Ask H&H: horse collapsing in the trailer

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    Q: My 16-year-old mare has travelled in horseboxes and trailers all her life with no problems, until recently when, while in the trailer, she collapsed and seemed unable to hold herself up as the trailer moved.

    The “collapsing” occurred again a few weeks later in the trailer and was replicated when I tried her in a lorry.

    A chiropractor has confirmed that she is well. She is fine to ride, although when I go down a steep hill, she seems to want to spin around. Could she have some sort of balance issue?
    DB, Notts

    Although you say your chiropractor has given your mare the all-clear, Richard Maxwell, a specialist working with difficult and problem horses, has found that many horses who don’t like walking down steep hills and find it difficult to balance while travelling, have a problem in their shoulders.

    “I see many horses with loading and travelling problems in the course of my work,” he said.

    “In my experience, when a horse who has travelled perfectly all its life suddenly develops a problem, a physiological issue is likely to be the root cause, unless the horse has had a fright. You should have your mare physically checked out again.”

    Once she has been checked by a qualified physiotherapist, and you have spoken to your vet, consider making some changes to your travelling regime if the mare still reacts negatively.

    “You could try allowing more space between the partitions if you are in a lorry, removing the partition in a trailer and cross-tying or even travelling her in a different direction,” said Richard.

    “By doing this, you will allow your mare the opportunity to find a position of comfort; often, this will be standing at an angle.”

    Next, introduce travelling gradually. Rehearse your loading technique on a soft surface and practice travelling for short distances when the weather is cool.

    Also, try to pick a route where you don’t have to stop and start or go around roundabouts, so the horse can settle into the journey.

    Finally, make sure the mare doesn’t have an unnaturally high head posture when tied up, so she can adjust her balance.


    Richard Maxwell, tel: 01440 702327 www.richard-maxwell.com

    This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (30 July, ’09)

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