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Preventing Stress During Horse TransportBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 14, 2016

The build up, excitement, and long hours of preparing for equine competitions often obscure the stress that horses endure traveling to and from such events. Consider for a moment some of the sources of stress placed on transported horses:

  • Mixing with “new” horses and social regrouping;
  • Vibration from the vehicle;
  • Arrangement of the animals;
  • Feed and water deprivation;
  • Road and air conditions; and
  • Changes in ambient conditions, including temperature.

Most modern and reliable transporters take these factors into consideration, carefully assessing the health of horses before, during, and after transport, and several studies have been published on this topic that prove its importance1-4.

According one of those recent publications4, authored by Rizzo and coworkers, “To limit health problems related to transport, it is important to examine the health status of the horses before and after the traveling to provide them with electrolytes and antioxidants and to optimize the environmental conditions inside the truck.”

“Antioxidants include either single molecules or complex enzyme systems that stop the production of and the damage caused by reactive oxygen species and other free radicals produced in the body under stressful conditions such as transport and exercise,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

Classic examples of antioxidants include vitamins E and C.

KER offers two antioxidant supplements for horses: Nano•E, a water-soluble, natural-source of vitamin E with a unique nanodispersion delivery system that results in superior bioavailability; and Preserve PS (Preserve in Australia) to provide natural-source vitamin E, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.

In addition to dietary antioxidants, Rizzo and colleagues found acupuncture may also benefit equine athletes. Previous research shows that acupuncture:

  • Alleviates muscle tension;
  • Improves local blood flow:
  • Increase pain thresholds; and
  • Helps athletes recover from injury and reduces fatigue of transported athletes.

Using Thoroughbred racehorses, the researchers demonstrated that acupuncture stimulation could play a role “in improving physiological adaption to stressful stimuli and of physical performance.”

1Riley, C.B., B.R. Noble, J. Bridges, et al. 2016. Horse injury during non-commercial transport: Findings from researcher-assisted intercept surveys at Southeastern Australian equestrian events. Animals (Basel). 6(11):65.

2Padalino, B., S.L. Raidal, E. Hall, et al. 2016. Survey of horse transportation in Australia: Issues and practices. Australian Veterinary Journal. 94(10):349-57.

3Padalino, B., S.L. Raidal, E. Hall, et al. Risk factors in equine transport-related health problems: a survey of the Australian equine industry. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.

4Rizzo, M., F. Arfusoa, C. Giannettoa, et al. 2017. Acupuncture needle stimulation on some physiological parameters after road transport and physical exercise in horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 48:23-30.