Moving Thoroughbreds Safely to Horse Racing Destinations
Seasonal factors make transport of thoroughbreds an inevitable part of horse racing. This is particularly the case with race courses in temperate climes, where the number of days in the calendar with events is not enough to meet the career needs of a top thoroughbred.
Horses have been transported over land, sea, and in recent times, by air as well, over long distances, since time immemorial. They traveled with armies before the age of mechanization, and have been parts of important migrations of entire communities.
Horses are noble animals, and need to be treated with respect and understanding during transport. Thoroughbreds tend to be more temperamental than other horses, and may take long periods to recover from the trauma of a stressful journey, or from radical differences in ambient temperature. The United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union lead the rest of the world with strict and detailed laws to prevent abuse of horses during transport over distances.
The freedom to move and prevailing conditions have much to do with the comfort of an animal during a long journey. Pushing a thoroughbred up a ramp, severe restrictions on the neck and limbs, and extremes of bright lights and utter darkness for long periods, can cause unbearable stress for an animal. High stress and unhygienic conditions can make a thoroughbred fall sick. Dust and other allergens to which an animal is not accustomed are some of the other important risk factors.
Thoroughbreds and all other horses need dry and clean quarters for their journeys, should be checked for their states of health before travel commences, be given frequent breaks when required to travel over long distances in confinement, and should be protected from injury as well. It is not just a matter of protecting a financial investment in a top breed, but there are key humanitarian and legal principles involved as well. A thoroughbred will also need adequate time to recover from a journey, and to get accustomed to new stables at a strange location, before it is ready to race in top gear again. The safe transportation of thoroughbreds is a specialized branch of veterinary science, and should be managed by experts, fully resourced with protective gear for each part of a horse’s body, and with suitable containers and ramps.