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In the Money

What's 35 feet long and stretches from New Zealand, to England, to Prince Edward Island and California? Answer: The only horse trailer in the world to platform load then transport all six equine passengers facing away from the direction of travel. Inspired by experience, Mr Jim O'Brien, CEO of O'Brien Animal Transportation Services, Inc. (OATS) worked with equine behavioral and automotive dynamics concepts to design his new trailer.

Performance horsemen know that transport is the most stressful event that their animals endure. O'Brien, who customises transport for elephants, ostrich and Komodo Dragons, has an interest in engineering out trip stress. Scotland's Edinburgh mounted unit were known to transport their horses rear face. Their saddled horses are out of the trailer fast to face rioters or crowds. The European Union's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare also endorsed rear face transport. Horsemen with whom O'Brien talked knew it was best for horses, but there were no trailers. Now there is. Built in Arkansas, the double-axle steel gooseneck had its inspiration in a two-horse rear face Kiwi trailer built first in New Zealand, then England. One of these trailers is now in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

"Outside of Australia and New Zealand, there were no all rear-facing trailers," says O'Brien. "I talked to some big name trailer dealers, but they emphasised people amenities. Some might tack on a couple of 45 degree forward facing slant stalls, but they weren't interested in trying platform loading and rear face. Sharon Cregier sent photos and drawings about the concept. Four years after meeting her at an Animal Transportation Association conference, I decided to design a trailer for
commercial use to benefit the horses."

In Prince Edward Island, the Standardbred race horsemen were the first to get a detailed presentation of the two horse trailer, thanks to veterinarian Wendell Grasse. In California, over thirty years later, a polo club would be invited to comment on the six horse.

"Horses can be loaded from the side ramp, straight in to the trailer, but with platform loading you only need one person and there is no resistance from the horse," said O'Brien. "Someone asked one grey to go in the standard way, up a ramp facing the trailer, but she froze on the ramp. She refused to load even when whacked three or four times on the rump. We moved her to the platform. She stepped up, turned, reversed and loaded with no prior introduction."

It was the ease of loading the grey that convinced "Doubting Suzie," Animal Transportation Services' veterinarian. Visitors to can see Dr. "Doubtful" cheerily loading horses "the new way". Dr. Doubtful demonstrates that the grey is not afraid of the platform height and circles confidently within the space.

NB: This picture is NOT of the recommended way to load. During loading, the horse is between the handler and the trailer entry.

Despite the highest quality, including heating and air conditioning for the horses, "it actually cost less to build (and is easy to haul), than standard rigs," says O'Brien. Since its first run in April, the trailer has hauled over 100 horses and one stable goat 10,000 miles. Five horses, entered in a Grand Prix event, traveled 120 miles from their stable. None were washed out on arrival or return. None try to barge out. "Of course two people are preferable, but one person can handle both the rig and the horses," observes O'Brien. "We've not had a difficult loader yet."

Loading and transport problems resolved, the interior equipment unmarked after thousands of miles, no injuries or illnesses, O'Brien is ready to survey his racehorse clients. "A good percentage of race horses we transport in the new rig finish 'in the money', so the drivers tell me. I want to track the figures on that."

For further information please see:

Cregier, S. E. 1981. Alleviating Surface Transit Stress on Horses. Ann Arbor:UMI Illus. Bib. Appendices. 215pp

Roberts, T.D.M. 1990. Staying upright in a moving trailer. Equine Athlete 3:3 My/Je pp1-8. - the Gretchen Fathauer animated platform loading illustration:
Large horses are brought on the platform diagonally. This gives them more room as well as positions the rump of a long bodied horse to be reversed into the interior.

article courtesy of Sharon E. Cregier
POB 1100 Montague, PEI C0A 1R0


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