A horse's mouth

Half an inch can make a big difference: between tension and relaxation, between anger and wellbeing, between confusion and clearness. I am talking about this half inch in length of my project horse‘s lower lip
He is a rather calm horse and not too expressive in his communication. Meaning no big gestures, no sudden changes. So I have to look closely if I want to know where he is at. And his nose and muzzle are tell-tale signs
For one the nostrils show how the horse breathes, deeply or rather shallowly, and in which rhythm. Also interesting is a look at the masticatory muscles and the area that leads to the nostrils. 
If my project horse is indignant, he‘ll frill the skin and it changes from smooth and soft to wrinkles. The masticatory muscles then are tight and clenched. The lower lip is pressed against the upper lip and half an inch shorter (the half inch I referred to above). His eyes are hard and so are his ears. But of course, that can change. Then, eyes and ears become soft, his jaw is flexible again and he will lick and chew. The lips are touching without being pressed together. Some horse‘s lower lip will be so relaxed it slobbers - not his though. 


Flared nostrils, thight nose - both can be an indicator
for pain. Picture: Nadja

Last year, my project horse was diagnosed with EOTRH. It's a dental disease that is very painful. I knew there was something wrong with him because I had a hard time bridling him (which led to my riding bitless as I refused to fight with him over taking the bit). But: In retrospect if I had been more aware of his mouth and nostrils, I would have noticed sooner that he was in pain. His nostrils were flared all the time. It wasn't so much about tight muscles but about these wide open nostrils. Plus: He had stopped to touch and investigate things with his nose. As soon as he was out of pain he put his nose on things again. That's when I noticed that he hadn't all the time before. So it is important to have a close eye on our horse's behavior and its changes.

Here you can find some interesting illustration about discerning the pain face in a horse. 




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