As an animal that evolved on grasslands where they were commonly preyed upon by carnivorous predators such as wolves, horses are hard-wired to hide obvious signs of pain -- and this makes it difficult for horse owners to know that it's time to seek the services of a skilled veterinarian. However, horses often send subtle signals that things aren't as they should be. Following are three possible indications that your horse may be experiencing pain.
Decreased Normal Activity
The first sign that many horse owners get that their horse is in pain is when they notice a decrease in normal activity on the part of the animal. For instance, your horse may stop interacting with other horses in the pasture, keeping to itself instead. It may not engage in favorite activities such as rolling in the dirt otherwise engaging in horseplay.
A horse in pain may also move stiffly and may even be reluctant to move at all. They may resist being saddled because they want to avoid going for a ride. If a horse that usually has no issues with being handled suddenly begins to shy away when you try to groom it, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian for as soon as possible.
Increased Heart Rate
A stethoscope should be a part of every equestrian's first aid cabinet -- an elevated heart rate may be the only indication that you've got that your horse is feeling pain. Your veterinarian can show you how to use the instrument as well as apprise you of what the normal heart rate should be for your particular horse's size and age. Checking your horse's heart rate on a regular basis may circumvent the progression of a wide variety of equine health issues -- an elevated heart rate frequently occurs before any outward signs become part of the picture, and as you probably know, the prognosis is generally better in conditions that are caught in the early stages.
A Change in Head Position
Horses in pain may sometimes keep their heads lowered when in the barn or pasture, and you should be particularly alert if the head is consistently lower than its knees If the horse is experiencing back pain, it may put its head higher than normal when it's being ridden.
You should always be alert to any deviations from normal on the part of your horse. Signs of pain and illness are subtle in these creatures, and it pays to pay close attention. Contact an equine hospital, like Alabama Performance Horse Services, for more help.