The Horse

JAN 2019

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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16 January 2019 The Horse | still sending critical information that you need to be able to read. Here are seven things your horse might be telling you: 1 "I'm not feeling well." A horse that's ill or in pain might display classic physical expressions of dis- comfort. "A sick horse probably wouldn't be very bright or alert," says McDonnell. "He might stand off from the group as if he doesn't want to interact with anyone. That body language is often the first sign that something is off, even before he loses his appetite." If he's in pain, he might show guarding, meaning he's protecting the painful area, she says. A horse in discomfort due to colic often kicks or bites at his abdomen, paws, and lies down and stands back up. If he's got back pain, he could be "girthy," showing aggression when you are sad- dling him. And in general, a horse in pain might seem grumpy or show defense be- haviors toward humans or other horses. A horse in pain might also reduce his activity level, carry his head below the withers, display a fixed stare and rigid stance, and be reluctant to move, says Emanuela Dalla Costa, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECAWBM, of the Department of Vet- erinary Medicine at the Università degli Studi di Milano, in Milan, Italy. Facial features can also reveal pain, she says. She and her team recently developed the Horse Grimace Scale (, which allows people to check for pain-related facial expressions. In the laminitic or recently castrated horses they used in their stud- ies, they noted a tendency for most horses in pain to flatten their ears and tense or strain parts of their face: the muscles over the eye orbits, above the eyes, and mouth, the nostrils, and chewing muscles. Ridden horses express pain using a different set of behaviors and facial expressions, says Sue Dyson, MA, Vet MB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies, in Newmarket, U.K. "These include persistently having the ears back, repetitive mouth-opening, an intense stare, alteration of head posi- tion by being above or behind the bit, head-tossing up and down or from side to side, tilting the head, and repeated tail swishing," she says. 2 "I'm stressed!" Horses in acute stress display fairly recognizable body language, says McDon- nell. They might have forward-pointing ears, wide-open eyes, widened nostrils, a high head, a stiff stance, and a raised tail. They might blow out through their nose, and they might defecate. Horses just coming out of stressful situations often lick and chew, as sort of an involuntary reaction, she adds. Simply put, this occurs because switching from a sympathetic nervous system response (to acute stress) to the parasympathetic ner- vous system response ("rest and restore") causes the horse to go from a dry mouth to a wet one. As he begins to salivate, he licks and chews ( "This is an area of significant confu- sion, especially among 'horse whisperer' type clinicians who may not have a scien- tific background," she says. "They put the horse through a stressful situation and then mistakenly interpret the horse's body language of licking and chewing as a sign of submission or special bonding. But it's not. It's a sign of a horse being released from a higher to a lower level of acute alert, alarm, or stress." Body language indicating chronic stress can be more difficult to distinguish, SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE ISTOCK.COM A sick or painful horse might be lethargic, grumpy, and standoffish. He might have a fixed stare and rigid stance and be reluctant to move. Dandy Products, Inc. Padding & Flooring Specialists "Padding At Its Best" Breeding Sheds, Stocks, Stalls, Trailers, Exercise & Training Areas, Induction & Recovery Rooms Table & Surgical Pads, Neo-Natal Foal Beds Non-Slip Safety Floors for All Areas Pavesafe Bricks & Tiles, Trac-Roll & Vet-Trac Floors, Wash Stall,Grooming, Aisleway and Trailer Mats Toll-Free 888.883.8386 • 513.625.3000 FAX 513.625.2600 3314 State Route 131, Goshen, Ohio 45122 •

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