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_Equus_ and Slant Loads

k s swigart wrote:

<<<...some horses chose to face forwards almost all the time and some
horses chose to face back wards all the time, and the "average" for all
the horses was 
for them to spend 65% of the time facing backwards. But...NONE of the
horses chose to spend any of the time standing on a slant (except,
presumably the time they spend changing from front to back :)).>>>

I recently discussed this matter with Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM,
long-time Medical Editor of EQUUS and Hall of Fame endurance rider. He
shared with me the following (and this may be little more than a rehash
of the EQUUS article):

“There are two kinds of accelerations placed on horses when they travel
-- fore and aft, braking and accelerating -- plus a third, in turning.
Horses (at least trotting horses--don’t know about pacers) are naturally
diagonal creatures, so that if they are standing slantwise, say with
their noses pointing toward the center of the road, they will use their
left front to deal with accelerations and, since braking forces are much
stronger, they will have their right hind leg positioned to offer the
greatest resistance during decelerations. For swerves and turns, they
will naturally choose the [appropriate] diagnonal.

“People who aren’t too tied to their data points have observed that
horses who face rearward look around more, are less preoccupied with
retaining their security and will look out the back at the road. My
personal finding is that they startle less and will urinate more freely
when traveling backwards.

“It requires a lot of trust for a horse to be facing straight forward.
If you face a horse straight forward, he has to use his front legs to
hold him back and his butt muscles to resist braking. On turns he will
have to unnaturally use both legs on one side. You do not see
slant-loaded horses scrambling. Commercial shippers will, given the
opportunity, move a horse from a front-facing spot to put a horse racing rearward.”

Many years ago, Matthew had a conversation with trailer manufacturer
Elmer Turnbow, who said he came to the conclusion early on that it was
more natural for the horse to travel on a slant facing backwards than
forwards. (Turnbow is one of the few trailers that offers a
front-loading, rear-slant-facing, rear-exit type trailer.) 

BTW, Matthew uses a trailer without partitions with the horses tied so
that they can choose their position, usually rear slant. My last trailer
was a 16-foot stock trailer with two eight-foot loose boxes, and my mare
always chose to face backwards, either straight or at a slight angle to
reach the hay net. I never tied her, over four years and thousands of
miles of traveling to rides and training rides. However, the horse in
the rear stall often faced forward, to be nose to nose with my mare.

Bobbie in Southern Calif. (trailerless at the moment)

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