A concentration of equine vets

test in progress

The Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies held a study on pain behaviour in ridden horses at World Horse Welfare‘s Norfolk Headquarters.

Riders, owners and their horses, and professional practitioners volunteered their time to support this vital study which has amazing implications to improve horse welfare in the future.

The smooth running programme saw horses first assessed by  ACPAT physiotherapist  Jo Spear for back palpation and then  SMS Saddle Fitter Liz Suddaby checked the fit, placement, balance and suitability of saddles, before a 15 minute ridden warm-up leading up to the 8 min dressage test.

saddle fit check
physio assessment

The horses were scored by the team of equine vets for the presence of 24 behaviours which may reflect pain.  The tests were filmed by Saddle Research Trust director, Dr Anne Bondi so that comparison between real-time behaviour assessments and video analysis can be made by Dr Sue Dyson, and so that Dr Anne Bondi can score rider skill level.

The eleven equine vets, who assessed the behaviour, led by AHT’s Dr Sue Dyson said that it was one of the best days of continual professional development that they had ever had and that they would change their procedures for both pre-purchase examinations and investigations of either lameness or poor performance in the future.


All the equine guinea pigs and volunteers benefitted from the calm, therapeutic atmosphere and peaceful, immaculate surroundings which were a real credit to all who work at WHW HQ.

The feedback from the riders and owners was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the day, found it very interesting and welcomed the feedback on their horse from the professional practitioners who scored them.

Dr Sue Dyson, who developed this study said:  “It was somewhat disappointing and disturbing that there was such a high proportion of lame horses, but it did serve to demonstrate the very clear behavioural differences between the lame and non-lame horses.”

An overview of this study will be presented at the Saddle Research Trust conference in December.


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