Horses are generally very tolerant animals, they will often put up with an awful lot of pain or discomfort before actually ‘complaining’. Horses cannot speak, so when they do ‘complain’ they only have one way to tell us, by exhibiting various unwanted or ‘bad’ behaviours, often classed as just that, bad behaviour. If your horse exhibits any of the following, it could be down to muscular pain or discomfort.
BuckingRearingNappingBoltingRefusing to go forwardsGeneral 'laziness'Over-excitability when riddenDislikes being touched in certain areasObjections when being tacked upHead shakingFidgeting when being mountedRushing or refusing fences when jumpingLameness (when medical causes have been ruled out)
Muscular tension and discomfort can also have an effect on schooling/ridden work. If your horse has trouble with any of the following, again, it may be worth getting them assessed.
Difficulty working on a particular reinProblems striking off on correct canter leadDifficulty bending around turnsHollowing of the backProblems bringing the hind legs underDifficulty working 'on the bit'/flexing at the pollLeaning on the bit/forehandNot tracking upUneven gaitLack of staminaGeneral stiffness when working
Any of the above can come on suddenly or gradually, over time. Your horse may have been 'putting up' with something for a period of time but suddenly gets to a point when he can no longer cope with the discomfort. So even a poorly fitting saddle, for example, may not cause an immediate problem.
Occassionally, we also feel that our horses are 'just not right'. These signs are often so subtle that you can't quite put your finger on what the problem is. But it is always worth getting anything checked out, no matter how small, as a problem is more easily resolved in it's early stages.