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Harmonious Horsemanship and Recognising when Horses are in Pain

Updated: 1 day ago


Horsemanship - a term that encompasses the skills, knowledge, and understanding needed to form a harmonious relationship with a horse. It involves treating the horse with respect and working with its natural instincts and behaviour to create a positive and safe riding experience. Horsemanship is the foundation of all riding disciplines and is essential for both horse and rider.


Grey horse jumping a cross country fence
Creating a partnership with the horse is key

Ultimately, horsemanship is about creating a partnership where both horse and rider understand each other's needs, trust one another, and work together. No horse should be labelled as naughty or difficult. Having the skills to recognise pain or discomfort in horses through accurate assessment, diagnosis, and treatment will go a long way in creating harmonious horsemanship.


Also, with the current debate about the social licence to operate we need to be mindful of the appearance of the horse world and this is when the use of The Ridden Horse Pain Checklist developed by Dr Sue Dyson allows us to better recognise horses that are uncomfortable through pain compared to those that are working comfortably.

 


The Ridden Horse Pain Checklist, also known as The Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE) consists of a list of 24 behaviours that are often seen in horses with musculoskeletal pain. This checklist helps identify pain or discomfort in ridden horses, providing a structured way to assess behaviour and recognise subtle signs of lameness or musculoskeletal issues.

The Ridden Horse Pain Checklist, also known as The Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE) consists of a list of 24 behaviours that are often seen in horses with musculoskeletal pain. This checklist helps identify pain or discomfort in ridden horses, providing a structured way to assess behaviour and recognise subtle signs of lameness or musculoskeletal issues.

 

The 24 behaviours include actions such as stiffness, resistance, changes in gait, head tilting, tail swishing, and reluctance to move forward. Horses that show eight or more of these behaviours are likely to be experiencing pain. These behaviours serve as early indicators of discomfort and can help address orthopaedic problems. By learning to recognise these subtle signs, horse owners and professionals can take proactive steps to improve the horse's well-being and performance.

 

Anyone who owns, rides or works with horses will benefit from knowing how to use the Ridden Horse Pain Checklist and we were delighted that Dr Sue Dyson and Chartered Physiotherapist Sue Palmer joined us for a webinar on Wednesday 10 April. Harmonious Horsemanship: How use of the Ridden Horse Performance Checklist Could Potentially Improve Performance was an opportunity to discover first hand more about the checklist and how to apply it.

You can purchase the recording of the webinar here: www.horsesinsideout.com/about-webinars/harmonioushorsemanship You will discover how it can be used as a monitoring tool to reassure you that your horse is comfortable and how low-grade discomfort can influence performance, trainability, rideability, your comfort as a rider, your position and safety.


Harmonious Horsemanship a webinar with Dr Sue Dyson and Sue palmer

During the webinar Sue challenged many of the common myths about horses who are branded as badly behaved. This is often defined by behaviourists as conflict behaviour and is when a horse exhibits in response to unclear cues or handling.


These behaviours can range from subtle signs of stress, such as tensing muscles or flattening ears, to more overt signs of distress, such as bucking, rearing, or bolting. When horses display conflict behaviour, they are often labelled as stubborn or naughty. Sue highlighted the importance of understanding when these behaviours are pain-related and is essential for promoting equine welfare and effective training.

 

As well as joining our webinar, Sue and Chartered Physiotherapist Sue Palmer MCSP have co-authored a book Harmonious Horsemanship: Use of the Ridden Horse Ethogram to Optimize Potential, Partnership, and Performance. This book explains in detail the Ridden Horse Pain Checklist, its application, and its role in equestrianism's social license to compete.


Recognising Pain related poor performance an on-demand seminar with Dr Sue Dyson.

If you enjoyed Sue's on demand seminar Understanding Pain-related Poor Performance you will love this webinar.





 

 

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