Raised head--Pain in Ridden Horse

“Bad” horse behavior can be an early indicator of pain. This is the basis of the new documentary “The 24 Behaviors of the Ridden Horse in Pain,” the trailer for which is streaming now. The 35-minute film, produced by Padma Video in association with Train With Trust, features world-renowned expert in equine orthopedics Sue Dyson, MA, Vet MB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVSMR, FRCVS, and her research on pain behavior in the ridden horse.

“We are conditioned that many horse behaviors are normal, when they are not,” says Dyson. “We need to appreciate that what we call ‘naughty horses’ are often a reflection of underlying musculoskeletal pain.”

Through a six-phase study spanning three years and involving more than 400 horses, Dyson and colleagues developed The Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE), a tool for reliably predicting lameness before the horse limps or shows other obvious signs of injuries. The RHpE is a catalog of 24 behaviors scientists have demonstrated can be associated with pain in the ridden horse. Most of these behaviors are at least 10 times more likely to be seen in lame horses than nonlame horses.

The film follows Dyson and Jim Myers, DVM, of Gold Coast Equine, as they examine and diagnose show jumper Lauren McMahon’s beloved mare Galina. While Galina was not obviously lame, she seemed increasingly unhappy under saddle. McMahon had “tried everything” to figure out what was wrong, including gastric ulcer treatments, multiple joint injections, and specialized shoeing, but Galina only became more resistant while being ridden.

Galina’s story is not uncommon for horses that do not exhibit an obvious head-bobbing lameness. Oftentimes these horses get labeled as “resistant,” “lazy,” and—for horses that buck or rear from pain-—“explosive.” Trainers often tell riders to “push them through it.”

The film is designed to educate horse lovers on how to spot the early signs of pain, while taking viewers on an emotional “ride” through the eyes of a young girl who loves her mare and will stop at nothing to try to figure out how to make her comfortable. 

Watch the trailer at:  https://youtu.be/nbn0b0W_isQ

The full film will stream for free starting Sept. 30 at 24HorseBehaviors.org.