How to minimise the incidence of transport-related behavioural problems in horses: A review

A Yorke, Judith Matusiewicz, Hayley Randle, Barbara Padalino

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This review aims to provide practical outcomes on how to minimise the incidence of transport-related problem behaviours (TRPB) in horses. TRPB are unwanted behaviours occurring during different phases of transport, most commonly, a reluctance to load, and scrambling during travelling. TRPB can result in injuries to horse and horse handler, horse trailer accidents, disruption to time schedules, inability to attend competitions, and poor performance following travel. Therefore, TRPB are recognised as a risk for both horse and horse handler. From the literature, it is apparent that TRPB are common across the whole equine industry and an initial YouTube keyword search of ‘horse trailer loading’ produced over 67,000 results, demonstrating considerable interest in this topic and the variety of solutions suggested. However, the solutions suggested by practitioners on YouTube often are not based on evidence and might be counterproductive. This review includes 73 papers related to TRPB and provides recommendations on their identification, management and prevention, highlighting pros and cons of habituation, classical and operant condition training. Since the early 1980s, TRPB have been studied and appropriate training has been advised. However, surveys reported that the incidence of TRPB has not decreased (about 40% of respondents had one or more horses exhibiting TRPB in both 1982 and 2017), horse owners still did not apply appropriate training for loading and travelling (almost half of respondents of a survey published in 2017 did not train their horses for travelling). TRPB may be also associated with injuries to both horse and horse handlers: in a recently published survey, 12% of respondents reported to have suffered an injury loading their horses, and that in 5% of those cases the horse also became injured. From the literature, it appears that in-hand pre-training, systematic training for loading and travelling, appropriate horse handling and vehicle driving skills of transporters are crucial to minimise the incidence of TRPB. In-hand pre-training based on correct application of the principles of learning for horse and horse handler, habituation to loading and travelling, and self-loading were associated with a lower risk of TRPB and are therefore strongly recommended to safeguard horse and horse handler health and welfare. This review also indicates that further research and education in transport management are essential to substantially decrease the incidence of TRPB in horses.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
Event13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science : ISES 2017 Down Under - Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
Duration: 23 Nov 201725 Nov 2017
Conference number: 13 (Conference website, link to proceedings)


Conference13th International Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleEquitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change
CityWagga Wagga
OtherThe 13th international conference of the International Society for Equitation Science took place on 23rd-25th November 2017 at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia. This was the third time that the conference was in Australia (following Clonbinane, Victoria in 2005 and Sydney in 2009). Charles Sturt University is one of the few providers of degree level Equine Science education in Australia with ample equestrian facilities to host an international conference of this calibre, with the support of a wide range of sponsors.

The conference theme ‘Equitation Science in Practice: Collaboration, Communication and Change’ attracted over 150 delegates from 17 different countries and all Australian states. The theme was supported by an academic programme of 29 oral presentations and 28 posters. Delegates learnt about the role of the horse in education including breeding work, foal handling and contribution to the veterinary industry and survival of other horses. Each of the 3Cs (Collaboration, Communication and Change) were thoroughly addressed and the two workshops - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (designed to develop an appreciation of the pillars of Equitation Science in order to identify future directions with valuable input from ISES Honorary Fellows all of whom have been globally recognised for their contribution to Animal Welfare) and Human Behaviour Change (designed to identify key areas where change in human practice is needed to improve horse welfare) were enjoyed by Practitioners and Academics, Students and Honorary Fellows alike.

The conference was fully and actively supported by senior Charles Sturt University staff (Prof Glenn Edwards, Head of School of Animal and Veterinary Science, Prof Tim Wess, Executive Dean of Science and Prof Andrew Vann, Vice Chancellor).
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