top of page

The Ridden Horse Pain Ethnogram

The Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram (RHpE), otherwise known as the Ridden Horse Performance Checklist, comprises 24 behaviours, the majority of which are at least 10 times more likely to be seen in a lame horse compared with a non-lame horse.


The presence of eight or more of the behaviours is highly likely to signify the presence of musculoskeletal pain. However, each individual behaviour may have a variety of causes.

  • Before applying the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram the horse’s eyes should be assessed. Some horses have a small iris in on or both eyes so the sclera (the whole of the eye) is visible at rest. The behaviour ‘repeated exposure of the sclera’ cannot be applied to such an eye.

  • If the canons of the bit are too wide for the horse’s mouth it is difficult to apply the behaviour ‘bit pulled through to one side of the horse’s mouth’.

  • If the arena in which a horse is worked is deep or a horse is worked in long grass all horses may appear to have a hindlimb toe drag, so the behaviour ‘repeated bilateral hindlimb toe drag’ cannot be applied.


While applying the Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram the horse should be assessed from the side, from behind and from the front. 


Each horse should be assessed for approximately 10 minutes, after a period of warm up, performing the horse’s full repertoire of movements. 

A purpose designed dressage type-test has been designed to be used as a work pattern which is highly suitable for horses working up to novice level dressage.


The RHpE (RHPC) can be applied live, in real-time or to video footage. For accurate interpretation video recordings should be assessed on a screen of adequate size (a laptop computer or PC, not a mobile phone). 

I can assess high quality video footage and advise you accordingly.
Guidelines are available for the best way to acquire good video footage.

Follow this link for a free illustrated Field Guide to the 24 Behaviors of the Ridden Horse in Pain released as a free, mobile-friendly download App, produced in association with the Train With Trust Project.

bottom of page