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Equine Discomfort Ethogram

Department of Clinical Studies, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 382 W Street Road, Kennett Square, PA 19382, USA
Havemeyer Equine Behavior Lab and Clinic, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 382 W Street Road, Kennett Square, PA 19382, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Emanuela Dalla Costa, Thijs van Loon and Mandy Paterson
Animals 2021, 11(2), 580;
Received: 6 August 2020 / Revised: 15 January 2021 / Accepted: 25 January 2021 / Published: 23 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards a better assessment of acute pain in equines)
Pain and discomfort behavior in horses tends to be especially subtle, and not readily or widely appreciated even by equine professionals, including many long-time horse keepers, trainers, and even by veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and care staff. Based on decades of evaluating the behavior of normal and physically uncomfortable horses in a referral hospital, as well as research context, we describe and illustrate a catalog of behaviors (ethogram) associated with equine physical discomfort. Our objective is to promote an unambiguous universal understanding of equine discomfort behaviors associated with various body systems and anatomic sources.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in and need for a comprehensive ethogram of discomfort behavior of horses, particularly for use in recognizing physical discomfort in domestically managed horses. A clear understanding of the physical discomfort behavior of horses among caretakers, trainers, and professional health care personnel is important to animal welfare and caretaker safety. This is particularly relevant to pain management for hospitalized equine patients. Various pain scale rubrics have been published, typically incorporating only a few classically cited pain behaviors that, in many cases, are specific to a particular body system, anatomic location, or disease condition. A consistent challenge in using these rubrics in practice, and especially in research, is difficulty interpreting behaviors listed in various rubrics. The objective of this equine discomfort ethogram is to describe a relatively comprehensive catalog of behaviors associated with discomfort of various degrees and sources, with the goal of improving understanding and clarity of communication regarding equine discomfort and pain. An inventory of discomfort-related behaviors observed in horses has been compiled over 35 years of equine behavior research and clinical consulting to medical and surgical services at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s equine hospital. This research and clinical work included systematic evaluation of thousands of hours of video-recordings, including many hundreds of normal, healthy horses, as well as hospitalized patients with various complaints and/or known medical, neurologic, or orthopedic conditions. Each of 73 ethogram entries is named, defined, and accompanied by a line drawing illustration. Links to online video recorded examples are provided, illustrating each behavior in one or more hospitalized equine patients. This ethogram, unambiguously describing equine discomfort behaviors, should advance welfare of horses by improving recognition of physical discomfort, whether for pain management of hospitalized horses or in routine husbandry. View Full-Text
Keywords: behavior; horse; welfare; pain behavior; horse; welfare; pain
MDPI and ACS Style

Torcivia, C.; McDonnell, S. Equine Discomfort Ethogram. Animals 2021, 11, 580.

AMA Style

Torcivia C, McDonnell S. Equine Discomfort Ethogram. Animals. 2021; 11(2):580.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Torcivia, Catherine, and Sue McDonnell. 2021. "Equine Discomfort Ethogram" Animals 11, no. 2: 580.

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