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How Much Pain Do We Put Them Through?

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  • How Much Pain Do We Put Them Through?

    When we ride?
    I think about sometimes the random pains that I feel as a human. Pains such as headaches, ear aches, random shooting pains from different parts of the body, sometimes I get what feels like a pinched nerve in my hip, etc. These things generally hurt for only a few seconds to maybe a day, and only happen very rarely or occasionally and I have nothing actually wrong with me. I am a pretty healthy human being (which I am super happy for)
    But it makes me think, I would imagine that other animals, including horses, could have these same random pains that aren't actually a symptom of anything, they are just that, random pains. It makes me think of how much discomfort I might put him in if I rode him during one of those pains. Maybe when I get after him for, say, not bending around my left leg, he's not doing it cause he has a random pain.
    I imagine most of my rides there is no such pain as, like with me, it would probably be a very rare occurrence. However I would think I have ridden him at least a few times where he has had random pains, and maybe I have gotten after him for something that actually hurts.
    Anyone else ever think of this? I mean, I don't think there's anyway to tell when it's actually a random pain thing or just a disobedience or schooling issue as they aren't anything dramatic like rears or bucks as my horses have never have had issues with rearing or bucking.
    I'm having a hard time trying to explain this haha. Do you think horses get random pains like we do?

  • #2
    I understand what you are saying, and while I haven't ever thought of that, I could see it.

    The thing that I always find mind boggling is the people who don't seem to get that working horses are athletes, and being athletes their muscles will get sore and their bodies do get tired. That's part of both getting stronger and using your body! It's not BAD that your horse is a little muscle sore. Doesn't mean you should ignore it (I take Advil when I get sore or use a heating pad, or, if I'm really lucky, get a massage, so why shouldn't my horse benefit from the same care...if not more?), but it doesn't necessarily mean there is a big underlying problem, that something doesn't fit, or that they aren't capable of the work. It just means their muscles need to get stronger and their bodies need to get fitter!


    • #3
      I think horses are designed to move and they are more comfortable when they are fit and trained to do the job we ask them to do (with proper fitting saddles, etc.) Getting them fit and trained might involve a little muscle soreness, etc. which is similar to us training for a new sport. It also depends if they are in pain because they are injured (which is different) and we are riding them when they should be healing. As for my oldie, she has arthritis and definitely benefits from regular work. I'm sure she starts out feeling a little stiff but once she gets warmed up, she's springing around at the trot. She is a horse that likes to move and I think she "soldiers" through her little aches and pains because she does feel better once the joints get moving a bit. Now, to help her out--she does get Adequan and yearly hock injections, but she looks fantastic for her age.


      • #4
        My theory is that horses let you know when they are feeling pain and let us know through "bad behavior" or through outward signs like not moving correctly or even outright lameness.

        It is our job as owners to be aware of what is normal for our horses and what is not!
        "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


        • #5
          I can tell you as someone who runs a lot-- I almost always feel better during/ after I run than before. My "deal" with myself is that I HAVE to do ten minutes, and if I am still really miserable after that I will turn around and go home. I pretty much always end up keeping going unless the weather is truly crazy.

          I don't think that means you should ride your horse until it's exhausted every day, but if it appears to be fit and sound and happy and you're following a reasonable schedule that includes alternating things like hard workouts and going for nice long walks and the occasional day off, I wouldn't feel guilty. Most people and animals would benefit from that kind of forced exercise.

          It's also possible that a certain amount of the random pain people feel is mental (caused by stress) and that well-cared for horses might not suffer this as much since they tend not to worry about long-term stuff.


          • #6
            of course they may have aches and pains etc. but our job as the excellent riders we want to be is to ride them to wellness and physical strength.

            the better the rider you are the less chance of doing harm.

            so if you are worried about hurting your horse take as many lessons as possible and learn to ride in balance etc.

            in the end, horses and humans were "made" to move - and the more movement we do the better off we are. i know i always feel better once i get up and get moving.....
            Last edited by mbm; Mar. 16, 2013, 01:05 PM.


            • #7
              Yes, I have given that same notion quite a bit of thought.
              it especially irks me when people come on here (for example) saying "there is nothing wrong with my horse" - he is just being bad.
              How do we truly know?
              Last year, I got a terrible ear infection. The pain radiated to my jaw and it felt like my teeth were being pulled with pliers. Worst pain than when I broke my leg. And yes, it made me cranky But I "looked" fine.
              "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


              • #8
                I was especially worried about this when I bought my TB because he tries hard.

                What I've learned, though, is he is VERY expressive about how he feels. If he has a day off he starts getting tight and uncomfortable (despite plenty of room to move around on his own) and acts crabby. If he's feeling great in his body he has a cheerful, playful demeanor on the ground. Sometimes this means he's a pain in the neck because he wants to play rather than behave - but it's all done with ears forward and bright eyes. As humans, we would interpret that as happy. The more good work he's doing under saddle, the more "happy" his behavior. At the same time, he's building strength so I expect muscle soreness. Some days my very enthusiastic and willing horse isn't so enthusiastic or willing - so I take it easier on him. If he's not in a mood to work and acting stiff, in his case it really is that his body doesn't feel great; but luckily he will have already warned me of this on the ground by acting dull and crabby. Those are the days I ask more of myself and let him have an easier ride. He gets regular massage, too, and if needed chiropractic. But by paying attention I know very clearly how his body feels and if it's needed or not.
                If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                • #9
                  PAIN is not the same thing as SUFFERING. Like us, I would imagine horses are perfectly capable of coping with reasonable amounts of pain and carrying on. Unlike us, I very much doubt they dwell on it or make it into an emotional state.

                  We have to do the best we can by those that depend on us, human and animal alike. That is not to say that we should be thinking along the lines of providing every loved one in our life an existence free of pain, stress, or hardship. Not only is it unrealistic, but it implies (in the case of humans only) a lack of opportunity for growth and maturity.

                  So yes, I think it's perfectly plausible to think that any creature with the ability to feel pain will have random ones from time to time. I also think it's perfectly plausible to think that most of them don't dwell on it much.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    I think that is a good question, but for those that live and work with animals, it is a given that you are continuously attuned to a high level to those in your care.

                    Horses do tell us when they are uncomfortable, we just need to be aware of it, see what is going on and proceed accordingly.

                    If a horse was ridden hard one day and is somewhat sore the next day or two, you warm it up extra carefully, assess what you have and ease up or keep on working if it is part of the process.

                    With performance horses in training and competing, you also check legs several times a day and watch how they move and eat and drink and just get a very close idea of how they are feeling and why all during the day.

                    At the track, some grooms were very sought after because they could tell you more about each horse in their care than the trainer, rider or vet could ever see and you could train proactively following what the groom noticed.
                    Those were called "leg men", but it was way more than just about the legs.


                    • #11
                      If you really know your horse you will notice the subtle changes. Horses do not lie...but the trick is interpreting their behaviour - is it my training, or is it over-training without a chance for small injuries to heal themselves, or what?

                      A horse that never stops at a fence and then starts to stop, may be developing navicular, or he may be getting a jab with a spur, or bit, etc.
                      They never forget an experience, either. Most horses are not 'bad' but do learn to get away with things if it benefits them.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                      • #12
                        Good Horses

                        I have always believed that when a horse who is good and cooperative suddenly starts refusing to work, there is pain involved. I'm not talking about the few horses who just enjoy arguing (I know a few of those!). But when a horse has been consistent acts grumpy, I think there is a physical reason. It is the reason I got into the profession I'm in. There are so many little things, even spooking, which can be caused by discomfort or pain.

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                        • #13
                          I know that my main mare, Jet, is incredibly stoic. I tried her in Boa boots for one ride, long ago, to see if they fit. I checked after a couple of miles, and she looked great. At the end of our short ride (6 miles at most) she had bloody spots rubbed, and she gave no sign at all that she was hurting. That has made me much more careful, but I'm not sure she gives any signs of anything less than severe pain. My vet said examining her is such a pain - she's perfectly behaved, but she just doesn't emote.


                          • #14
                            While they may not "dwell" on it, they will try to avoid it and will compensate by shifting weight to a different area of their body to help alleviate pain somewhere else, or react by bucking, rearing, etc in extreme cases. They might become bothered leg yielding, might favor a certain lead at the canter, refuse to go forward, toss their head and a myriad of other "avoidance" that are too often attributed to the horse"just being bad all of a sudden."
                            And yes, a small percentage of horses do have issues that are more mental or emotional than physical.
                            And then there are the stoic ones that will only exhibit very subtle signs of discomfort even when in significant pain.
                            "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                            • #15
                              I do think they probably do, but I suspect they do less than humans, mostly because a lot of us tend to take better care of our horses than ourselves :-). You don't see a lot of them sitting behind a desk for 9 hours a day, or eating McDonalds!

                              I always think when I have an occasional blah ride, where my horse isn't bad or anything but just isn't his usual self, that who knows - I'm sure they have headaches and cranky days just like us.