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Humans often transport horses from one place to another for various reasons, including sporting, selling, slaughter, and breeding purposes. The available modes of transport are air, water, and road, but the common one is road transport, where horses are put in enclosed carriers or vans. The transportation of horses has not been an issue in the previous decades until recently when animal rights and welfare activism brought to the fore the possible discomforts associated with their transportation. Diverse forms of discomfort exist, which interfere with the well-being and performance of horses. One of the major problems is anxiety, which emanates from transportation stress. Piccione et al. recommend caretakers to assess the welfare of horses constantly during transportation (1). Constant measurement of the nervous system is critical because it regulates cardiovascular function, which effectively reflects sensitivity to stress. As transportation is a stressor, the nature of homeostasis in horses determines their abilities to return to normalcy after transport.
During transportation, horses experience the problem of dehydration. The assessment of heart rate is essential, for it is one of the indicators of stress and other physiological activities. Transportation of horses by road is worse than by water or air, for horses endure vibrations and noises of rough roads for a long period. The abnormal posture, coupled with being in an unfamiliar environment, causes stress that interferes with metabolism. According to a study by Niedwiedz et al., total proteins, which most associate with transient dehydration of horses, increase during transportation (195). Hence, there is ample evidence that shows the existence of dehydration and electrolyte disturbance.
As solutions to discomfort, anxiety, and dehydration, a transporter should make sure that the transportation experience of horses is comfortable. The objective of reducing anxiety is to make horses calm down and enhance their ability to adapt to transport disturbances. Caretakers of horses have suggested numerous interventions. To reduce anxiety, the speed of transportation by road should be slow with increased braking distances, but no emergency braking. In addition, transporters should not fasten the horses so that they can always change their positions while on transit. Tying them up also impedes their head movement to avoid toxic fumes such as ammonia and dust. For group transport, partitions are essential as they support and prevent horses from injuring each other. As horses are social animals, they like being in the company of other horses during transport. In some cases, in the absence of an equine companion, a mirror facing the horse is necessary to reduce stress. Air circulation requires optimization to alleviate respiration and increase avoidance of respiratory infections. In addition, a very high level of sanitation is essential to mitigate the development of respiratory infections. The floor of the carriage should not be slippery to offer support during a bumpy ride.
Dehydration of horses during transit has detrimental health effects. A Japanese study shows that a 454kg horse loses between 11-18 kg after just two hours of travel due to dehydration, largely due to sweating (Niedzwiedz et al. 195). Therefore, transporters should transport horses in enclosed carriages with optimum ventilation, especially during hot weather. Horses do not drink water during stops when traveling because of the anxieties associated with traveling and the fact that provided water is unique. Hay consumed increases the thirst of horses since they require water for digestion. Therefore, the solution is to use mineral oil before transit to smoothen the ingestion of hay as opposed to non-feeding. To reduce dehydration, serving the animal with a good dosage of salt within a period of not less than 12hours before departure is effective for salt enhances water retention. Additionally, during transit, it is highly recommendable to stop after every four hours and give the horses a bucket of water.
- What is the appropriate method of transporting horses from one place to another?
- What nature of vibrations has the most stressful effects on horses during transport?
- Does the rate of heartbeat effectively indicate the level of stress among horses during transportation?
- Does the transportation of horses for a period of fewer than 8 hours influence physiological functions?
- Do horses adapt to transportation by stabilizing their disturbed physiological functions after a long period?
- Why do metabolic mechanisms increase among horses during transportation?
- What are the hormones that increase the rate of metabolism and the rate of heartbeat among horses during transportation?
- “Transport by road is more uncomfortable for animals than by rail or air” (Niedzwiedz et al. 193).
- “Albumin, total protein, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, total bilirubin, creatine kinase, and triglycerides were mostly influenced by the transport” (Niedzwiedz et al. 193).
- “Future studies must determine the extent to which such diminished clearance rates are related to, and may explain the transient elevations in triglycerides during stress, and the clinical relevance of diminished stress-induced triglyceride clearance rates” (Niedzwiedz et al. 196).
- “Horse transport includes a series of potential stressors such as handling, loading, unloading, unfamiliar environments, oscillation, and vibration of the mean of transport, noise, regrouping, poor ventilation, deprivation of both food and water” (Piccione et al. 3).
- “The autonomic nervous system and its regulation of cardiovascular function have been considered suitable indicators of stress and welfare in humans and animals” (Piccione et al. 1).
- “Even if the stress response is necessary for animals to overcome adverse situations that disrupt their homeostasis, the damage of stress depends on the ability of the animal to control and cope with the stressors” (Piccione et al. 2).
Ideas that Come to the Mind
Transportation of horses induces physiological changes such as heartbeat, metabolism, stress level, and hydration. Since transportation affects the level of metabolites and enzymes, assessment of their levels in the blood provides important information about transportation effects. The longer the duration of transport of horses on a rough road, the greater the effects of transportation. Therefore, transporters of horses should minimize the effects of transportation by reducing speed, use the smooth road, give them plenty of water, and transport them as a group. These strategies modify the transportation stimuli, and thus, minimize the disturbances caused by noise and vibrations associated with transportation.
Niedzwiedz, Artur, Marcin Wadzki, Henryk Filipowski, and Jozef Nicpon. “Influence of 8-hour Road Transportation on Selected Physiological Parameters in Horses.” Bulletin of the Veterinary Institute in Pulawy 56.1 (2012): 193-197. Print.
Piccione, Giuseppe, Marilena Bazzano, Claudia Giannetto, Michele Panzera, and Francesco Fazio. “Evaluation of heart rate as a marker of stress during road transport in hours.” Acta Scientae Veterinariae 41.1118 (2013): 1-5. Print.