Free mobile-friendly field guide to help identify ridden horses in pain

The sixth behavior listed in the field guide. The guide includes illustrations by artist Melissa Cho.

A free mobile-friendly illustrated field guide detailing the 24 behaviors of ridden horses in pain is now available for download.

The Field Guide is hailed as a handy tool to complement the popular documentary The 24 Behaviors of the Ridden Horse in Pain: Shifting the Paradigm of How We See Lameness.

The film, produced by Padma Video in collaboration with the non-profit project Train with Trust and world-renowned equine orthopedic expert Dr. Sue Dyson is based on her groundbreaking research into the signs of pain in ridden horses.

Since its release in late 2022, it has been viewed more than 270,000 times on YouTube.

The Field Guide to the 24 Ridden Horse Pain Behaviors is an illustrated and annotated catalog of the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram developed by Dyson and her colleagues in a six-phase study that spanned three years and involved more than 400 horses .

These include opening the mouth with separation of the teeth for at least 10 seconds, repeatedly tilting the head, sustained wagging of the tail, staring intensely for five or more seconds, startling, humping, rearing, pinching the tail, repeatedly exposing the tongue, and laying back your ears for more than five seconds.

Scientific studies have shown that a score of 8 or more behaviors on the ethogram is reliably associated with pain in the horse being ridden and can predict lameness before the condition worsens into more obvious signs of unhealthiness.

Most of these behaviors are at least 10 times more common in lame horses than in non-lame horses.

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The Field Guide was created by the Train with Trust Project as a free downloadable PDF for easy sharing and mobile use.

A full color poster edition featuring the same illustrations of the 24 behaviors by artist Melissa Cho (suitable for display in barns, veterinary clinics, etc.) is also available for online purchase worldwide in two sizes.

All proceeds from poster sales will be used towards future efforts of the Train with Trust project, which provides accessible equine welfare and behavioral education.

“The film takes the science behind Dr. Dyson’s research and makes it understandable,” says Megan Phillips, President of the Train with Trust Project.

“The Field Guide to the 24 Behaviors will help anyone who is moved and inspired by the film’s message, the same tool that Dr. Dyson used to take the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram and apply it practically to identify and address signs of pain in their own horses.”

As Dyson suggests in the film, horse owners are often the first to spot early signs of problems in their own horse, before they are obvious to a trainer or veterinarian.

Access to the field guide provides people with the vocabulary they need to describe the behavioral changes they notice when working with a team of professionals who can help them find answers. Likewise, it can help trainers and vets communicate with their clients about subtle issues that may be more obvious to their trained eye.

“In recent years, the horse industry has made a noticeable move away from the traditional ‘ride through’ approach that normalizes the behavior associated with poor performance,” said Jody Ambrose, a former Grand Prix dressage competitor and co-founder of the Train With Trust project.

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“With the support of many vets, trainers and even judges, riders are increasingly concerned about our societal operating license and the responsibility we have as stewards to protect the welfare of horses.

“Once people know it’s possible to systematically identify pain-related behaviors in a horse that doesn’t show obvious lameness, they want to learn how to do it. Providing this information as an accessible, shareable tool empowers amateurs and professionals alike to help the horses in their care.”

To download The Field Guide to the 24 Behaviors for free or to buy posters, go to or

The 24 Behaviors of the Ridden Horse in Pain: Shifting the Paradigm of How We See Lameness film streams for free on YouTube and major smart TV platforms including Amazon Fire, AppleTV, Roku and Samsung LG via the EQUUS Television Network .

Earlier Horsetalk report on the documentary

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