Risk of injury when loading horses increases if whips are used, a study has highlighted

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An Italian study has revealed the risk of your horse being injured during the transportation is more likely if a whip is used to help load them. Published in the journal Animals data was obtained through an online survey of 37 questions aimed at identifying risk factors for equine-transport related problems, which was completed by horse owners who regularly had to transport their horses for work or pleasure.

Problem behaviours were reported by 14.45% of the 148 respondents, who comprised a mix of amateurs and professionals. Such behaviours include fear and anxiety before loading, refusal to get on the trailer, kicks, and loss of balance during transportation

Interestingly, the probability of displaying problem behaviours increased by:

  • five times if the horse handler was female
  • by more than three times if the horse handler did not check brakes before transport
  • by more than five times if the horse handler used a whip at loading
  • by 13 times if the animal was sedated
  • by five times if the vehicle did not have design features for horse protection and the bedding did not consist of shavings.

Horse injuries were reported by 11.49% of respondents.

Sedation and the use of coercive equipment, such as a whip, for loading were confirmed to be major risk factors for horse injuries. During 50% of the accidents described by respondents, horses and handlers were simultaneously injured.

The study team comprised Dai and Michela Minero, with the University of Milan; Martina Zappaterra, Francesca Bocchini and Barbara Padalino, with the University of Bologna; and Christopher Riley, with Massey University in New Zealand.

Reference:

Dai, F.; Zappaterra, M.; Minero, M.; Bocchini, F.; Riley, C.B.; Padalino, B. Equine Transport-Related Problem Behaviors and Injuries: A Survey of Italian Horse Industry Members. Animals 2021, 11, 223.

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