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Equine transportation stress

How to minimise transportation stress in horses

Transportation of horses can have a huge impact on their health, even over relatively short distances. Stressful situations can affect a horse's immune system, making it harder to fight off diseases. During travel, special consideration must be taken to avoid potential health problems such as respiratory disease, dehydration and gastrointestinal disease.

The table below will help you to identify risk factors and implement management strategies when transporting your horse.

Duration of journey, insufficient rest time Rest breaks every 4 hours to allow horse to walk and urinate
Travel in spring – increased allergens, hormonal effects on immunity (breeding season), impaired thermoregulation (winter coat) Extra precautions required at this time – monitor temperature and ventilation in vehicle, provide rest breaks, consider immunostimulants
Head position Allow horse to lower its head. Avoid a high head position as this interferes with effective pulmonary clearance
Air quality and ventilation Good ventilation and regular cleaning of vehicle to reduce exposure to noxious gases and airborne contaminants. Choose good quality bedding material which is absorbent and not dusty
History of inflammatory airway disease or recurrent airway obstruction Bronchodilator therapy prior to travel if indicated. Care with corticosteroids or NSAIDs as these may mask early signs of disease
DEHYDRATION Withholding water for extended periods Offer water while vehicle is stationary every 2-4 hours
Refusal to drink on arrival Electrolyte supplementation to encourage drinking, bring fresh water from home
Sweating during transportation Electrolyte replacement before, during and after travel
Gastric ulceration due to withholding food for extended periods and/or inappetence on arrival at destination Ulcer medication prior to, during and after travel to prevent painful gastric ulceration which may compromise performance
Colic due to dehydration and reduced visceral perfusions Encourage regular drinking and electrolyte replacement to avoid colonic impaction
Change in gut pH and flora resulting in enterocolitis due to bacterial overgrowth Avoid prolonged feed and water restrictions, avoid diet change at destination


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