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  • How likely is your horse to be injured during travelling in the UK and what can you do to reduce the risk?

    Thousands of horses are transported by road in the UK every day, most of these according to a 2013 survey in single or double horse trailers (55%) and the remainder in small and large horseboxes (41%) although some owners regularly use both/either (4%) (Wylie et al. 2013). A different 2013 survey found that 60% of UK horse owners regularly transported their horses (Boden et al. 2013). Most horses are transported by private owners but there is also a significant amount of commercial horse transport. There are many reasons why a horse may need to be transported, including sale, moving home, breeding activities, vet visits, farrier visits and competing. Journeys may be as short as a matter of minutes or up to 10-12 hours from one end of the country to the other. A number of studies have looked at the risk of injury to horses being transported in other countries, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA but much less research has been aimed at understanding risks in non-commercial transport and especially using the types of vehicles common in the UK i.e. trailers!

    The present study was carried out by Dr Carol Hall and colleagues at Nottingham Trent University. In this paper the term “incident” is used to describe an unexpected event e.g. vehicle breaking down, horse fall, road traffic accident, etc. Here are the key points summarised.

    • The study involved an online survey of over 2000 horse owners

    • 342 owners (16%) reported horses being injured as a result of a transport related incident

    • 58% of journeys were less than 1h and 40% were 1-4h. Only 3% of journeys were >4h

    • Owners with a professional/competitive involvement with horses reported more incidents than those with a predominantly leisure involvement (1.7x more likely)

    • Commercial drivers were at a reduced risk of being involved in incidents

    • Equine behaviour was the attributed cause of 56% of incidents reported

    • Where an incident occurred, horses were injured over 50% of the time

    • The highest risks for injury was transport vehicle malfunction (almost a 6x increase in risk of injury)

    • Horses were over twice as likely to be injured in an incident as a pony

    • Short journeys (<1h) were 1.75x more likely to result in an injury than journeys over 1h

    As would be expected, the rates of injury are lower than for example in horses transported long distances commercially for slaughter where it has been found that 28% had at least one injury.

    One of the key findings from this study is that horses being driven by non-professional drivers over short distances are at a particularly high risk of injury. This suggests that better and more extensive training should be undertaken by non-professional horse owners and that more careful or more frequent servicing and preparation of transport vehicles may be beneficial.

    Click HERE for full study

    Top Tips for Safe Transport of Horses

    • Ensure your trailer or lorry is regularly serviced

    • Check tyre pressures, oil, fuel, etc before each journey

    • Examine the horse partition of your vehicle for any signs of damage before loading horses

    • Provide horses with forage during transport

    • For horses that don’t travel well, rear-facing transport is worth considering

    • Practice loading your horse on days when you don’t have to get anywhere at a fixed time

    • Consider using a safety headcollar as injuries during transport related to headcollars are common


    1. Boden, L.A.; Parkin, T.D.H.; Yates, J.; Mellor, D.; Kao, R.R. An online survey of horse-owners in Great Britain. BMC Vet. Res. 2013, 9, 188.

    2. Iacono, C.; Friend, T.; Keen, H. Effects of density and water availability on the behaviour, physiology and weight loss of slaughter horses during transport. J. Equ. Vet. Sci. 2007, 27, 355–361.

    3. Marlin D, Kettlewell P, Parkin T, Kennedy M, Broom D, Wood J. (2011) Welfare and health of horses transported for slaughter within the European Union Part 1: Methodology and descriptive data. Equine Vet J. 2011 Jan;43(1):78-87.

    4. Owen, K.R.; Singer, E.R.; Clegg, P.D.; Ireland, J.L.; Pinchbeck, G.L. Identification of risk factors for traumatic injury in the general horse population of north-west England, Midlands and north Wales. Equ. Vet. J. 2012, 44, 143–148.

    5. Padalino, B.; Rogers, C.W.; Guiver, D.; Thompson, K.R.; Riley, C.B. A survey-based investigation of human factors associated with transport related injuries in horses. Front. Vet. Sci. 2018, 5, 294. Animals 2020, 10, 288 19 of 20

    6. Riley, C.B.; Noble, B.R.; Bridges, J.; Hazel, S.J.; Thompson, K. Horse injury during non-commercial transport: Findings from researcher-assisted intercept surveys at Southeastern Australian equestrian events. Animals, 2016, 6, 65.

    7.Roy, R.C.; Cockram, M.S.; Dohoo, I.R.; Riley, C.B. Injuries in horses transported to slaughter in Canada. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 2015, 95, 523–531.

    8. Wylie, C.E.; Ireland, J.I.; Collins, S.N.; Verheyen, K.I.P; Newton, J.R. Demographics and management practices of horses and ponies in Great Britain: A cross-sectional study. Res. Vet. Sci. 2013, 95, 410–417.

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