Facial Expression and Body Language – part 3

One question that people often ask is: How can I tell if my horse is in pain?

The signals given by a horse in pain will vary depending on the horse and the location and severity of the pain.  Any sudden, unexplainable, change of behaviour could be due to pain and so it is worth calling in the vet if you suspect that your horse is experiencing discomfort.

Some of the more obvious signs could be:

  • lameness
  • stiffness or tightness in particular areas
  • swellings
  • reluctance to move or weight bear

You might also spot what is often referred to as the ‘Pain Face’.  An example of this is shown in the right hand photograph below.  You can see the clear contrast between this and the more ‘normal’ face on the left.



Other signs that your horse is experiencing discomfort are that he might:

  • suddenly become headshy or reluctant to accept tack or take part in activities that he normally enjoys.
  • become protective of an area of his head / body, not wanting to be touched, or even approached, there.
  • become moody, withdrawn, depressed or even aggressive.
  • be having difficulty eating, maybe even starting to losing weight, possibly indicating problems with his teeth.

I’ll also mention a couple of common illnesses here that have particular pain symptoms.

  1. The first is laminitis (founder) which has a very characteristic stance.  The horse is leaning backwards to take weight off his painful front feet.



2. The second is colic.  There can be other signs of this too, but here I’ll focus on the visual indications of pain:

  • kicking up at the belly
  • rolling
  • restlessness
  • flank watching

If you would like to know more about Equine Body Language, or about care for your horse in general, I have created a series of videos which are available through my website: www.equenergy.com or by following this link: If Horses Could Talk video series

Please also feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or to book a session with me for you and your horse:

email:              robyn@equenergy.com

mobile:           07980 669303


You can read the full article here



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