It's been proven that horses traveling long distances by trailer have an increased risk of respiratory illness; many times this illness is believed to be caused or exacerbated by the horse's inability or refusal to lower his head and clear his airway.
Dr. Barbara Padalino from the University of Bari and the University of Sydney created a study to determine why some horses are more susceptible to post-travel illness. She presented her study at the 2017 International Society for Equitation Science conference.
For her study, Dr. Padalino used 11 horses and had each of them travel by trailer for eight hours. Prior to traveling, all horses were examined and scoped for a tracheal wash collection. Blood samples were also drawn before and after the trip, and the horses were videoed in the trailer during the trip. Six of the horses used had elevated tracheal inflammation prior to the trip, which can only be determined with a tracheal wash.
The study showed that horses had an increase in both cortisol levels and kinase, which indicates muscular stress. Neutrophils were also elevated during the trip. The tracheal wash completed at the conclusion of the trip indicated there was inflammation in the airways of all study horses. Horses that lowered their heads for a shorter amount of time showed more stress and had higher inflammatory indicators in the post-travel tracheal wash.
Transportation-related illness can be multi-faceted, but this study showed a link between behavior during the journey and later health outcomes. Paladino suggests that watching a horse as he travels via camera and paying attention to stress indicators (like not lowering the head as often) may help predict an illness upon arrival at the new destination.
Read more at Horse Journals.
Read the full study here.
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