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Change in Behavior

16 August 2011 No Comment

Change in Behavior
Laura Phelps-Bell has over 25 years experience in the equine industry as a trainer and instructor. Her background includes successfully competing in dressage, on the “A” Open circuit in hunter/jumpers, showing in many western events, management of several large training/boarding facilities and teaching equine management courses at the college level. More about Laura

From: Krystal

I have a question. I was riding today and I could tell my horse was irritated or something. He kept swishing his tail, switching his weight from side to side, tossing his head. I can’t figure it out I know I am not too big for him, does age make any difference? Please help me here I am clueless.


Hi Krystal, My first thought when something changes dramatically in a way a horse behaves from one day to the next is that something physical is going on. Dramatic changes in behavior are usually not a training problem, they are almost always having to do with the horse having pain or discomfort in some area of the body. You don’t say in your question how old your horse is, but a good starting point is to have your horses teeth looked at by a competent veterinarian or equine dentist. Younger horses many times need to have wolf teeth extracted and adult horses can have sharp points, ramps, waves, uneven bite, missing teeth or any number of dental issues that could cause lacerations or ulcers in a horses cheeks or on their tongue.

If your horses behavior seemed to change radically from one day to the next and there hasn’t been a change in your tack and equipment, either from it being new tack or having been re-adjusted, your horse might have injured himself in his stall or corral by getting “cast” against a wall or fence. A horse can very easily wrench their muscles if they get caught in a bad position in their living area and in a struggle to get up, they can really pull things pretty badly with no outward signs. Their behavior speaks volumes though; tail swishing, grinding teeth, head tossing, etc, are all signs of irritation, discomfort or out-and-out pain.

As I said earlier, if your horse is normally a good riding horse with none of the behavior that you wrote about, I would definitely encourage you to have him looked at by a veterinarian well versed in equine dentistry and also an equine chiropractor. Dental problems and also a horse in pain from wrenched muscles or being out of alignment will many times demonstrate the behavior that you wrote about.

Laura Phelps-Bell

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