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25 November,2017

Top vet identifies ‘naughty’ behaviours that might show your horse is lame

A project to develop a guide to help owners, trainers and vets identify lameness through a horse’s behaviour and facial expressions have successfully completed its third stage.

Led by Sue Dyson, head of clinical orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust (AHT), the first and second stages of the study have already successfully demonstrated that a horse’s facial expressions are a reliable indicator of pain.

The project’s third stage looked at which behaviours could be consistently linked to lameness – with a view to creating a method for assessing a horse as a whole.

In all, 24 behavioural markers were identified, including head tossing, unwillingness to go forwards, hurrying, toe dragging, crookedness, changing gaits spontaneously and stumbling.

The presence of eight or more of these markers was found to be a likely indicator of musculoskeletal pain. Lame horses displayed an average of nine of these behaviours, while non-lame horses averaged just two.

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