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What do horses experience when travelling in a trailer?

Background 

Horses are travelled for many reasons. During travelling, horses are exposed to multi-dimensional movements and other stressful stimuli such as noise. Understanding what motion and additional energy demands are experienced by travelling horses can support the design of trailers and vehicles to minimize stress encountered during travelling. 

The study 

  • A customized trailer was constructed with an instrumented floor to measure changes in load and the center of pressure experienced by travelling horses. 
  • Two horses (both mares, one was 1020 lbs and the other was 1040 lbs) were travelled for 35 miles on both rural and urban roads. 
  • The horses were forward facing and not restrained except by a center partition and forward and rear bulkheads. 
  • Specialized load cells and software collected data relating to vertical and horizontal movement experienced by the horses. 
  • Collected data permitted an estimation of mechanical workload experienced by the two horses during travelling, based on the displacement of their center of mass. 

The results 

  • The vertical displacement experienced during travelling was 228' for horse 1 and 320' for horse 2. 
  • The horizontal movement experienced during travelling was 745' for horse 1 and 797' for horse 2. 
  • The mechanical workload done (vertically) based on the displacement of center of mass was 322 kJ for horse 1 and 443 kJ for horse 2. 

What does this mean? 

The results of this study indicate that travelling horses experience an increased mechanical workload in addition to both vertical and horizontal movement. While the mechanical workload calculated likely underestimates the metabolic workload experienced by travelling horses, this study represents an analysis of real-time movement and the dynamic loads experienced by horses during travelling. This information can be used to support the development and design of vehicles and trailers for travelling horses with minimal stress.  

 

References 

Colborne GR, Tang L, Adams BR, Gordon BI, McCabe BE, Riley CB. (2021) 

A novel load cell-supported research platform to measure vertical and horizontal motion of a horse's centre of mass during trailer transport, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 103408, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jevs.2021.103408 

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