A horse that gets anxious during shipping could be reactive to many aspects of trailers: the small space, being restrained, loading, movement of the trailer or the environment. While it might not be readily apparent, some horses do become motion sick, Drs. Santurtun and Phillips reported.
The duo used horses in a motion-sickness study; some horses did exhibit clinical signs like licking or chewing, frequent bowel movements, teeth grinding, pawing, elevated heart rate and gastrointestinal symptoms, which are in line with motion sickness, reports The Horse.
The exact cause for equine motion sickness, just like in people, is not understood, but the conflicting sensory input from the eyes, ears and joints while in motion may be to blame. One sensory system may be telling the horse he is holding still (lack of joint movement) while the eyes believe the horse is moving.
An additional theory is that the movement of the vehicle makes the horse unstable on his feet. The researchers noted that livestock experiencing motion sickness shifted their weight repeatedly to stabilize their balance while the trailer was in motion. Horses generally splay their legs in an effort to brace against the movement and raise their heads for additional balancing support.
To reduce motion sickness, limit vehicle movement, avoid rough roads and don't accelerate or brake rapidly. The horse should have enough room that he can shift his weight about to make himself more stable, as well as move his head up and down.
There are no pharmaceutical options to help a horse that suffers from motion sickness, though calming supplements may be helpful. While many trailering issues can be resolved through management, horses that suffer from motion sickness may never haul as well as their counterparts who don't suffer from motion sickness.
Read more at The Horse.
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