Figuring out physical problem vs. behavioral problem - UPDATE Post #29
Very frustrated and not sure where to even start...
Coming 5-yr-old, low mileage
Known bone spur on left hock but she has never been lame on it
History of wild behavior on longe line, usually works out of it and is fine under saddle
Worked on by chiro a month ago and went like a DREAM for a week (perfect on longe line and under saddle)
Then weather and schedule meant a couple weeks off
Has been absolutely AWFUL this past week and behavior escalated quickly
Friday was not bad but session was a little longer than it should have been because was trying to work on canter; no real problems under saddle
Saturday, total hissy fit under saddle and had to work her until she behaved; would stop, refuse to go forward, throw her head, etc. But, then seemed fine when she DID go forward
Started not wanting to pick up right lead for the first time ever - leads have never been an issue with her
Sunday didn't even get on because she was so horrible on the longe
-was a challenge to get her to pick up the right lead
-often would stop and throw a fit while going to the right
- behavior got worse as session went on
On Saturday I thought she was just being bratty. Worked her closer to feeding time than usual. She seemed distracted by her friends in the pasture (but never called to them or anything like that.)
But on Sunday the behavior was 10x worse going to the right than left. Being barn sour shouldn't be one-sided. And the refusal to canter on the right lead is a new problem that seems weird.
However, I can't really see any obvious lameness.
Am thinking of trying the bute test - 2 grams a.m., 2 grams p.m., 2 grams a.m. and then work her. But, I am thinking if it is some chiro issue, bute might not help. And if it is something heat cycle related, bute won't help. So, it won't rule out ALL physical issues.
Another thought is to try Quietex and see if that helps.
Third thought is to take her to my trainer's for a lesson and see if she is better off my property.
Huge dilemma is that I don't want to keep working her if something is physically wrong with her. But, I don't want to STOP working her if she is just being a brat.
The fact that is escalated so quickly between Friday and Sunday has me fairly worried.
She is getting this week off because I have a clinic Friday and a show Sat/Sun. Just don't want to have any additional stresses to deal with!
Any ideas of where to start trying to figure this out would be appreciated!
Your idea of trying the Bute test is a good one. Ditto the Quietex, or if you have access to Ace it would be even better - provides a little bit of sedation without analgesia, so would theoretically reduce or eliminate a behavior issue but would do nothing for pain. I'd recommend running it by your vet to get his/her opinion
It sounds like a physical issue escalating into a much bigger mental issue.
I'm guessing the vet already did a thorough work up? If so I would do the following two things (not in the same week):
1. ~25 150mg ranitidine pills morning and night PLUS a double-triple dose of OTC equine antacid immediately before saddling (or a 1.5 dose of neigh lox). Total cost about $3/day for ranitidine and uguard powder up to $7/day with neigh lox (if buying the overpriced 7 servings tub).
I personally find this method better (faster and a fraction of the cost) than GG for detecting ulcers.
2. A week of equiox/previcox if no luck with the stomach. If it's a nagging enough pain to cause behavior issues, I find the short lived relief from bute to not give as clear of response.
And there you have it: affordable broad diagnostics
And 3. (not diagnostic) I'd add magnesium and B1 to this horse's diet (and possibly Se/E). For $15/month I've seen some respond really well!
I've yet to meet a horse with unusual reactions in training, aka a naughty horse, that I couldnt find something at least contributing if not directing causing the problems. That's just my experience.
I have not had a complete vet work-up yet. This became almost unmanageable quickly. Weird thing is she was FABULOUS after the chiro - adjustment on Wed. and perfect sessions that Fri/Sat/Sun. That was 4 weeks ago.
I have had her on "Pop Rocks" (omeprazole granules) for about a month. Started those on the Sat after the chiro. Did a week of 3 packets, a week of 2 packets and now on 1 packet. Maybe I need to get more and go back to 3 packets per day.
Have had issues off and on but to a much LESSER degree. Always could work through them. Occasionally had a day I just longed but never like what happened on Sunday. And even on days I just longed, she would be better at the end. We just never got there on Sunday. Went from okay on Friday, okay on longe on Saturday and then bad under saddle on Saturday but worked thru it to just horrendous on longe on Sunday. Possibly she got more and more sore over those 3 days? But, I honestly don't see any lameness. However, the resistance to cantering on the right lead makes me think some physical problem is going on - especially since I know she has a bone spur on her left hock.
Doubt if she got cast since she is out 24/7 with access to a 12x18 stall. She generally only comes in to eat.
Did you see a lameness with the suspensory injury?
Both vets that have done x-rays told me the bone spur may or may not bother her at some point and should be manageable with hock injections if it does bother her. It is on the lower joint. No mention of surgery.
I just have visions of paying for every diagnostic test under the sun and vet still not having any idea what the problem is.
She does need her teeth done (were last done 14 months ago.) So, am going to make appointment for that and talk to my vet about these issues.
You said you had the chiro out and she was wonderful for 4 days afterwards? Wouldn't that lead you to believe that whatever the chiro worked on is/was the problem and perhaps you need to follow up with another session or learn to do some massage yourself?
I have a QH with a touchy back especially across his left hip and into his loin area. We've done the whole veterinary diagnostic deal, including xrays of back, stifles, & hocks, drugs, saddle fitter, new saddle, masseuse and chiropractor.
He is a VERY stoic horse and I'm lucky his behavior does not change but I can tell when something is NQR. I have found the best luck with the chiro, followed by massage or vice versa and then the chiro showed me a few small tricks I could use to keep him maintained. If he gets nervous about something like the hunt flying through the property or the kids on the screaming dirt bike across the way, he will shiver and shake like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, totally tightening up the muscles across his loins. Which results in his back becoming sore again. I am able to help him out by doing some very simple accupressure releases that take 15-20 minutes. I do have the chiro out twice a year to keep up with anything else.
If your mare was so good after adjustments, I would suspect that the chiro relieved a few problems and I would look in that direction. Did you have a conversation with your chiro about what was out of place? Were you given any stretching exercises or instructions for follow up? My chiro leaves me with a detailed diagram of where she found problems and exactly what she did, plus some stretching techniques to keep my guy comfortable. She's the best!
Why wouldn't you have the chiro check her again. If she was good for a week after the chiro then I would certainly have the chiro out again. Sounds like whatever the chiro fixed may have went "out" again. Certainly not uncommon depending on the type of horse and what was found on the chiro. If your chiro does acupunture also it may be a good idea to have them do that at the same time to keep the muscles loose.
Seams like the teeth may be an issue also. 14 months can be a long time for a young horse to go between floats. 6-10 months is not unusual for a young horse to be floated.
Sounds like there are multiple physical reasons for the horse to be acting up that need to be looked into.
Well, its a tough spot thats for sure. All you can really do is keep trying one thing at a time (like the bute test, good test) evaluating and then moving on. Keep asking questions, keep giving the benefit of the doubt when your inner voice says "this might be pain".
Its very tough because often pain and what we classify as naughty behavior go hand in hand. Generally there is some kind of discomfort that triggers the naughtiness, the horse gets admonished for acting out, and then things escalate because they know the next time they voice their opinion they're going to be in trouble and they get even more nervous and either fearful or defensive.
This makes for a really tough grey area that you're going to have to rely on your gut feeling as your compass. Its hard, but it really comes down to that.
If I were in your shoes, my first move would be to call the chiro and ask what they found, what they did and see if they can help put the pieces together.
My second move would be to try the bute test. At the same time I would be coming up with a wildly new and different schooling program.
It sounds as if you have a very predictable program. XXX on the longe until you look sane and then I get on, if you don't look sane then we work it out on the longe. Several days in a row. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, but sometimes you really need to shake things up to get the full story.
Sometimes horses can act out a little dramatically if they're feeling bored or too confined. The "longe then ride" schedule can sometimes become a rut owners fall into and become a self-defeating cycle.
If it were me and for whatever reason I didn't want to put a leg over (btdt) I would be working on calming and suppling in hand exercises, following free work in a big arena (free longing in a riding ring for example). This not only injects some excitement and something different into the school, but I find free work in a big ring gives the horse a chance to really express itself and its a good chance to set back and observe. Its not chasing, its round pen work on a large scale (which reveals all foibles quite quickly!), and you can include exciting exercises like cavaletti and jump chutes. Exercises that force the horse to slow down and think, use their bodies so you can observe, and causes them to look to you for further instructions.
If it were me, when I went back on the longe to check for attitude adjustments, I would keep sessions very short, and if there was any monkey business, I wouldn't so much get after the horse for it (unless it was an attack of any kind) but just wait it out patiently as if to say "carry on all you want my little knuckle head, I will just calmly wait for you to come to your senses about all of this". You'd be surprised how much acting out is simply in anticipation of being admonished for acting out.
Oh, and yes a horse can be extra naughty to one direction over another, it could either be their strong side, your your weak side Horses absolutely know which side of your body your faster and stronger on and they will capitalize on that knowledge.
Above all, just make sure to try only one thing at a time, go slow, be patient. Good luck
Don't think it is her diet. She has been eating the same thing forever and this behavior escalated suddenly. She gets 1 pound Safechoice twice a day and 5 flakes of hay. Right now I am feeding a mix of coastal and timothy hay.
Free longeing is a good idea but no fence around my arena. This morning I did think I'd try longeing with just a rope halter and see if she is better without the saddle and bridle. I could also put some poles on the ground to change things up a bit.
She was out in her poll and had a couple ribs out. Chiro also did a TMJ adjustment. Her whole demeanor changed when he did the poll and tmj adjustment. I would have expected adjustments to last more than 4 weeks.
She does generally seem to be worse about work when in heat so maybe I should try Mare Magic.
Right now she is standing in her stall for a post-breakfast snooze looking sweet as can be - LOL
She was out in her poll and had a couple ribs out. Chiro also did a TMJ adjustment. Her whole demeanor changed when he did the poll and tmj adjustment. I would have expected adjustments to last more than 4
Not generally, unless it was really minor and was "out" for only a day or two prior to the adjustment. Also, the factors that caused it would have to go away (like riding ) otherwise your expectations are unrealistic.
Neck and back issues can cause Severe pain (would be 3 legged if in a leg) but can be in a location that causes no change in the legs' flight pattern. It's a common misconception that all equine pain is trasnmitted to their legs! But of course when we think about for a second, that doesn't make sense. It's hard to know and interpret a horse' pain if its not in the legs or the muscles running over the back, so then we go back to "maybe it's not pain and it's a mental thing."
Another note, in chiropractic terms, the three most painful and difficult to "fix" quickly are the poll, ribs, and SI. Your horse has two of those things! Also, ribs often present with pretty Severe one sidedness that can gradually improve with regular adjustments.
Also, you mentioned you started pop rocks at the same time as the chiro, but have reduced the dose. Don't ignore that! This can be a two-fold thing! Try an OTC/supplement antiacid right before you saddle. It can really help with splashing on the upper stomach during riding that can cause pain even before an ulcer develops.
And get the chiro back out! Expect regular adjustments (probably every two weeks) and at least 3 days of stall/paddock rest after every adjustment (especially for ribs). Hopefully, after 3-6 months the problems are corrected enough to only require adjustments every 2-3 months (that's the end goal). But, some factors prevent that for some horses and they indefinitely need regular adjustments to be competitive athletes.
If the horse can afford some time off, 6 weeks off with three adjustments can work miracles for some horses.
I would actually be looking at the teeth and TMJ. Im dealing with some head shaking right now (believe it is allergy triggered) and my holstic vet who does chiro and acupuncture came by to check his teeth and TMJ as she said shes dealt with a lot of head shakers that were due to those issues. Not the issue with my guy but def something to look at. She said TMJ issues can cause some pretty severe reactions if the pain gets worse enough. And if your "poll" (C1) has ever been out, youd know how crappy your whole body feels. And ribs?! OMG.. I have one out right now (seeing my chiro at 3) and it hurts to breathe.
My mare wouldnt bend left for ANYTHING. Finally got a good dentist out and she had a hook on the very last upper right molar that had dug a hole into her cheek. Every time she bend left, it pushed into her cheek more. She has scar tissue there now. I felt bad but was getting her teeth done every year like I thought was correct. I now get my horses teeth done every 6-8 months, including my 4.5 y/o, and have no teeth issues at all.
Also, when the poll is out, that effects everything. My mares areas are sometimes the poll, always the C4/C5, sometimes the C7, T (geez forgetting the numbers now on horses but its the end of the thorasic area before the lumbar right behind the saddle), and L4/5 and right hip. Vet believe she flipped years ago due to the scar tissue in her neck though it hasnt been confirmed on xray (no need as the adjustments do the trick). But I know when shes out in her neck because she physically cannot bend right. Just cant.
Shes a very stoic mare and would try even if her leg was broken and wouldnt show any signs of lameness. Your horse is def telling you something. I would have the chiro out asap and also get on the phone and schedule with a DENTIST, not vet, to have your horses teeth done. Esp when they are young, they need to see the dentist more often.
Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!
OP, I have been in your shoes and totally understand your dilemma about working through attitude vs. pain.
It could be a whole host of things and a whole long process to figuring out what is making your horse reactive. It can be one thing or it can be a number of things together, which makes it tougher. Some problems come and go. With my horse, I have found that he gets very balky when his stomach does not feel well. He has more trouble cantering right when this happens. Once he gets going, he is fine, but he really doesn't want me to put my leg on and will do everything he can to not canter, especially right. We had a wet, warm fall which gave the grass extra nutrients and caused a lot of gas colics in our area. Fortunately, he never colicked, but he did get gassy and act out. He acted like this during a feed change, as well. We started him on a digestive conditioning supplement, which does seem to be helping him, more so than the gastric ulcer supplements. Not only did he have digestion issues, he would come out very sluggish and tight and refuse to work. We started him on a magnesium supplement and he is much more willing to work and so much more willing to go forward. We did do a saddle change, chiropractic and accupuncture. All had some success, but not to the measure of addressing his digestion and muscles. Many people, including health care professionals, did not see anything wrong with him and said it was behavioral (the terrible 4-5 y.o. phase), mostly because he was not head-bobbing lame. While figuring him out, I learned to ride through his tantrums with tact, figuring out when it was ok to push him and when a small victory such as getting a few wiggly canter steps on the right lead was enough. The thing that kept me going was that the horse seemed just as frustrated as I was. He knew what he was supposed to do, but it just made him feel awful. I'm not sure he is the stoic type, but that's ok.
These may not be your mare's issues, but if your mare was out in her ribs, she could be reacting to your leg against her ribs like mine reacts to my leg against his stomach. Or it could be the ribs plus something else ... I would give the chiropractic work some time to work, then if she is still acting up, start looking into other causes. COTH always has a bevy of good ideas and places to start looking.
I also have a young horse who went through a really rotten phase earlier this year. I'm still not sure exactly what caused it, but we took him off of everything but hay and a handful of oats and he eventually returned to his normal self. But the behavior part lingers... he learned some "great" evasions during that time and he doesn't hesitate to pull them out when he's bored or overwhelmed. You're right to try to get to the bottom of this physically, now, before she learns habits of behavior you don't want!
I went through this with my horse. He had a trailering incident (broke the trailer tie and got out of the trailer under the butt bar during a show) but he was never lame after it, shortly over time he started becoming balky, spooky, would invert and grab the bit and bolt. I went from jumping around courses to not being able to trot or canter a circle with rhythm and relaxation. Even on the ground (leading in from the paddock, he became spooky and flighty). I worked with a dressage trainer and had some chiro work done on him, he still didn't improve much. I would do the carrot and flexion exercises and physically he just couldn't bend that neck. My trainer finally found a good body worker that worked on his poll and TMJ and really helped unlock him throughout his body. I give him magnesium (mag restore) to help with any remaining body/muscle soreness he may have. Some of the behavioral issues he had during the sore phase have become habit that we are gradually undoing. The difference now is I can correct and then he'll go properly, whereas before I could go by something 40 times and he would still invert, suck back, or scoot forward. I was ready to give up and give him away as a pasture companion at one point. It was a really frustrating and I'm glad we have him feeling good again!!
Have an appt with my vet on Tuesday. Will get her teeth done and also see if we can find a physical problem. Unfortunately the chiro is not local and I don't know of any in the area. The one I used MIGHT be back in April and the one that comes to my vet's clinic will also not be back until April.
The massage guy is coming Sunday so will see if he finds anything that might help pinpoint the issue.
Does anyone know how long it might take if I want to try regumate to see if it is a hormonal issue? Any proven alternatives to regumate?
Just a FYI -- an adjustment won't hold if the hooves are imbalanced nor will it hold if the muscles are not worked on first to release any spasms that might be there (most likely *are* present from any type of imbalance or pain). I would look closely at the hoof balance first and then have muscle spasms released. THEN go back to chiro if needed again -- do this all within a week's time or so.