Application of a Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram and Its Relationship with Gait in a Convenience Sample of 60 Riding Horses
Independent Consultant, The Cottage, Church Road, Market Weston, Diss IP22 2NX, UK
Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Department, Centre for Preventive Medicine, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7UU, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 April 2020
Revised: 9 June 2020
Accepted: 15 June 2020
Published: 17 June 2020
Horse owners are poor at recognising lameness which may compromise equine welfare. A Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram, comprising 24 behaviours with specific definitions, was developed to facilitate identification of musculoskeletal pain. Previous studies demonstrated that the presence of ≥8/24 behaviours is likely to reflect musculoskeletal pain. The aim of this study was to further test the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram by applying it to a convenience sample (n = 60) of sports horses and riding school horses in regular work and assumed by their owners to be working comfortably. All horses performed a purpose-designed dressage-type test of 8.5 min duration in walk, trot and canter, with their normal rider. The presence of increased back muscle tension or pain, poor saddle fit, gait abnormalities and rider skill were assessed by independent experts. The Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram was applied retrospectively, by a trained analyst, to video recordings which had been acquired in a standardised fashion. There was a significant association between the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram score and lameness. Lame horses had higher scores than non-lame horses. Education of riders about behaviours which may reflect pain in ridden horses could allow the earlier identification of lame horses, whose welfare may be improved by accurate diagnosis and treatment.