Effects of Transport Conditions on Behavioural and Physiological Responses of Horses
Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Bologna, Viale Fanin 44, 40127 Bologna, Italy
School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Stuart University, Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 December 2019 / Revised: 15 January 2020 / Accepted: 15 January 2020 / Published: 17 January 2020
The aim of this study was to document the effects of 12 hours’ confinement in comparison with 12 h of transportation in single and wide bays, and in backward and forward positioning, on horse behavioural, physiological, laboratory and gastroscopy parameters. Behaviours relating to stress and balance occurred more frequently during transport than during confinement, and transport in a rear-facing position and in a wider bay size were associated with reduced balance-related behaviours. An increased frequency of balance behaviours, in particular loss of balance, and transport-related increases in heart rate and rectal temperature were associated with gastric ulceration after transportation. While effects of bay size and direction of travel on stress behaviours were less clear and require further study, this study suggests that adequate space and rear-facing positioning facilitates better balance and may enhance the health and welfare of transported horses. Behavioural observations, heart rate and monitoring of rectal temperature are useful to identify horses at risk for development of transport-related diseases.