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The recognition of pain and learned behaviour in horses which buck

By March 16th 2021April 21st, 2021No Comments

Document type : Online pre-publication of scientific article in BEVA Equine Veterinary Education

Authors: S Dyson K. Thomson

Preview: Bucking behaviour in horses is potentially dangerous to riders. There is limited information about how bucking behaviour should be investigated by veterinarians. The objectives of this article are to define bucking behaviour, to review the literature relating to bucking and allied behaviours in horses and describe personal observations and to describe an approach to clinical investigation and management strategies. A literature review from 2000 to 2020 was performed via search engines and additional free searches. A buck is an upward leap, usually in addition to forward propulsion, when either both hindlimbs or all four limbs are off the ground with the thoracolumbosacral region raised. Bucking often occurs as a series of such leaps and different manifestations include 'pronking', 'bronking' and 'fly bucking'. Causes include excitement, exuberance, defensive behaviour associated with fear, learned behaviour through negative reinforcement or a reaction to musculoskeletal pain. Specific causes of pain include an ill-fitting saddle or girth, thoracolumbar pain, girth region pain, sternal or rib injury, neuropathic pain, sacroiliac joint region pain, referred pain and primary hindlimb lameness. Any of these may be compounded by a rider who is fearful, poorly balanced or crooked. Determination of the underlying cause requires a comprehensive clinical assessment, including assessment of saddle fit for horse and rider and suitability of the horse-rider combination. In some horses, identification of a primary source of pain allows targeted treatment and resolution of pain, but careful retraining is crucial. An understanding of learning behaviour is required for successful rehabilitation. It was concluded that identification of the cause of bucking may enable treatment of primary pain which, when combined with retraining, results in management of bucking behaviour. However, in a minority of horses, dangerous bucking behaviour cannot be reliably resolved, requiring retirement or euthanasia of the horse.

From the Equine Veterinary Education website