New Study into Horse Transport Finds Horses Travel Better Backwards

Image credit: Shelly Busby

With the UAE’s competition season now in full swing, a new study has highlighted the stress and balance issues associated with transport and long journeys, and the findings could not only improve your result on show-day, but seriously impact your horse’s long-term health.

Researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy and Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia came together to study horses in transit. They found that horses facing backwards and standing in wider ‘bays’ show less signs of stress and balance related behaviours, than those transported facing forwards and in smaller bays.

Using 26 mares, aged four to 20-years-old, the researchers set out to evaluate the effects of bay size and direction of travel, by comparing behavioural, physiological, laboratory and gastroscopy parameters between horses which were both transported and confined.

Initially 12 of the horses were confined overnight in an area of 148cm by 71cm without food, before all the horses undertook a 12-hour identical overnight road trip of 880km in Australia.

The study used horses placed both rear facing and forward facing, in a mix of both larger and more confined bays.

Bay size ranged from a conventional 1.9m by 0.76m, to 1.9m by 1m and the largest at 1.9m by 1.12m.