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The horse grimace scale: How to spot dental discomfort by a horse’s face *H&H Plus*

Studies suggest that dental discomfort may be written all over a horse’s face – if you know what to look for

Animal behaviourists have come to appreciate that horses can display a range of subtle facial expressions that indicate mood and pain. Vets routinely assess pain in conditions such as colic or laminitis by reference to pulse rate, sweating, posture or restlessness, but even low-grade discomfort can affect the expression on a horse’s face.

A team at the veterinary school in Utrecht developed a system called the equine Utrecht University scale for the facial expression of pain (EQUUS-FAP), which showed how horses with colic can be scored, while behavioural scientists at the universities of Portsmouth and Brighton developed the equine facial action coding system (EquiFACS) to map and catalogue the complete range of possible facial expressions.