I wonder if any animal has been expected to cope with pain as often as the horse under the guise of being managed?
Is it because of the differences in terminology between humans, pets and equines that has made ignoring pain in horses easier?
Sometimes, it is as if people do not realize “mostly sound” means there is pain present unless the issue is mechanical (which is not usually the case). A bit lame generally doesn’t mean the horse is fine but something just isn’t working quite right, it means the horse hurts.
I have broken my ankle several times over the years. I have torn tendons and ligaments many times on that side, too. It actually hurts on and off. When it hurts very bad, I cannot walk without a noticeable limp When it is tolerable pain, I do not limp. I am aware it isn’t comfortable, but I go on about my business. This is true of how most people deal with pain.
Sometimes I purchase a new pair of shoes, and I end up out in the public unable to change footwear, but I’m uncomfortable in them. No one would know unless I mentioned it, but you know, I’m just not comfortable. If I show pain, it is because I have no choice . . .it is because it is at a higher level.
We have no reason to believe it is different in horses. I actually feel certain it is quite the same.
Horses do not show every minor pain they feel. Sometimes before we see it, it actually comes out (much like in people) in behavioral changes. Showing pain, like a limp, goes against biology and self preservation if the horse, a prey animal, can help it. A horse shows what he cannot hide, and that means even minor lameness you can see is very hard on the horse. Horses will, as a protective mechanism, often act cheerful even when in pain. Heck, I know people with severe illness that will, too.
I see horses forced to work unsound all of the time. It is as if by using the term “unsound” rather than “in pain,” it makes folks feel better. I see horses walk around pastures not being ridden but clearly not pain-free, and while not and again, it is mechanical (meaning something just doesn’t work right anymore), that is not usually the case.
I frequently see rescues and owners allow horses to limp, hobble and just move clearly “OFF” all of the time, and they say they are managing pain. If you’re managing something, you need to admit. . .it means there is pain and all of the pain, if the horse still doesn’t move great, isn’t being taken away.
Horses are naturally heavy, fast moving and far roaming animals. Injuries that prevent this are not only physically unkind, but they are often mentally difficult for them, as well.
A horse does not need to literally be unable to stand, get himself up or hobbling to where a school child can see the problem to be living with a great deal of pain.
Just some things to ponder, friends.