Q

COVER DIS­COM­FORT I have an in­ter­est­ing prob­lem for your ex­perts! When I have a cover on my pony, he acts as though he is very un­com­fort­able, and doesn’t walk straight. If he walks un­der a tree, or next to a gate for in­stance, he does ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble t

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Vet Dave replies:

Although there is ab­so­lutely no data on this sub­ject with re­gards to horses, this clin­i­cal pic­ture sounds re­mark­ably like some of the chil­dren that my part­ner treats in her oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy prac­tice. These chil­dren will present of­ten only want­ing to wear one set of clothes, and would rather go naked than wear a dif­fer­ent out­fit – the one set be­ing seen as safe and not evok­ing any un­de­sir­able stim­uli. They are hy­per­sen­si­tive to touch and what a neu­rotypic per­son would con­sider as light pres­sure, these in­di­vid­u­als find un­com­fort­able and some­times even painful – so much so that it can evoke a fight or flight re­sponse.

In essence, the re­cep­tors in their skin are over in­ter­pret­ing the sig­nals they are re­ceiv­ing.

As with many of these neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions there is a slid­ing scale on which an in­di­vid­ual can be, rather than just an on or off type con­di­tion.

The plus side is that treat­ment of these in­di­vid­u­als is rel­a­tively sim­ple and cheap, though re­quir­ing a reg­u­lar and con­sis­tent time in­put from the carer into a daily rou­tine. This in­volves reg­u­lar (daily and some­times mul­ti­ple times a day) episodes of heavy work and reg­u­lar light brush­ing of the skin to de­sen­si­tise the re­cep­tors to touch.

For a horse, I would ad­vise reg­u­lar groom­ing ses­sions start­ing with a light brush­ing and work­ing your way up through the ses­sion to firmer brush­ing to

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