Study Finds Many Horses Show Pain-Related Behaviors During Saddling

A horse that fidgets in the crossties, pins his ears or swishes his tail may be trying to say something — that he’s not enjoying tacking and he’s not looking forward to the ride ahead. A horse that exhibits other behaviors—some not necessarily seen as “angry”–may be trying to say the same thing. 

Drs. Dyson, Bondi, Routh, Pollard, Preston, McConnell and Kydd studied 193 horses from 11 different locations to discover what their tacking up and mounting behaviors meant. The horses were used for both pleasure and competition, and were ridden by both amateur and professional riders. 

The research team designed a protocol that tracked 64 abnormal behaviors for tacking up and 30 abnormal behaviors for mounting. These included things like biting, fidgeting, pinning ears and swishing tails, as well as head tossing, staring, sticking out the tongue, licking and nose rubbing. 

The team studied the horses for eight minutes, then completed a systematic palpation of where the saddle sits and the surrounding areas to detect sensitivity. 

Ten abnormal behaviors while tacking was the most common number seen, though one horse displayed 33 abnormal behaviors (out of 64). The most common behaviors included a reluctance to open the mouth for the bit (16.8 percent); chomping on the bit (67 percent); head tossing (12.4 percent); and avoiding the bridle (10.9 percent). The majority of horses stared (61.1 percent) or turned their head back while being bridled (56.5 percent).

Abnormal behaviors during mounting ranged from none to 12 (out of 30). The most common behavior was fidgeting, with tail swishing (17.1 percent), chomping on the bit (16.8 percent); stretching out (14 percent); yanking down on the reins (12.4 percent); and tossing their head (10.9 percent) seen most often. Nearly 8 percent of the horses had to be held while the rider mounted. 

The researchers concluded that many of the behaviors the horses exhibited during tacking up and mounting are abnormal, meaning they differ from the behaviors a horse exhibits at rest. These behaviors typically indicate that a horse is stressed or in pain, possibly from oral issues, tack or work. The team also found that 78.2 percent of the saddles used had the potential to be painful and compromise performance. 

The researchers concluded that owners should be aware of these abnormal issues and possibly investigate their underlying causes.

Read more at HorseTalk New Zealand

Read the full study here.

The post Study Finds Many Horses Show Pain-Related Behaviors During Saddling appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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