Brain, pain or training

Does pain related behaviour become a habit when the pain has gone?

In our Horse and Hound recommended book ‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’, there is this sentence by guest contributor, scientist and author David Marlin: “Domesticated horses clearly exhibit many behaviours during their management that suggest that they are experiencing pain, or that they have previously experienced pain associated with a particular situation and are anticipating the onset of pain.” He also says “…what one person or horse experiences as not being painful may be moderately painful or even severely painful or unbearable to another. The emotional component of pain also indicates that the response to a painful stimulus can be influenced by previous experience. If a horse has experienced repeated pain in response to say being mounted, his perception of pain may be significantly greater than that of a horse who has not previously experienced pain during mounting.”
Often a simple piece of training will remove any residual behaviour after the pain has gone, but remember that the horse can only communicate his pain or discomfort through his behaviour. So if your saddle was too tight and you get the saddler out, and get a new saddle but your horse is still putting his ears back what conclusion should you draw?
The chances are he is still in pain, so make sure you get an ACPAT chartered physio out to look at your horse. If you have had his back treated and you are confident that he is not in pain but he is still putting his ears back, then you could try some simple training techniques to change his response.
To learn more about the relationship between brain, pain and training take a look at our book and DVD “Understanding Horse Performance, Brain, Pain or Training” by Sue Palmer

Why massage is so good?

By Lizzie Hopkinson

We all know that massage is good for us, and for our horses too. We enjoy it, we feel looser, more relaxed, more supple afterwards. In a perfect world many of us would love to have a massage every day. But while we probably can’t manage to achieve that, we can try and give our horses a basic, simple and quick massage everyday. It is possible to build a period of massage into your horse time without too much effort.

In the olden days, grooms used to spend hours strapping their horses. This time they spent was amazingly beneficial for the horses. The grooms would know every inch of their horses and be attuned to any changes long before that change might have translated into a problem. In our fast paced modern life that is simply outside the realms of most peoples’ lives, however using a few simple massage techniques can give us, and our horses, some of the benefits of hours of strapping without the time expenditure.

Regular massage prevents the build-up of tension in the muscles, encouraging the muscles to relax. This means that over time the horse has less chance of becoming tighter on one side than the other, which can lead to asymmetry and in the long term can lead to further problems.

Just as massage has a beneficial effect on our mental state, so to do our horses find massage relaxing. Watch a horse being massaged and you will see in the movement of the muzzle and the ears that horses find massage deeply relaxing. Just like us, horses will find themselves more resilient in the face of stress if they are starting from a point of relaxation not stress.

Massage is surprisingly easy to learn to do, why not take a look at our “Horse Massage for Horse Owners” bundle deal to get you started?

And finally, massage is a lovely way to spend time bonding with your horse.