My horses attitude has gone from perfect to spooky in the matter of 3 months. I have a 9yr paint gelding who is usually very quiet easy going, easy keeper etc. .For the 4 yrs that I’ve had him he’s always been in a big crowded barn with lots of stuff going on. The last 8 months I have kept him in a backyard barn.
The last 3 months he started acting up only during my lessons. I would ride the first 20 minutes with no problem and then boom out of nowhere he picks something to spook at (usually my trainer) only when I’m circling off the rail, drops his shoulder and spins. I began thinking it was her until recently he decided to spook at the bench that has been there longer then he has. He will be on cross ties and if someone walks by “wrong” he flinches and raises his head.
I recently had the dentist there to make sure his mouth wasn't bothering him and decided to flinch raise his head and throw himself into the back of the stall. The dentist was shocked on the way he was behaving. She couldn’t believe the difference in his behavior.
I was beginning to think that maybe he thinks he has my number. He spooks 50/50 me falling off and then he’s done being ridden. Well I cured that, I usually make him work for another 20 minutes if he pulls anything. He is pretty much unpredictable. Quiet trotting around, doing our thing and then randomly spooks shoulder drops…
I’ve been writing all the changes that happened within the last 3-4months.. Thinking maybe one of these reasons made him so miserable
-My riding has increased. I use to ride him 3x-4x a week and have my trainer ride him once a month. I now ride him 4x a week plus my trainer rides him 1x a week.
-He use to get 2scoops of strategy morning and night, I now gradually decreased him to half a scoop morning and night. Which I think benefited him since he is a very easy keeper.
-He use to be turned out 8am-230pm with 2 other horses. Since its summer and they get turned out in the ring a woman goes and rides in the morning therefore my horse doesn’t get turned out till usually 9-930am - 2:30pm
- Not only did turn out decrease its now only my horse and the other, who bites/chases my horse around the paddock all day
I’m really getting frustrated. I want my calm behaved horse back. A few people who know my horse see the difference, they said maybe he has an ulcer, maybe it’s the turnout, maybe it’s the change in environment from going to a big loud to a quiet small barn….
I ruled out his teeth, I gave him 2 weeks off due to my vacation, and now I am going to call the vet and get his eyes checked because he does have one blue eye. We will see what happens
I personally know this horse (and actually directed her to post on COTH, since you guys are usually so knowledgable. )and I told the owner that I was thinking ulcers. We actually both live on Long Island so Lyme is also a possibility.
I know Lyme made my horse a MONSTER! If he wasn't vaccinated, you would have thought he had rabies because he would just lunge across the paddock and attack you.
My guy was so crazy he would start spooking at the BO who feeds him everyday when she had been sitting in the same spot for the past 30 minutes...minute 31 all of sudden it was scary and he would have total meltdowns, big nasty spooks (shoulder drop and gallop the other way) and then if I tried riding by her he would bulge out/stop and not go forward, it was ridiculous. This behavior did not get better with consistent riding.
You can go pick up some Ranitidine (Zantac) at Walmart. He will need 3mg/lb of body weight, so 1000lb horse=3000mg/dose of Ranitidine. My guy responded to 3600mg 2x/day in 48 hrs. It's a good diagnostic, and can be used to treat if done correctly. Obviously, I'd contact your vet as well, but giving the Ranitidine on your own can't hurt.
You have to rule out physical before you can just assume behavioral.
I too would be concerned about vision. That's a pretty easy one to rule out.
Next, I would be concerned about neuro stuff. Again, pretty easy to assess with a simple exam. You can't completely rule it out w/o blood work, but you can do a simple neuro eval.
I would double and triple check saddle fit. It *could* be that as you've increased his riding, he's increased muscle and things just aren't fitting well. Your normally tolerant horse is BEING tolerant...for about 20 min or until he's really hurting.
I would try to duplicate the behavior from the ground. See if there's a difference. Is it you? Is it him? Is it the "magic pony ride over" time?
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
...now only my horse and the other, who bites/chases my horse around the paddock all day...
I'd fix that first. When a horse is being tormented in his herd, he's going to bring that paranoia with him for everything else as well and get in the habit of being defensive, reactive, and "spooky" all the time.
Keep looking into physical causes, and like others, I'd definitely consider ulcers.
I rode a 20 year old TB gelding for a year and then he moved with his owner to a new barn. This mellow horse started being very odd and spooky at the new barn and just not right. Of course we considered ulcers as he'd gone through some stress to move. Meantime, I went to ride him and during the course of our ride realized he was hot and too dry. The horse had developed anhydrosis (inability to sweat). My friend has treated him for it and he's back to his old relaxed self. Another good reminder to me to always look for physical causes first!
A simple way to mostly rule out pain as a cause load him up with bute for a week and see if his behavior changes. My mare had a similar change in personality (though over a longer period of time appx. 6 months) and once on a week of 2g AM and PM she was relaxed and calm and happier than I'd seen her in months. Now we're just trying to figure out what hurts. :/
I wouldn't advise this route without talking to a vet first though.
I vote for environment. Even in a busy place, he probably had a buddy to watch out for him. And he probably got enough sleep. Now, the only other horse is tormenting him. Not a good situation for a herd animal.