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Travel is very stressful on horses, especially long-haul ground trips or flights. There is evidence to suggest that cortisol increases with such travel.
By: Shannon Pratt-Phillips, PhD | October 17, 2013
Travel is very stressful on horses, especially long-haul ground trips or flights. There is ample evidence to suggest that cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase with such travel. While there is very little research that has been conducted on the feeding management of horses prior to, during, or following travel, there is significant research on physiologic changes during transport that give insight on how we should feed our horses prior to and during transport.
The physical demands of travel
An increase in cortisol is frequently observed in research examining the effects of travel. Cortisol causes the body to be prepared for ‘flight or fight’ and acts to release blood glucose and counteract insulin (causing insulin to increase with travel), which might be detrimental for horses with metabolic issues. An increase in stress is also associated with gastric ulcers; however, cortisol itself is not usually directly to blame for ulcers in horses. Gastric ulcer development is generally secondary to changes in eating habits – such as in a horse that may go off his feed for a long period of time during transport...
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