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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Trailers - Straight -v- Angle, Which is better for the horse?

Trailers - Straight -v- Angle, Which is better for the horse?
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Marion
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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2007 02:08 am
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Hello to everyone. 

I have been thinking a lot about the increasing popularity of angle floats for transporting horses.  There is quite a lot of published literature saying that horses prefer to stand at 45 degrees to the direction of motion of the trailer.  I have not been able to locate any further information regarding this.  I understand that horses naturally move forward more easily than lateral movement, so in simplistic terms, would they be more comfortable adjusting their balance forward and backwards as opposed to laterally?  On the other hand, is it easier and less tiring for them to balance laterally?

If anyone can refer me to any publications or further information, I would be very grateful.

Thanks

Marion

Debbie Turk
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 Posted: Sat Jun 2nd, 2007 04:22 pm
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Marion,  I can only tell you that I travel my horse in a straight load float with the partiton over to one side and I have never found him travelling at an angle when I go to unload him.  I have travelled my last 3 horses this way and none of them have taken advantage of travelling at an angle.  I have read this literature as well but have to question it's accuracy, certainly in relation to horses that I have known.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jun 2nd, 2007 05:07 pm
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Yes Marion, I agree with Deb T. that you need to be aware that much of the "research" that has been done on horses' preferences/behaviors in trailers has been funded and promoted by the manufacturers of trailers.

I have "floated" horses every way you can think of, and in every type of rig. My experience is that  it is not safe to let a horse be untied in the narrow space provided in most two-horse trailers, whether they are front-facing or angled, because then sometimes they will try to turn around, and if they do that then they may get themselves in trouble (i.e. get under a high partition, get their neck caught in some twisted position, get facing backwards and then be tempted to jump out the rear, or lose their footing because their legs are unable to find space to make an "A" frame....believe me, I've had all of these things happen, even when the horse was tied to start with).

What is as safe as it is possible to get (it is never 100% safe), is to have a stock-trailer that has no internal partition at all, and no other "furniture" whatsoever (i.e. no manger). You can buy these things with a plenty high enough roof so that they are suitable for horses; they are then essentially rolling stalls. Load the horse in there, tie him up to one of the side bars near the front, then go out the escape door, walk around the back, and secure the rear door. When the door is shut, then go up to the front, untie the horse, and reach in and throw the rope up over his back.

He will then be totally at liberty within the stock trailer. When you arrive at your destination, go up on the outside of the trailer to where you had him tied initially, and call him to you. When he comes, reach in and pick up the rope from under his chin, and tie him again; then go around to the back, open the door, walk in, untie the horse, and unload him. It is not dangerous to have the lead-rope trailing around on the floor while he hauls, by the way.

I have found that this is bar-none the best way to teach "bad haulers" to haul quietly. They can orient themselves any way they like, and you will notice when looking in your rear-view mirrors as you go down the road that sometimes the horse's nose is poking out the front, sometimes out one side or the other near the front or near the back, or right out the back. In moving around, they are figuring out how to handle the bumps, jostles, turns, and vibration. The fact that it is an open space presents no logistical problems for a horse trying to find a way to spread his feet and legs.

Essentially the same arrangement can also be achieved with one of those trucks that has a box built on it, where the horse goes up a ramp to get inside. The main problem with these rigs is the ramp, which is sometimes flimsy and even when not flimsy may be so badly designed as to be fatally dangerous (i.e. wings or springs/bars along the sides in which the horse's legs can get trapped and broken).

Of course, in all cases, much depends also upon the courtesy and thoughtfulness of the driver. It is essential that acceleration and deceleration be smooth, and that turns be as much "zero G" as possible -- never mind the honking horns of non horse-owners that you will inevitably meet. I notice many people though, who are careful to do what they think are "zero G" turns but they're only "zero G" for the people in the truck! The driver must realize that there is a whipping effect on any small-diameter turn, including ordinary right and left turns at intersections -- you may have noticed it when observing someone else's rig in motion -- the whipping of the trailer comes into play toward the end of the maneuver, AFTER the truck has already done its part of the turn. It's more pronounced on bumper or frame-hitch trailers, much less pronounced on trailers that hitch into the truck bed.

One last thing, and this has been discussed in this space before, but I think worth repeating: I see VERY few rigs outside North America that I would consider safe. In general, the vehicle is much too light for the load it is carrying or pulling. The vehicle is too light and the wheelbase of the vehicle is too short -- the tail can then dangerously wag the dog. I also observe very lightweight trailers being marketed so that light vehicles can pull them -- but I would not think of putting my horse into a trailer designed for two to four horses that is not made of steel. As with the caution expressed here initially about so-called "research" on horses' preferences for trailers, you also need to be aware that you should totally ignore manufacturers' statements about how much weight a vehicle can pull. Here are some vehicles that are NOT appropriate to pull a loaded horse trailer: Jeep Cherokee; an automobile with a cab in front and a bed in back, commonly in Australia called a "ute"; any passenger vehicle.

Vehicles that ARE appropriate to pull one horse include 1/2-ton pickup trucks such as the Chevy Silverado or Ford 150, or the heaviest class of Range Rover. To pull two or more horses, you need a 3/4-ton pickup truck, i.e. a Ford 250 or equivalent -- preferably a dually -- I have seen one or two of these, total, in Australia. Yes, they do guzzle gas.

In my view, for that reason alone, the era of "horse clinics", where people are willing and able to haul a thousand miles to ride with their favorite teacher, is fast coming to an end. It is the teacher who needs now to go from barn to barn. This would be much better not only for environmental reasons, but for the horses, because it is very difficult to find a two-horse trailer that is safe for a horse to be in.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

Marion
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 Posted: Wed Jun 6th, 2007 02:39 am
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Dear Deb T. and Dr. Deb,

Thank you very much for your responses.  I often wonder about the people selling horse trailers, how often have they floated horses??

Most times that I have floated a single horse, I have taken the centre rail out so that the horse has been relatively free to orient herself whilst ensuring there was nothing that could come loose and hinder her movement (method very similiar, if not the same as your preferred method, Dr. Deb).  This has worked very well, for horse and driver.  The last time I floated two horses, was in a straight load, where I removed the internal rail.  These two are 'best friends' and were very happy to stand close together, gently stepping around each other.  However, I kept them tied.  After their 3 hour trip this way, they stepped down very happily.

I like the idea of the horse having enough room to orient themself, which way is best for them.  I have learned to take it easy around corners and roundabouts (so many in Canberra, Australia).  Other drivers sometimes become a bit cranky with me when I slowly negotiate the roundabouts, but I'm afraid that this is what I must do, my horses appreciate it.

I'm thinking that I can make do with a spacious straight load float, afterall.  However, I have not known of a horse lowering their head in a trailer.   Would a horse feel confident to do this whilst being transported?  What would be the optimum conditions for this?  If anyone has any comments on this, I would appreciate to hear.

Thanks, Marion.

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Wed Jun 6th, 2007 07:00 am
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Hello Marion

There are some horses who don't travel well in a straight-load trailer because they can't spread their hind legs far enough to get their balance.  These are the 'scramblers', so called because of their scrambling action to stay upright while the trailer is moving.  Often, these are the horses who don't have good pelvic stability for whatever reason, weak muscling, old age, poor proprioception etc.  There is a free DVD put out by an Aussie manufacturer who builds floats  with built-in extended sides at lower leg level which allows these horses to lean against the side but also extend the hind foot further out beyond their hip.  You will see their ads in every horse mag.  I'm not necessarily promoting these floats but their info may be helpful if you keep in mind their objective is to make sales.

Some years ago I had a horse like this, at a time when I was new to the horrors of transporting horses.  If I put the centre divider over to one side, this horse would wedge himself on an angle against the divider and could travel OK.  With a second horse on board, this fellow simply could not balance and was in danger of falling in the trailer no matter how slowly I drove.  I could not afford the thousands of dollars needed to upgrade to one of the extended side floats, so had a friend instal a 'scramble bar' in my existing float.  This was a piece of 4x2 pine running along the inside length of the float at hip height for this particular horse, and jutting out about 4", just enough so that he could lean against it and get his hind foot underneath it.  He travelled very well for years with this $20 modification to my trailer.

Good luck Marion, there are few things more stressful than the matter of transporting horses - helps not to have too vivid an imagination.

Best wishes - Pauline

Marion
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 Posted: Wed Jun 6th, 2007 07:41 am
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Hi Pauline,

Thanks for your reply, yes, my older gelding is a scrambler!  It's a terrible sound when they do it.  He travels as little as possible.

I am aware of the trailers you mentioned.  I am looking at their information.  However,  the modification that your friend made sounds very practical and sensible.  

regards,

Marion.

 

diane
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 Posted: Thu Jun 7th, 2007 01:30 am
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Dr Deb writes: In my view ... It is the teacher who needs now to go from barn to barn. This would be much better not only for environmental reasons, but for the horses...This concept sounds interesting.  What would be the global logistics (including estimated costs) behind this concept?

Sam
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 Posted: Thu Jun 14th, 2007 02:38 am
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Hi Guys,

Many years ago there was a float on the market where the horses loaded in backwards and travelled facing the rear.  I own one of these trailers and have found it a very interesting journey, while I would love not to ever have to trailer my horses anywhere as I find it all so stressful, I have found this way of travelling the horse keeps them and me calm.  Life experiences have taught me you can't stuff a not calm horse backwards into a horse float, you have to be able to talk to each hoof to get the horse to arrange his quarters and fore hand so he can get in.  The other interesting thing I have found is they must be allowed to turn their heads right around to look backwards into the float, they may just look over one shoulder or both but once the horse has done this and has whatever he needs to sussed out they will just about load themselves.  They then are completely happy to stand calmly while the chest bar is done up and the ramp raised. The travel well with their heads held low.   I did once travel two of my Shetlands in it loose and they choose to stand at an angle with heads facing the rear. But put more than two in there and they stand every which way.

 

After I first saw Dr Deb in Palmerston North and found out just what was holding my horses back legs on, I did wonder about the wisdom of travelling the horse this way!  In the end I decided I was happy with it and my horses don't seem to hate it completely.

 

I completely agree with Dr Deb regarding just how many horse floats are being pulled by a too small vehicle, I have always had a Range Rover on my wish list, so I make do with a 4litre passenger vehicle and only tow one small horse, locally.  We are hugely lucky here in NZ as we do get a lot of clinicians travelling here so we don't have to fly anyplace to see them, but sometimes the horses do have to make 6 hour plus journey's in the trailer to get to the venue and most horses do survive this!  But I bet they don't enjoy it much!

I have lurked about on this forum for years so here I am being brave and giving it a go.  There are some real words of wisdom contained on this forum, lots of food for thought.

E Kwine
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 Posted: Mon Jul 16th, 2007 09:29 am
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So....Dr.Deb

When you travel your horses loose in the stock trailer, how do they naturally position themselves?  Facing forwards, backwards, or at an angle?  This should give us some idea of how they prefer to travel.

Regards, E Kwine

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 16th, 2007 07:19 pm
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Why, they face every which-way, as I said above. They'll ride backwards a lot of the time, but they switch positions just like you or I might do if we were riding in a train carriage. -- Dr. Deb


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