In humans, nerve endings are more abundant in the mouth, feet and hands. Just like we have sensitive parts on our bodies, horses do also. The most sensitive areas on horses seem to be the mouth, feet, flanks, and shoulders. We must keep these sensitive areas in mind when caring for our horses. The sensitivities of our horses play a good part in everyday maintenance and training. These areas are also one of the reasons why we must use great reserve and good judgment when applying the whip to our horses.
A horse’s mouth is more sensitive to pain rather than light pressure. It is possible for sensitivity in a horse’s mouth to be lost, which will result in a hard mouth. For this reason we should be careful when bidding and handle reins with light hands.
Since feet are one of the most sensitive areas on a horse, foot maintenance is very important.
We must be careful when applying heels to the flank of a horse. Some horses will promptly buck when heels are applied to the plank because of sensitivity in that area. We also should be careful not to apply the whip too close to the flank or directly along the ribs. This may cause the horse to move sideways.
The goal of using the whip in training is to make the learning situation constructive for the horse. Using the whip on the shoulders of a running horse will tighten its shoulder muscles. This will result in a shorter stride.
Another thing that may cause your horse pain is a saddle that does not fit. We have to remember that the backs of all horses are not the same. There are many shapes of saddles and we should do our best when fitting our horses. If your horse humps up and tries to avoid the saddle, saddling may be a bruising experience for it. Your horse may be getting hit by flapping cinches and stirrups. Try turning these items back over the seat and placing the saddle on gently, with both hands.
Some horses also suffer from skin sensitivity. Horses love to be groomed and have their backs scratched. We must select mild grooming equipment for thin-skinned horses and use shedding blades with thin teeth. Because of skin sensitivity, a horse may react to light pressure of the leg. Knowing this, we must be careful when using leg cues.
For us to properly train and care for our horses, we must be able to understand them. Horses have low tolerance for pain. They also have sensitivity to pressure and touch. Horses have a well-developed sense of touch and this is the most important sense for responding to the aids or cues of the rider. When training and caring for our horse, we have to be aware of the sensitive areas.