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Open AccessArticle

Application of a Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram and Its Relationship with Gait in a Convenience Sample of 60 Riding Horses

by 1,* and 2
1
Independent Consultant, The Cottage, Church Road, Market Weston, Diss IP22 2NX, UK
2
Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Department, Centre for Preventive Medicine, Animal Health Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7UU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(6), 1044; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061044
Received: 16 April 2020 / Revised: 9 June 2020 / Accepted: 15 June 2020 / Published: 17 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards a better assessment of acute pain in equines)
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.
A Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE) comprising 24 behaviours has been developed to facilitate the identification of musculoskeletal pain. The aim was to further test the RHpE by its application 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 RHpE was applied retrospectively to video recordings acquired in a standardised fashion. Seventy-three percent of horses were lame (≤ grade 2/8) on one or more limbs; 47% had gait abnormalities in canter. Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram scores ranged from 3 to 16/24 (median 9); rider skill score ranged from 2.5 to 8/10 (median 4.75). The effect of horse age, breed, sex, work-discipline, epaxial muscle hypertonicity or pain, an ill-fitting saddle, rider skill score, the presence of lameness or gait abnormalities in canter on the RHpE score was assessed using Poisson regression. Two variables were retained in the final multivariable analysis, rider skill score as a continuous variable (p < 0.001), and lameness (p = 0.008). A RHpE score ≥8 was a good indicator of the presence of musculoskeletal pain. View Full-Text
Keywords: lameness; musculoskeletal pain; canter; behaviour; dressage; riding school; saddle-fit; rider skill; thoracolumbar pain lameness; musculoskeletal pain; canter; behaviour; dressage; riding school; saddle-fit; rider skill; thoracolumbar pain
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Dyson, S.; Pollard, D. Application of a Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram and Its Relationship with Gait in a Convenience Sample of 60 Riding Horses. Animals 2020, 10, 1044.

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