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Effects of transporting horses facing either forwards or backwards on their behaviour and heart rate
  1. N. K. Waran, BSc, PhD1,
  2. V. Robertson2,
  3. D. Cuddeford, BSc, MSc, PhD2,
  4. A. Kokoszko, BA, MSc3 and
  5. D. J. Marlin, BSc, PhD3
  1. 1 Institute of Ecology and Resource Management, University of Edinburgh, School of Agriculture, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG
  2. 2 Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Summerhall, Edinburgh EH9 IQH
  3. 3 Department of Physiology, Animal Health Trust, Balaton Lodge, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7DW


The effects of transporting horses facing either forwards or backwards were compared by transporting six thoroughbred horses in pairs in a lorry on one journey facing in the direction of travel, and on another journey facing away from the direction of travel, over a standard one-hour route. Heart rate monitors were used to record their heart rate before, during and after the journey and the horses' behaviour was recorded by scan sampling each horse every other minute. The average heart rate was significantly lower (P<0.05) when the horses were transported facing backwards, and they also tended to rest on their rumps more (P=0.059). In the forward-facing position, the horses moved more frequently (P<0.05) and tended to hold their necks in a higher than normal position and to vocalise more frequently (P=0.059). During loading the average peak heart rate was 38 bpm lower (P<0.05) when the horses were backed into the horse box for rear-facing transport than when they were loaded facing forwards. However, there was no difference between transport facing forwards or backwards in terms of the peak unloading heart rate, or the average heart rate during loading or unloading. The horses seemed to find being transported less physically stressful when they were facing backwards than when they were facing forwards.

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