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,
"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
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:
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
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH:
POB 1100 Montague, PEI C0A 1R0