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Safer horse transportation key aim of new study

Equine experts are launching a new study aimed at ensuring safer transportation of horses, ponies and donkeys.

Horse box

Nottingham Trent University is working with the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association (BARTA) to shed light on the key factors associated with incidents and accidents during road transportation.

The work – being supported by the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Horse Trust – involves the launch of a new survey.

The results will be used to assess effective ways to improve safety, which may include guidelines for behavioural training of horses, driver awareness and vehicle design considerations.

The survey –aimed at anyone involved in equine transportation, regardless of whether they have experienced an incident or not – will seek to gather specific information about drivers, horses, vehicles and any accidents which may have occurred.

Whilst scoping the need for the survey, anecdotal evidence suggested that a third of those who commented had experienced an incident or near miss while transporting horses, often leading to the need for veterinary treatment and in some cases euthanasia. This figure demonstrated the urgent need for a robust understanding of the issues and a joined up approach to solving them.

It is hoped the work will also give a greater insight into the impact of travel upon the health, behaviour and welfare of horses.

Jim Green, Fire and Rescue Service Animal Rescue Specialist and Director of BARTA, said: “Fire services and vets respond weekly throughout the UK to rescue trapped horses. We have developed new skills to respond to the growing number of situations we encounter, many of which involve transportation and can be complex and dangerous for horse and rescuer.

“Filling out this survey and telling us your stories will help us get better at rescue, but the most important thing you can do on behalf of your horse is to help prevent these problems occurring in the first place.”

Transportation of horses by road is necessary for a range of reasons, including competition, leisure and commercial activity, as well as for breeding and veterinary purposes.

In the UK it is an offence to transport any animal in a way which causes, or is likely to cause, injury or unnecessary suffering to the animal.

While it is believed to be high, the exact frequency with which incidents occur is currently unknown as records are not kept of all incidents involving horse transport in public places – something the research team wants addressing.

The study, led by the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, will contribute to improving both equine welfare and human safety.

“Although it is not possible to remove the risks associated with road travel altogether, we believe measures could be taken to reduce this risk,” said Dr Carol Hall, equine behaviour and welfare specialist at Nottingham Trent University.

She said: “The survey will be able to extract a wide range of information relating to drivers, the purpose of journeys and journey lengths, the types of vehicles used, as well as details relating to the horses and whether they may have been showing any signs of stress at the time of the incident.

“This information will help us to establish factors that relate to incidents and accidents during horse transportation by road – and inform those measures that should be put in place to increase safety for both horses and humans.”

Dr Emma Punt, Research Lead for BARTA, said: "As an equine McTimoney sports therapist, I've been treating more and more horses that have been injured during transportation. They often require treatment for months afterwards to get them sound so the financial and emotional impact can be significant.

“This survey will provide vital insights into how and why these accidents happen and support the entire community to mitigate what are sometimes tragic incidents"

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Safer horse transportation key aim of new study

Published on 26 May 2017
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

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