Equine Transport-Related Problem Behaviors and Injuries: A Survey of Italian Horse Industry Members

Animals (Basel). 2021 Jan 18;11(1):223. doi: 10.3390/ani11010223.


An online survey was conducted to determine associations between equine transport management and transport-related injuries and problem behaviors in Italy. The survey was composed of four sections: respondents' demographic information and background, transport management practices, journey details and vehicle design, and transport injuries experienced by the horse in the previous two-year period. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression with a binary outcome variable was performed to explore associations between variables (respondents' and journeys' details and transport practices) and equine transport-related problem behaviors (TRPBs) and injuries. TRPBs were also considered an explanatory variable for injuries. The survey generated 201 responses; only 148 were complete and analyzed. TRPBs were reported by 14.45% of the respondents and the odds of TRPBs was linked to the respondent gender (p = 0.034), the use of tranquilizers prior to transport (p = 0.002), the use of a whip for loading (p = 0.049), the lack of protection equipment (p = 0.050), and shavings (p = 0.025) on the vehicle floor. Horse injuries (11.49%) were reported by more respondents who did not check the brakes of their transport vehicle before traveling (p = 0.043), had vehicles with padding on the chest bar (p = 0.038), and for horses reported to display TRPBs (p = 0.001). Finally, 10 respondents reported they were injured during horse transport (10/140; 7.14%), 50% simultaneously with their horses. The study findings should be interpreted with caution due to small sample size bias and participants' recall bias. Nevertheless, the results are in concordance with the literature, confirming that horse transport is a risk for the horse's and handler's health and well-being. Further studies are needed to identify best management practices to educate equine industry members on how to minimize transport-related problems.

Keywords: behavior; horse; injury; transport; welfare.