Do Horses Try To Tell Us When They’re Lame?

A recent study assessed how accurately veterinarians determined pain in ridden horses. Led by Dr. Sue Dyson, the Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, the vets used a set of 24 behaviors (called an ethogram) to asses pain responses in horses while they were ridden.

Conducted at the World Horse Welfare centre in Norfolk, 20 horse-and-rider combinations were first assessed by equine physiotherapist Jo Spear; then saddle fitter Liz Suddaby checked the fit, balance, placement and suitability of each horse’s saddle. The study horses then had a 15-minute warm-up before riding an 8-minute dressage test that included specific movements.

During the filmed test, 10 vets scored each horse on the 24 behaviors that may indicate pain; Dyson both observed the horse and watched the film afterward to determine rider skill level. By paying specific attention to the ethogram, each vet said that the study has lead to them changing how they do both pre-purchase exams and lameness evaluation; the study has also changed the way in which they explain equine pain to clients.

Some of the behaviors that indicate pain while being ridden include tail swishing, opening the mouth, flaring nostrils, spooking, tension and others.

The findings from the study will be presented at the Saddle Research Trust Conference in December 2018.

Read more at Horse Talk.

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