Animal Health Trust vet champions ridden horse welfare with video series

News about horses, News for vets,

The AHT’s Dr Sue Dyson is playing a leading role in a series of new educational videos aimed at helping riders, owners, trainers and vets to recognise musculoskeletal pain and subtle lameness sooner. Dr Dyson, our Head of Clinical Orthopaedics, believes that the videos are a valuable learning tool to help improve the welfare and performance of the ridden horse.

Recognising Subtle Lameness is a four-part video series that is being rolled out over a couple of months. The series has been produced by the US’s popular evidence-based online educational resource Equitopia, in conjunction with Padma Video. It has enabled Dr Dyson to bring to life the key findings of her studies to help to engage her target audience – anyone who is involved with horses.

The videos give the viewer clear, practical guidance on how to pinpoint the notoriously elusive common culprit for poor performance and behavioural issues: pain.  In addition to focussing on Dr Dyson and her work, the series harnesses the knowledge of renowned equestrian experts including equine veterinary behavioural medicine specialist Jeannine Berger, Saddle Research Trust founder, Anne Bondi; Concordia Connection founder, Milly Shand; equine veterinary surgeon and horse training and rehabilitation specialist Karin Liebbrandt; and eventing coach, author and bridle designer William Micklem. Together they deliver a crisp, concise perspective on the many variable factors associated with pain-induced lameness including primary musculoskeletal pain, tack induced pain or rider induced pain.

  • Video 1 explains the familiar indicators of lameness before revealing pain’s less obvious signs such as facial expressions and behaviour.
  • Video 2 outlines a protocol for establishing the main sources of underlying pain associated with subtle or obvious lameness in horses.
  • Video 3 shows how to recognise the facial expressions of a horse in pain.
  • Video 4 covers aspects of the rehabilitation of a lame horse.
Video 1 explains the familiar indicators of lameness before revealing pain’s less obvious signs such as facial expressions and behaviour. 
Video 2 outlines a protocol for establishing the main sources of underlying pain associated with subtle or obvious lameness in horses. 
Video 3 shows how to recognise the facial expressions of a horse in pain. 
Video 4 covers aspects of the rehabilitation of a lame horse.

As a rider to top national level in both show jumping and eventing, as a trainer and as an equine orthopaedic specialist Dr Dyson has, over many years, repeatedly observed behavioural adaptations to lameness. Such adaptations were seen in ridden horses and improved, but were not necessarily completely abolished, by the resolution of lameness by diagnostic analgesia. These experiences were the inspiration for her substantial work on the behavioural signs of pain, which includes an ethogram for facial expressions in ridden horses as a first step toward assessing pain other than through obvious gait changes.

Dr Dyson said: “Quite simply, a pain-free horse will perform so much better. These videos should help riders, owners, trainers and vets understand what the horse is actually trying to say. We owe it to them to listen.”