BRAIN OR PAIN? - Listen to your horse by Sue Palmer

HHH MASTER_LOGO_PORT204229_smallBrain or Pain?
By Sue Palmer, Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist ACPAT Cat A, BHSAI and Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Associate
 sue palmer
The only way your horse can 'speak' to you is through his behaviour.  That's why it's so important for us to do our best to 'listen' by trying to understand that behaviour and respond accordingly.
Last year I visited a client who thankfully was doing her best to listen to her very handsome, well mannered coloured show cob.  He was pleasant to handle, apart from occasionally tugging her towards some particularly delicious looking grass, and he was the picture of health, winning in the show ring in hand.  In his ridden work he was forward going in walk, with his ears pricked and looking for all the world as though he loved his job.  But ask for trot, and his ears went back, his tail swished, and he kind of hopped along as though he couldn't decide if he wanted to halt, trot or canter.  Physio improved his way of going, but for a limited time only.  Was this a brain (behavioural) or pain (physical) problem?
So many owners would have simply kicked harder, and tried to insist that he work more willingly.  Thankfully his owner took him to the vets for further investigation.  He was diagnosed with kissing spine, operated on, and just a few months later is winning in the show ring in ridden classes as well as in hand. Take a moment to imagine the pain that horse might have been enduring, and the relief he might have felt when the issue was addressed.
Responsible ownership is not only about ensuring that your horse is well fed and well loved.  It's about trying to understand his needs, physical and emotional, and meeting them as best you can.
Sue Palmer
Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist and Equine Behavioural Consultant
Tel: 07976 413488 Web:
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Knowing that a horse is physically in good health is essential before working with any behavioural issues, and I fully support Sue in her mission to increase awareness of this.   
Monty Roberts
Sue's in-depth knowledge of both Equine Behavioural work and Physiotherapy can only be beneficial for the horses and handlers that she works with.