Lameness: how to tell if your horse is lame

Find out from Sue Dyson how to identify lameness or pain in ridden horses.

Find out from Sue Dyson how to identify lameness or pain in ridden horses.

How do I tell if my horse is lame?

Sometimes it is obvious if a horse is lame – a head nod or a hip hike will tell you all you need to know. But low-grade lameness can be difficult to spot. So how can we tell if our horses might be in pain?

Sue Dyson has compared the behaviour of lame and sound horses and has come up with a list of behaviours that are much more common in horses that are in pain. This list of behaviours is known as the ‘Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram’ (RHpE) and you can learn how to spot them in the World Horse Welfare webinar ‘Recognising pain in our ridden horses’ which features Sue discussing her recent research.

Is my horse being naughty or are they in pain?

The ethogram covers 24 different behaviours. These include some that many of us wouldn’t traditionally associate with pain such as spooking, being tense, swishing the tail, and tilting the head. By learning what these behaviours are, we can all become better at spotting when a horse may be in pain. And then, rather than deciding that the horse is naughty, that there is a training problem, or that this is just normal behaviour for that horse, we can get professional help to identify and solve any underlying problem. With luck, the end result will be a horse that is nicer to ride, performs better and – importantly – has a better quality of life.

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