In a recent online quiz by Petplan Equine, one of the UK’s leading specialist equine insurance providers, riders were invited to answer a number of questions designed to test their response to common situations that can occur and show to what degree they are a responsible rider.
The Petplan Equine responsible rider quiz focused on best practise in horse health and wellbeing but also included questions that related to accident prevention with the aim of increasing awareness of the importance of and what it takes to be a responsible rider.
The insurer was delighted to see that as a whole owners are a responsible lot, for the majority of the 15 questions, at least 85% chose the top-scoring answer. The one where rider opinion was evenly split involved the following dilemma:
Your usually well-behaved horse begins to nap and buck when ridden. Do you:
- As this is very out of character ask the vet to check him over assuming the seemingly naughty behaviour is because he is in some sort of discomfort (scores 2 points)
- Make sure you remember to wear spurs and carry a whip next time you ride him – he’s not going to get away with that kind of behaviour, someone could get hurt (scores 0 points)
- Check him over for any lumps, bumps or scrapes that may be making him uncomfortable and get your saddler to come out and check the fit of his saddle at some point (scores 1 point)
More than 7000 riders responded to the question with 51% opting to call the vet and 48% deciding to check for lumps and bumps and call the saddler.
With 99% of the respondents opting to seek advice from an expert, it does show that horse owners and riders are increasingly looking to identify and understand the reasons for changes to their horse’s behaviour rather than just assuming the horse is being naughty and dealing with the behaviour rather than the possible underlying cause.
However, the response highlights the familiar dilemma of when to call the vet. Petplan Equine veterinary expert, Gil Riley, explains why changes in behaviour can often be due to a veterinary problem and not just a badly fitting saddle.
“There are many reasons why a horse may suddenly start to misbehave,” says Gil, “and riders should always look for the cause before addressing the behaviour. A horse’s response to pain is to try and escape it and this can manifest itself in napping, bucking, rearing and even bolting. The pain may be caused by something as simple as a badly fitting saddle or an excessively tight girth but it could be due to something more serious such as an infected tooth, gastric ulcers, a pulled muscle, a foot condition such as navicular syndrome or a neck or back problem.”
“When a horse does start to show signs of unwillingness, it should always be carefully checked over for any clearly visible signs of injury such as a sore mouth or back. However, if the behaviour persists beyond a couple of days with no obvious cause then the vet should be consulted as it may be due to an underlying physical problem that could get worse without treatment. Your vet will let you know if a saddler, Equine dental technician, physiotherapist or another alternative treatment is required.”
Charlotte Gibbs, Senior Marketing Executive for Petplan Equine, said: “We were delighted by the response to the quiz and the answers showed that most riders have a very responsible attitude to their horses and to other riders. Petplan Equine works closely with vets all over the country to help owners and riders provide the best care for their horses and we know from our customers how important the welfare of their animals is to them. While some problems can be dealt with by asking an experienced friend for help, free veterinary advice is often available from veterinary surgeries over the phone and we would advise all riders to check with their vet if they have any concerns regarding their horse’s behaviour or health.”