The debate over straight load or angle load floats has been going on in Australia since the angle load float was introduced more than twenty years ago. They refer to testing in the USA proving your horse travels more comfortably, will not scramble and is safer than the conventional straight loading system.
I find it interesting that everyone I've asked to see the results of these tests have not been able to produce a copy. So who has done these tests and how old are they? After much investigating I have managed to find results of a study that was conducted in 2000 by RAy Goer BVSc, MVSc, PhD, director of research and product development for Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Kentucky; Anne Rodiek, PhD of California State University; and Carolyn Stull, PhD of the University of California-Davis. (Published in the American Equus Magazine in the April 2000 edition).
More relative to this article, were the results of tests where researchers "shipped horses loose in a stock trailer. The study found the horses spent a collective 65% of their time facing backward, but individual preference was mixed and strong. For example one horse spent 98% of the journey facing forward while another spent 100% of the trip facing the rear. Interestingly, no horse chose to stand on a slant."
This would suggest that horses do not like angle loading if given the choice. I can hear the groans of discontent already, such as angle loads are better because my horse doesn't scramble in them and does scramble in a straight load. You're right, the horse won't scramble in an angle load, providing the partitions do not extend down to the floor, but it does open a whole new array of problems for your horse.
The article also states....."All researchers agree that a horse who can lower his head below the point of his wither is much less likely to suffer respiratory stress from travelling. Whenever possible, allow the horse to take advantage of whatever room there is to carry their head in a natural, mucus draining posture".
Even a 15hh horse does not have the head room to lower its head in an angle load float, meaning as pointed out in the study, it will not be able to clear is respiratory passages, which can lead to travel sickness and in severe cases cause death. It has also been documented on video, that a horse may continually pace on the spot in order to keep balanced and jam its rump between the divider bar and the wall of the float, forcing its rear quarter on a 45% angle making the horse twist its back, which may cause injury to the back and muscular complaints over the long term.
So how do you travel your horse in a safe and healthy manner?
We do recommend straight loading, as this is the natural direction a horse gallops, trots and canters, the only time a horse will travel on an angle is in the dressage arena - a taught movement that does not come naturally.
However, be aware that some horses will scramble immediately in the standard designed straight load float, while others may develop an issue over time.
Many people think it is simply the horse misbehaving. Ever hear someone say, my horse is a real pain in the float, he always kicks and moves around when we're travelling, so I fix him and slam on the brakes to teach him a lesson. Chances are he is scrambling and simply trying to balance himself, and then you hit the brakes only to terrify the animal even more. Once they start to scramble, it will only get worse.
Imagine standing on a moving bus while going around a corner, your natural desire being to step your legs apart to retain your centre of gravity and maintain your balance. The horse is doing the same thing, only a standard horse float doesn't provide the necessary room. When the animal can't retain its balance it leans onto the centre divider and attempts to regain its balance by scrambling up the wall.
Some people will tie the partition across to one side to stop scrambling, believing the horse is then travelling on an angle. All this practice is doing is allowing the horse to step its body away from the side wall and take a wider stance to keep his balance.
However, the disadvantages with this solution are, your horse will not be secure in the float and will be thrown around as you corner, accelerate and brake as there is no rump bar in place. The risk of your tailgate opening during transportation increases as the horse will try to lean or even sit against it in an effort to brace himself. Finally, you will only ever be able to transport one horse at a time using this method.
The solution is the patented JR design with the sloping walls and adjustable rump and chest bars.
This system effectively acts as a seat belt for your horse, while allowing him to step his legs sideways and always retain his balance.Put us to the test - we will be happy to provide you with the veterinary test results that testify to the fact that horses are less stressed when travelling in a JR Easy Traveller float. We can provide actual video footage of why a horse scrambles and how they behave during transportation in an angle load float.
Ask yourself the next time you see a manufacturer claim, for the safety and comfort of your horse, or the latest technology, or computer designed, or New Level of Comfort and The Finest You Can Buy - whatever the sales pitch - ask what sets their float apart from the rest. Can they substantiate their claim? Ask to see the results of the tests that they quote. Then come and talk to us and see the difference for yourself.
Contact JR Easy Traveller floats for a complimentary CD/DVD.