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Animal Transportation Association 2015 Conference (Conference Recap from attendee Amy McLean, AQHA)

15 May 2015 3:13 PM | Deleted user

Day 1 of the 41st annual conference in Calgary, Canada, focused on advances in equine transportation and welfare.

Planes, trains, trucks and animal welfare are the common theme at the 41st Annual Transportation Conference hosted in Calgary, Alberta. The international conference has brought together people from around the world that provide live animal transportation options, including people who make stalls that fit into aircraft; airlines; cargo companies; representatives from equestrian venues that provide charter flights for equine athletes competing in their shows; equine transportation service specialists; airport authorities and research scientists that research the effects of transporting animals by land, sea and air. A majority of the speakers have focused on the shipment of horses with great emphasis on equine welfare and the care of shipped horses during flight and upon arrival.

Over the years, loading horses on aircraft has changed greatly, explained Jeremy Instone of Instone Air of the United Kingdom, which makes aluminum horse stalls that are rented by airlines for the transportation of horses.

“Years ago, horses were loaded on aircraft by walking them up long ramps into the back of the plane and unloading down a long ramp in the front,” Instone said. Needless to say, this protocol has changed dramatically.

Kurby Court, vice president of Spruce Meadows, an International Equestrian Venue specializing in three-day eventing and show jumping competition, discussed in great detail the logistics of charter horse flights into the Calgary International Airport. He shared a floor plan where stallions, mares and geldings are placed on the plane. The placement of stalls and horses in flight is similar to how you would load your trailer; there are certain horses that enjoy traveling together and others that need to be strategically placed in different slots on a trailer (mares and stallions, for instance). Flights are generally equipped with a crew that tends to the horses and carries out important jobs related to their care. Roles include load master, international veterinarian and flight groom. Three to 23 people are needed on a flight depending on how many horses are being shipped.

Biosecurity is a huge focus at the conference. Dr. Jan Willemstad de Gooijer, equine veterinarian for KLM Cargo Animal Hotel, discussed the transmission factors of various viral diseases, such as rabies and the need for equine passports and vaccination records. His points brought home the need for vaccinations when moving horses because of the risk to other horses and humans. A presentation by Hannah Western of World Horse Welfare focused on guidelines for noncommercial horse haulers and whether or not your horse is fit to travel. She discussed a guideline created to help assist those transporting horses with the assistance of major equine stakeholders in Europe. Hannah explained the document was created in a positive manner using illustrations, pictures and color schemes (such as red=no, green=go and orange=caution) to help transporters better evaluate if a horse is OK to move from one location to another.

Veterinarian and researcher Dr. Christopher Riley of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at Massey University in New Zealand, noted that, while a horse might be fit for transportation, we need to consider the trailer being used and the credentials of the driver hauling the horses. He surveyed 223 respondents at shows in Australia and found the greatest amount of horse injuries were found in the lower limbs and likely were correlated to driver fatigue. Riley will continue to do more research investigating the rate of injury to horses when being hauled, equine kinematics during transportation, and driver training related to equine welfare during hauling and transportation. His survey will soon be available to horse owners in the United States and Canada to add their responses. 

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