Many people know the structure of the horse’s skull, but some people don’t. It’s possible to unknowingly inflict discomfort and pain, sometimes causing severe physical trauma to the soft tissues and nerves that lasts the horse’s lifetime.
We can see that the solid bone on the front of the horse’s nose does not go all the way down. The bone down from where the molars start is thin and precarious. It is surrounded by cartilage carrying the many nerves from the horse’s lips and whiskers.
These nerves of touch, smell and taste enable the horse to graze safely – both the horse’s physical safety in terms of touch and relaying information about smell and taste.
Even if we prefer to play with our horse(s) at liberty, it is essential for their life in captivity that we take the time and make the effort to ensure that they are comfortable having head gear put on and taken off. And be confident with ropes and leading.
It is traumatic to see a young horse who was haltered and the halter left on until it deformed the growing skull. The pain involved is unthinkable.
There are numerous risks involved with leaving halters on. Breakaway attachments can be an option if leaving a halter on can’t be totally avoided.
The following video takes a quick look at making sure that our head gear fits well with minimum discomfort.
It is hard to overstate the sensitivity of the horse’s mouth and muzzle area. While bits cause mouth trauma (physical, mental and emotional), headgear like knotted rope halters, cross-over nosebands or regular nosebands fitted too low also cause discomfort and pain.
It pays to remember that a horse with his mouth tied shut can’t ‘blow out’ freely, or cough to clear his trachea. Rope halters with knots need to be treated with gentle hands. Side-pull halters or bridles pull the inside of the cheek against the horse’s teeth, so must also be used with gentle hands. We all know what an ulcer inside our mouth feels like.
It is the nature of horses to suffer silently. Perhaps if they squealed like pigs it would be easier for us to refine our way of being with horses.