Pain Or Personality? Specific Equine Behaviors Tied To Lameness 

In 2018, the Animal Health Trust created a tool that correlated specific behaviors with musculoskeletal pain in horses. Dubbed the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE), English researchers determined that horses exhibit 24 specific behaviors when they are in pain. They determined that if a horse exhibits eight or more of the identified behaviors, it’s likely he is lame, EQUUS magazine reports.

Detecting lameness can be difficult. The scientists, led by Dr. Sue Dyson, are hopeful that the tool will positively impact equine welfare by allowing issues to be identified – and addressed – earlier. This identification might negate the attempted use of stronger training tools like bigger spurs, longer whips, tighter nosebands, or harsher bits to address “behavior problems.”

The following behaviors have been correlated with pain: tail swishing, spontaneous changing of gait, tail clamping, ears pinning for five seconds or more, staring for five or more seconds, gaping of the mouth, stumbling or dragging hind toes. The behaviors stopped when pain-relieving measures (like nerve blocks) were administered.

Recently, researchers chose 60 horses ridden in English disciplines that were considered sound by their owners to take part in a study. Eleven of the horses were lesson mounts. 

Before the study, a physiotherapist examined each of the horses for back pain and a saddle fitter checked their tack. Each was then ridden by his typical rider through a set of exercises that included walking, trotting, cantering and circling in both directions. A vet watched each test and evaluated the horse for lameness, assigning a 0 to 8 score. This evaluation was kept from all other researchers involved in the study. 

The riding portion was videotaped from two angles. A second researcher analyzed the tapes and documented every time the horse exhibited any of the 24 behaviors. A third researcher scored each rider’s skill on a 1 to 10 scale. 

The research team found that 73 percent of the horses deemed “sound” by their owners actually had some degree of lameness. Often the owners had attributed the way the horse acted to being “just the way he is,” not recognizing that the horse was trying to exhibit his discomfort. The team found that 82 percent of the lesson horses were deemed lame by using the RHpE.

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The team suggest that simple management changes like attention to better-fitting tack and the use of  pain-relieving medication like phenylbutazone could alleviate some of the horse’s discomfort. 

The team recommends that a horse be seen by a veterinarian if it exhibits more than eight of the RHpE behaviors.

Read more at EQUUS magazine

The post Pain Or Personality? Specific Equine Behaviors Tied To Lameness  appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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