The Perils of Horse Transportation

Transporting an animal, no matter the species, breed, or method of travel, is stressful. However, horses appear to suffer more than other animals; long rides, short tempers, and large body size all impact the way in which an animal handles the stress of movement. Below, we have listed the top three negative characteristics of horse travel that breeders, handlers, and transporters should understand before packing the ponies into a trailer.

Body Weight—It is normal for a horse to lose weight during a trip. A mature Thoroughbred can expect to lose around five pounds per hour of transport, a loss due to reduced dietary intake, dehydration, excretion, and sweating. Horses can lose 45 pounds on international flights, and those with “shipping fever” can lose more than 75lbs while en route. A horse can lose up to 5% of its body mass on a long trip. To assess your horse’s travel weight loss, weigh the animal beforehand to establish a baseline. If the post-travel weight is significantly low, see a doctor.

Respiratory Health—When possible, do your best to not ship or move sick horses. Respiratory illnesses are particularly contagious, and the close quarters associated with horse transportation will only increase the likelihood of an outbreak. If your horse has a fever or nasal discharge, it should not be transported.

Dehydration—If a horse has not been drinking normally in the days leading up to transportation, it will suffer from extreme dehydration. This condition can lead to excessive weight loss, the development of illnesses, or physical trauma due to collapse.

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