horses in transit than previously thought. It is also likely that trailer design needs improvement. The findings need further research to isolate the issues and provide the appropriate guidance.