Using Body Language to Assess Fatigue in Working Horses

Watching for signs such as weight-shifting might allow handlers to intervene before horses become exhausted.
Share
Favorite
Please login

No account yet? Register

ADVERTISEMENT

Using Body Language to Assess Fatigue in Working Horses
Horses communicate their physical state of tiredness and even soreness after work through their facial expressions and weight-shifting patterns. | Photo: iStock
After a long day working the ranch, you’d expect a horse to be tired. But tiring to the point of exhaustion is bad for his welfare, researchers say. How can you tell whether a working horse is simply tired or full-out fatigued? The answer, according to a new study, might be written all over his body.

Horses communicate their physical state of tiredness and even soreness after work through their facial expressions and weight-shifting patterns, said Pedro Henrique Esteves Trindade, PhD candidate at São Paulo State University, in Jaboticabal, Brazil.

Many owners and riders already intuitively recognize the body language of tired horses, Trindade said. But by applying science to these observations, researchers can develop an ethogram (behavior chart) that handlers can use to concretely identify signs that their horses’ welfare is at risk due to overwork.

“Scientists can take these body language indicators and establish classifications of intensity of physical tiredness (using dose-response studies),” he explained. “After these steps, the most powerful indicators can be used on farms to recognize physical tiredness before the animal reaches deleterious levels of fatigue or physical exhaustion. This will be important to determine the workload and also the rest period of the ranch horses

Create a free account with TheHorse.com to view this content.

TheHorse.com is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into TheHorse.com.

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.

Share

Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

What signs does your horse show when he has gastric ulcers? Please check all that apply.
77 votes · 197 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with TheHorse.com!