Horses’ expressions give clues to state of mind and health

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

Horses’ expressions, facial changes or tightening can be a first indication that something is off.
“Mostly I look at their eyes and you can see tenseness or stress or concern, sometimes by the whites of their eyes or wideness and opening of lids,” said Dr. Stephanie Stevens, DVM at Cheyenne River Animal Hospital in Edgemont, South Dakota. “Another thing I look at is the mouth and lips and the tightness there. Sometimes the flaring of nostrils can be obvious breathing or respiratory symptoms, but other times can be an indication of stress and pain.”
“The average person is probably not going to pick up on facial changes that horses go though. Sometimes the way their eyes look would be an indication,” said Joe B. Stricklin, DVM in Greeley, Colorado. “Horses have what I would consider a worried look. You can see some depressed or anxious looks through their eyes to indicate something going on, whether its pain or not, you can’t always tell.”

Though there is evidence of changes in horses’ expressions, using them as an indication for pain is not for everyone.
“I look at horse’s faces not necessarily for pain, but definitely if they’re irritated or unsure and hesitant, more or less if I can approach them,” said Erica Koller, DVM at Cheyenne River Animal Hospital. “They probably do show pain, but it’s not my tell-tale sign.”
Koller said she measures heart rate for a pain response.
As an equine chiropractor, Stevens uses signals from the horse to determine specific areas of pain.

Read the rest of the article, published in the 2017 Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo® SDQHA Horse Sale & Hutchinson Stallion Row Catalog, at Tri-State Livestock News.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care

About Savanna Simmons

I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...

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