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View Full Version : When do you say enough is enough? (long)



getonwithit
Apr. 30, 2010, 11:37 AM
I am currently working with a 9 year old OTTB who has been... difficult. She is probably the most difficult horse I have ever worked with, and I've worked with everything from rescued Arabians who are half out of their minds (to no fault of their own) to unbroke, obstinate, and sometimes crazy "Ameritrash" (title aptly borrowed from the Off Course thread) and everything in between. I have always been able to find the solution/get them going. With this mare, I have found myself making very little progress.

I am working with this mare for a board exchange deal. Mare came to the owners for very little $, having had several years off the track. Supposedly, she was insane, 450 lbs underweight, and had ulcers when they got her. They treated the ulcers, got the weight back on her, and worked with her and got her to lunge. That is what they told me in the beginning. I later find out that lunging consisted of w/t/c in a field, but she was so wild she would randomly take off and sometimes get away because they weren't strong enough to hold onto her. Great.

She was out of work for over a year when I started working with her. Supposedly, someone else (I am told a timid intermediate rider who finally stopped working with her when she became too afraid) had gotten her going for a while, but the mare had problems with bucking at the canter. Supposedly she was doing 2'6" courses just fine. A few months before I had started working with her, they had an amateur get on her and she was bucked off immediately. Amateur said the mare was insane and refused to work with her further.

Then I come along. I have taught this mare to w/t/c/halt on the lunge quietly, started riding her and got her w/t/c undersaddle, then started crossrails and other exercises I would do with a young horse. The problem is, this mare has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. One day she will go absolutely beautifully, stretching down into the bridle, totally relaxed and easy, gets her changes no problem, etc. Then the next day she will be super hot, agitated, no amount/type of exercises can calm her, and she will buck the first opportunity she gets. One day she is perfect at the canter, the next you ask for it and you get an explosion. One day she is phenomenal on the lunge, the next she is rearing, striking, and swapping directions and bolting. I taught her to go in side reins and she was very accepting. Then one day (probably a month into training?) I put them on and she decided that even though they weren't even putting pressure on her mouth, they were going to kill her and she nearly flipped herself over backwards to evade them.

This mare is gorgeous--great conformation. I have no doubt she could get registered with a WB registry. Beautiful hunter movement, 10 jump, has the scope to do whatever you want. But, her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality has me wondering if there is a screw loose somewhere. Or if she is in pain.

I recommended the owner do a physical and get her scoped to see if anything was physically wrong and maybe have a chirpractor out, but they already have a lot into this mare and aren't willing to put out anymore. They can't really afford it. So what do I do? This mare is not progressing because of the flip flopping, and I am concerned someone (myself included) may get injured. Do I step away?

Your thoughts, comments, and recommendations are welcome and appreciated. :)

dwblover
Apr. 30, 2010, 11:49 AM
I think your instincts are correct. She is probably having a lot of pain somewhere in her body. Some days are probably worse than others, hence the change in behavior. I personally would look at the back (including withers) and hocks VERY closely. They are the two biggest culprits when it comes to bucking.

getonwithit
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:02 PM
I think your instincts are correct. She is probably having a lot of pain somewhere in her body. Some days are probably worse than others, hence the change in behavior. I personally would look at the back (including withers) and hocks VERY closely. They are the two biggest culprits when it comes to bucking.

I definitely suspect her back is troubling her. I mentioned this to the owner and pointed out how you could see it in the way she moved. I think the owner is hesitant to believe me and/or doesn't want to put out the money to get her checked out.

I suppose there's not much to be done other than to step away, but it is frustrating, for both me and the mare. :( The mare could likely be a decent children's hunter if not even a small junior if they could get her issues figured out.

jumpingmaya
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:04 PM
I think your instincts are correct. She is probably having a lot of pain somewhere in her body. Some days are probably worse than others, hence the change in behavior. I personally would look at the back (including withers) and hocks VERY closely. They are the two biggest culprits when it comes to bucking.

Agree 100% plus I would still take in consideration ulcers... ok, maybe they treated her when they got her but that doesn't mean they didn't show back up (or never fully disappeared for that matter).
This type of horse screams PAIN to me :no:

00pisces
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:09 PM
I'm no kind of pro, but my "moral support" vote goes in the "Call it quits" category. If you suspect that the horse is in pain and the owners won't do anything, you are well within your rights to stop working with the horse / them. Maybe it would help if you thought about it as quitting the owners, not quitting the horse.

findeight
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:14 PM
This mare probably already is in considerable pain. And you risk joining her if you continue to face this kind of erratic and dangerous behavior.

Tough when it's not your horse but you need to insist they either get it dealt with or you need to walk. I know it's a bad spot because you are working off board-but you can't do that with a concussion or in a cast.

Sorry, but your health and well being is more important then working with a horse that is obviously in need of vet work and owners who refuse and let you take the risk.

You could even have bone chips or other damage that cannot be repaired. That's not fair to that horse.

I feel sorry for these horses. Nobody deals with the real problem and everybody that ignores it and works them anyway just reinforces, even invites, bad behavior. They get to where they just don't know anything else and, even if then pain is fixed? Rehab is almost impossible.

The best thing for that mare is you stop. It may be more difficult for you but it's the right thing for the horse.

Sport
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:22 PM
If the owners aren't willing to have an assessment completed of the horse to determine if there is pain issues, then I think I would stop riding. You could potentially be hurt and it isn't fair to the mare to work her if she is hurting.
If you don't already know, find out the cost of having a chiropractor assess the horse and provide this information to the owner. They may not realize that it is not as expensive as they think to get a diagnosis.

getonwithit
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:31 PM
I feel sorry for these horses. Nobody deals with the real problem and everybody that ignores it and works them anyway just reinforces, even invites, bad behavior. They get to where they just don't know anything else and, even if then pain is fixed? Rehab is almost impossible.

I agree, and it is very sad. I guess I already knew the answer, just needed the affirmation. :(

The owners are aware of the cost, I believe, just really in a tight financial situation right now and don't see it as a necessity. I am having a chiro come out for my own horses in the next couple of weeks--I'm almost tempted to pay for this mare to get done out of my own pocket, or if not to get done then at least to have an assessment.

findeight
Apr. 30, 2010, 12:32 PM
Chiro is still going to cost anywhere from 50 to 150 depending on if they charge for an evaluation or not. But it might be a place to start if they flat out refuse to get a proper vet work up. But owners need to arrange and pay for this, not OP, as she cannot authorize treatment or make any decisions anyway.

One thing though, even if the chiro does locate areas that can be worked on, it will take frequent, regular sesssions to make any progress. And you still probably have underlying medical issues creating all kinds of compensatory pain they can't fix.

MIKES MCS
Apr. 30, 2010, 01:19 PM
"recommended the owner do a physical and get her scoped to see if anything was physically wrong and maybe have a chirpractor out, but they already have a lot into this mare and aren't willing to put out anymore. They can't really afford it. So what do I do? This mare is not progressing because of the flip flopping, and I am concerned someone (myself included) may get injured. Do I step away?"

If the owners aren't willing to put anything into this horse, then you shouldn't be either. She has problems , probably more than one , and probably chronic, If she has ANY potential you are not going to find it if they aren't willing to look for those problems. If the owners aren't willing to find out whats wrong they are just throughing money away everytime they feed her..SHe's either a pretty lawn ornament or Give her away to someone who sees the potential in her and has the money to take care of her properly, or put her down before someone gets seriosuly hurt. She could have ovarian cysts or ulcers , or a pinched nerve or 1000 other things....

mvp
Apr. 30, 2010, 01:26 PM
Except for the potential ulcer problem, why don't you do the Down Home Bute Test? A generous dose for 3-4 days and see how she his days 2-4.

Perhaps some Bute plus Ranitidine or other (cheap) preventative of your choice would make this acceptable?

It's an inexpensive place to start at least.

NorthFaceFarm
Apr. 30, 2010, 01:29 PM
If you like her and think there is real value in her future - ask the owners if you can pay for some diagnostic work on her, on the condition that you get your money back if she becomes something and is sold. You could very well end up completely out on that cash, and I can't speak to whether or not that is financially acceptable to you, but I think it would be worth it. I'm a sucker, and often times shell out money for things I shouldn't when a horse's welfare is at stake, even when I have no connection to them.

If your money can give them an answer about what's going on with her they can either decide that it is something fixable and you'll continue to work with her, or its something unreasonable and they should look for a companion type home for her.

getonwithit
Apr. 30, 2010, 01:55 PM
If you like her and think there is real value in her future - ask the owners if you can pay for some diagnostic work on her, on the condition that you get your money back if she becomes something and is sold. You could very well end up completely out on that cash, and I can't speak to whether or not that is financially acceptable to you, but I think it would be worth it. I'm a sucker, and often times shell out money for things I shouldn't when a horse's welfare is at stake, even when I have no connection to them.

If your money can give them an answer about what's going on with her they can either decide that it is something fixable and you'll continue to work with her, or its something unreasonable and they should look for a companion type home for her.

This, I guess, is the real consideration at this point. I am going to be looking at getting some projects this summer from the local auctions, and I mentioned it to the owner. She jokingly responded with, "Well how about I give you this mare as a project?" But I don't think she was really kidding--I think she would be happy to work out some kind of deal with me if I could put the money into her to see what is wrong. The question though is whether this has become too chronic to even be rehabbed, or whether I will put the money into her and find out it isn't fixable, or find that I can't get my money back out of her down the road. So that is my internal struggle. I feel very bad for the mare and would love to help her, but at the same time I'm just not in a position to throw a bunch of money away.

The owner is not completely clueless--I think she would just rather turn a blind eye while their finances are tight. She put the mare on bute while I was working with her without my knowledge and told me about it after--the mare was perfect for those couple of days. But she's so flip flop anyway, the owner still wasn't convinced.

Silk
Apr. 30, 2010, 02:01 PM
I definitely suspect her back is troubling her. I mentioned this to the owner and pointed out how you could see it in the way she moved. I think the owner is hesitant to believe me and/or doesn't want to put out the money to get her checked out.

I suppose there's not much to be done other than to step away, but it is frustrating, for both me and the mare. :( The mare could likely be a decent children's hunter if not even a small junior if they could get her issues figured out.

What a dumb-ass excuse. It cost me a bit over 100 buck to get a complete wellness check on my hackney. Granted, we did not draw blood or anything, but he developed a rearing habit about 7 month into his training so I promptly had a lameness/wellness exam done to rule out a physical issue. This ncluded teeth also. Granted, my vet and I are on very good terms and he was up there for a bunch of new clients that he got becasue Ihad moved to this barn, BUT that being said, it was still dirt cheap.

I often say this hackney is the most difficult I have had - seriously frustrating and sometimes scary. BUT, I just cant give up. I understand where you are but, I would definitely have this mare checked out. THEN, you can determine if its in her brain or in her body. If its in her brain, there are still things that can be done.

Silk
Apr. 30, 2010, 02:09 PM
I meant the owner's dumb-ass excuse...not yours!!! Sorry if that got through. I commend you for sticking it out as long as you have. If I felt unsafe, I would demand a physical exam on the horse. A good vet can give you ideas, at least mine did.

We discussed the ponys issues and possible solutions, inlcluding medications and their pluses and minuses once we found out it was not physical. That being said, I went with the "spin you til you get dizzy and fall, while smacking you on the but" route which cured his rearing. If it hadn't, I was going to retire him from riding and find him either a companion home or keep his as the one we use to turn out the new boarders with, as he is the ambassador-type. Of course, my vet has had experience with this breed and assured me mine was actually QUIET compared to the majority of them he has seen - oye vey!

Call me crazy but I suspect either Kissing Spine which will probably get worse. Right now her episodes are intermittnet, but if they become more frequent and regular, I would suspect kissing spine. Behavior that is mental based is generally constant while the physical generally starts out as intermittent then becomes more constant. At least, this has been my (limited) experience with (thankfully) these issues.

Good luck and PLEASE stay safe. Sounds like you are plenty experienced and cautious and you know what you are doing, but be careful.

NorthFaceFarm
Apr. 30, 2010, 02:55 PM
The question though is whether this has become too chronic to even be rehabbed, or whether I will put the money into her and find out it isn't fixable, or find that I can't get my money back out of her down the road.

Unfortunately none of us are able to answer that one since we haven't seen her go. From what you describe though - that she DOES have GOOD days - I would venture to guess that whatever may be "wrong" with her is fixable, especially if bute made a difference.

dmj
Apr. 30, 2010, 06:31 PM
I could have written your post, almost word for word. There is nothing physically wrong with my mare, she's been checked thoroughly. It is truly heartbreaking. She is the sweetest thing on the ground, and can jump 5' from a standstill - so talented. I gave up on riding her, but she lives a happy life with my business partner now, mostly just hangin' out.

I don't see it mentioned here, but we did try Regumate, it seemed to really have an effect the first cycle but never again after that. Hopefully the owner will get her examined for any physical issues. Best of luck to you!

Mac123
Apr. 30, 2010, 07:01 PM
I would definitely do the bute or banamine test. That's the easiest way to see what's pain and what's mental, and most vets around here will tell you to do that as a first step to seeing what's physical and what's not.

As a plus, if she gets worse, you know it may be ulcers.

However, if you know the back is bothering her, I would do something about that now. Bute or banamine for a few days is cheap. Robaxin is cheap. And if she's backsore, it could very well be from the saddle. Have you tried different saddles?

Alternatively, back soreness is often secondary. So what I would do is do robaxin and bute and a week off, make sure the saddle is 100%, and then begin riding again. If she starts acting up again, I would look at hocks, stifles or feet. Are her hock and stifle points hot?

Bottom line for me as a trainer: If the horse clearly has physical issues the owners are not willing to address for whatever reason, I stop working with the horse. It's not fair to anyone involved.

I am as sure as I can be on an internet bulletin board that the mare is in pain. It could be the primary cause of the issues or the issues could cause her to be in pain. Either way, that's the number one priority and can be as simple as buting her and seeing how it goes. If the owner's aren't even willing to do that or some robaxin for the back, it's not worth your time or the possibility of you getting hurt.

getonwithit
Apr. 30, 2010, 08:27 PM
Based on the bute test that I wasn't aware was going on and after hearing all of your thoughts, I am definitely convinced it is a pain issue.

I always check her for heat/swelling/any abnormalities and have not noticed any of that (including stifles and hocks). I worked with this mare last fall, then had a break for winter, and started working with her again this spring. Last fall, I didn't notice any noticeable pain anywhere (checked her back regularly), but I definitely noticed discomfort this spring. She was more sensitive to being brushed around her back and pinned her ears/acted uncomfortable whenever I did the finger test down her back (!!!).

I hadn't thought of Kissing Spines because I have (thank god) never had a horse who suffered from it, but after looking into it, it does sound like she might fit the bill. Her flip flopping applies to being tacked up as well as riding. Some days she is very anxious/angry about being tacked up and won't stand still, others she is perfectly mellow and sweet as can be. My saddle doesn't seem to be pinching her anywhere and appears to fit her pretty nicely, but it is possible she had a saddle on her in the past that didn't fit--I don't know. These issues started from day 1 of me working with her, and for the first couple of weeks I just did ground work, although she was 10x as bad when she started working again this spring. She has been on hold for the last couple of weeks already, but I think owner would like to see something done with her again, and I am trying to figure out if there is anything I can do for this mare. If it is Kissing Spines, she's going to be in pain whether there's a rider on her back or not.

We did try giving the mare a week of stall rest when she was in work after my consultation and I believe the owner gave her bute for this period or at least half of the period, but she was really no different when we took her out after that time off (not on bute when we took her out). Her attitude very much clues me into the fact that she is in pain. This mare has gotten used to me, and the wild bucking/bolting/striking what have you on the lunge that she started out with has turned into this most recently--she will work fine on the lunge, then suddenly go up in the air maybe half a foot or a foot off the ground, stop, turn toward me, and start shaking her head as if to say "that hurts!" No amount of encouragement will get her to move her feet until she has no choice other than to move (if anything she will go backwards to evade me), and then she usually bolts off anxiously and canters around blindly until I can get her settled again.

Ack, I wish I were in a position to take over this mare. :(

findeight
May. 1, 2010, 10:39 AM
We did not used to have the diagnostic equipment for kissing spines...and even now thet we do, it can be expensive to diagnose. And there is, really, nothing much you can do except manage it. Think it is becoming more common as we get better at looking for it. The fact bute helps sometimes but not others? Big clue.

There is a surgery but it was unsucessful in the only one I am aware had the procedure. But her behavior is dead on for it and agree with the above poster who suggested it. That is exactly how in manifests in many behavior wise. Others are always just NQR and you chase all sorts of things.

Problem is the diagnostics, if it's not something simple and accessible, like a leg, costs like heck and can include a clinic visit for more sophisticated work ups. Get you a 4 figure bill in a heartbeat.