Think about yourself: ever notice
how a superficial cut on your
arm doesn’t hurt as much as a
cut near your nostril or lip? This
is somewhat due to the thickness
of the skin at various locations.
The skin is very thick along a
horse’s crest, which is held up
by the large nuchal ligament.
Compare this to your own scalp,
which has very thin skin. It hurts
when you pluck a gray hair,
right? It’s very likely that pain is
dulled in a horse’s crest region
due to the thickness of the skin
If mane pulling does cause a subjectively dull sensation, then it’s no surprise
the variety of responses we see from horses. Most every barn has a horse or two
that abhors mane pulling, while many others have no problem with it regardless
of what technique is used.
Why the difference? Here’s where that individual variation comes into play.
Just like humans, some horses are sensitive to any painful stimulus no matter
how small. Others? Stoic as can be.
One frequently recycled tip for pulling manes is to do it after exercise, when
the horse is hot and the pores are
open. This is said to make the process
less onerous for the horse. While the
pores may indeed be open, this in
and of itself does not affect the pain
of the procedure—pain receptors are
independent of the pores in the skin.
However, when a horse is hot, his
skin is more relaxed and elastic and
less resistant to manipulation. Think
about your own beauty regimen:
isn’t it easier to pluck eyebrows
after a warm shower? This is due to
the increased pliability of the skin,
which indirectly influences pain
There’s still a lot to be learned
about how horses perceive and experience pain, and how researchers and
veterinarians can objectively measure
and monitor a horse’s pain response.
| Myth 3: Shaving your
horse’s whiskers is cruel. |
There’s still a lot to
be learned about
how horses perceive
and experience pain,
and how researchers
and veterinarians can
and monitor a horse’s