Abnormal behaviour during tacking-up and mounting typical signs of stress or pain

A research team in Britain looked into horse behaviour during tacking-up and mounting delivered what the researchers described as disturbing results, associated with pain and/or stress.

“It is concluded that many of the behaviours described during tacking-up and mounting are different from those of the resting horse, and are consistent with behaviours associated with stress and/or pain.” They should not be considered normal during tacking-up, the study team said. “Owners need to be made aware that these behaviours are not normal and may be a manifestation of underlying problems.

Further education of riders, trainers and saddle fitters concerning both saddle fit and abnormal behavioural signs during tacking-up and mounting is required,” the researchers said.Turning to the clinical relevance of their findings, the study team said many of the behaviours observed were typical of those previously attributed to stereotypical behaviour, such as head tossing, tongue out, nose rubbing and licking, which are frequently stress-associated.

Some behaviours may be a reflection of pain (e.g, ears back, intense stare, tail swishing). Biting and kicking have been considered as aggressive behaviour. They said such behaviours may be exhibited in anticipation of musculoskeletal pain during ridden exercise, which may be associated with ill-fitting tack in some horses.

There was a high proportion of ill-fitting saddles and saddles which moved abnormally during ridden exercise, with the potential to contribute to pain, the authors noted. Indeed, during assessment of static saddle fit, 78.2% of saddles were identified to have the potential to compromise performance!

The study team comprised Susan Dyson, a lameness specialist and independent clinical consultant; rider and trainer Anne Bondi, who founded the Saddle Research Trust; Jenny Routh and Danica Pollard, former employees of the Animal Health Trust; and Tate Preston, Catherine McConnell and Julia Kidd, with the University of Nottingham.

Source: Article in HorseTalk, and here you’ll find the study: BEVA- the study.

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