A friend and colleague of mine, Sue Palmer IHRA, is also a Chartered Veterinary Therapist. She has a regular bulletin called Brain or Pain which highlights the fact that many seemingly behavioural issues are actually caused by pain rather than psychology. All of the IHRAs encourage owners to consider the physical before addressing the behavioural even where there is no physical symptom of a problem. However, it isn't feasible to have a horse checked out from head to hoof by every type of practitioner using every type of test from the outset - just think what that would entail. So we start off with the more obvious (and let's face it cheaper stuff) - what I call back, tack and sack, i.e. the rider! If we change too many factors at once it's hard to determine what it was that made the difference if any. Most of us end up oscillating between two approaches, one physical, the other behavioural and then it's a question of how far do we go and how much do we spend trying to find out if there is one root cause. Even if money were no object, it isn't always easy or even possible to get to the bottom of things.
I have a great deal of respect for owners who go with their instincts, sometimes pushing vets to do more tests even when their horses are not insured and the vet is saying "it's all in the horse's mind". One client and one friend have been through this recently and in both cases their gut instinct has been vindicated. Sadly in one case the answer was kissing spine but, with medication, she may be fine and at least the owner isn't putting herself at risk whenever she gets on the horse and the horse is no longer in fear of sudden sharp pain in her back. In her case a Bute test revealed that the horse was much more comfortable and freer in her movement and play, justifying the owner's belief that it was physical.
To join the mailing list for Brain or Pain, contact Sue Palmer, IHRA www.HolisticHorseHelp.com and also see her new book Horse Massage for Horse Owners.