The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

4.12.2021 Fit For Welfare

Fit For Welfare: An International Conference from The Society Of Master Saddlers

On 6th November 2021, I was delighted to be part of the innovative virtual event, ‘Fit For Welfare’, hosted by the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS). Today I’m sharing with you some of my learning from the day.

In a twist that I haven’t seen at other online conferences, the day began with an address from HRH The Princess Royal. To me, this was a reminder of just how important tack is in terms of the welfare of the horse.

Sue Palmer MCSP, ACPAT and RAMP Registered Chartered Physiotherapist

In my presentation, I shared five exercises that you can do with your own horse to help recognise pain and discomfort. These were:

  1. Watch him in walk and trot in a straight line
  2. Feel through his back for tightness and soreness
  3. Stroke inside his ear to check for hypersensitivity
  4. Watch his movement on a tight turn in walk in each direction
  5. Baited stretches – can he bend equally in each direction ?

I shared some information on the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE), which incidentally will feature strongly in the book I’m currently working on (sign up to my newsletter at to keep up to date with that one!). The RHpE is effectively a list of 24 behaviours in the ridden horse. The evidence suggests that if 8 or more of these behaviours are seen, then it’s likely that the horse has musculoskeletal pain or discomfort that is affecting his performance and behaviour. This warrants veterinary investigation. The research related to the RHpE is ongoing, and I’m looking forward to sharing more updates with you over time.

Take home message: You can learn to recognise pain or discomfort in your horse.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion