Anxious horse...do I need a trainer? Vet? - UPDATE post 29
So, I've posted about this mare a few times. Back story is that she is a 7 year old OTTB, retired at 2 after 5 starts, sound. Got her through New Vocations. When she arrived in my barn she was a hellion. I could barely enter her stall let alone ride her. When she was tacked up she would grind her teeth and pin her ears. So I said OK, I'll leave you alone. So for a year all the interaction I had with her besides basic care, was feeding and turnout.
At 3 1/2 she moved to a farm with 24/7 turnout where she was sat on maybe 2X the entire time she was there, no real riding. She was there for 2 years. BTW she is a cribber and that continued there, she would leave the herd to go crib on the side of the run in.
At 5 1/2 I brought her home to me and starting doing ground work with her, lunging. Did one ride on her and then she sliced her hind leg open and was out of commission for 6+ months.
At 6 I starting riding her consistently. Well, as consistently as I can get out which is sometimes 3X a week, sometimes 1X a week. During my rides she is very forward, wanting to jig, trot, no relaxation at all. Head is tucked toward chest, she is on the bit and pulling, she won't relax even to walk. If she is asked to trot and then walk again, she is so tense and anxious that she prances and grinds her teeth and bobs her head UP and DOWN.
I have spent months just walking and trotting, I even spent two weeks only walking. No improvement. She is always anxious.
For the last two months she has been on 24/7 turnout only coming in to eat. She is eating 9# of Strategy daily, with 4 flakes of grass hay daily. I ride her 3 times a week and I'm just frustrated. We are getting nowhere, she won't relax. She grinds her teeth non stop.
So, at this point I'm thinking it must be pain. She moves quietly and comfortably without me on her. I doubt its me, she is that anxious with any rider, but it could be the tack that is causing her pain, or back pain with a rider on her.
She does not react to any palpating to her back. She does have sometimes snappy stifles and hocks. I've never had her injected, nor had the chiropractor out, but I'm thinking it might be time (for chiro not injections).
Last edited by Bedazzle; Sep. 28, 2013 at 04:00 PM.
I third the treating for ulcers and feeding her differently (9lbs a TON of food, and Strategy isn't the greatest choice).
Also, she's a TB. Let her go forward! All that walking is probably just making her BORED and cranky...I know very few TBs, especially green ones, that would tolerate so much walking and trotting. Canter! Do lots of circles! Walk and trot over poles! Engage her brain, GO FORWARD, and I bet she'll start to unwind a bit.
I agree with ulcers. However, I forgot to mention I did 30 days on poprocks and did not see ANY difference. I will take the advice though and get her scoped, it's not too pricey and would give me a definitive answer.
Also, I would LOVE to let her go forward but her legs just keep getting faster and faster and she hauls like a freight train, to the point the nothing is getting accomplished. I have done circles, serpentines, etc trying to keep her mind busy and she doesn't ease up at all.
Also, I am open to suggestions on the grain front. She hasn't always been on that amount of grain, she used to be on mainly beet pulp with 3# daily of Strategy Healthy Edge, but then she choked 3X on the beet pulp (soaked 12 hrs) and I've nixed it from her diet. She loses weight rapidly when she doesn't have a good amount of grain, no matter the amount of hay and grass. When I had her at home for a few months I fed her 45lbs of alfalfa daily but she still didn't keep the weight on without grain and beet pulp. Yes, she is dewormed regularly and fecals done.
She has the sweetest temperament, really easy going horse. I forgot to mention as well that along with the cribbing she weaves like it's going out of style.
I would try ulcers, and a few months of working with a pro that deals with a lot of OTTBS. Weight and temperment-wise, I haven't had luck with strategy (even though it's known for calming horses) and prefer Ultium or a similar supplement with high fat.
You need to find a feed that is low in starch and have lots of Fat% in it.
You could also give her up to 1-2 cups a day of oil. Rice bran oil would be the best.
From Purina, I used Fat & Fiber (the big chunks, not the new small pellets Integrity) to get them fat.
But I don't think we get the same products here in Canada and in USA.
Also, TBs need to work. A lot. Every day. The more she'll be working the more she'll gain weight because she'll be less stressed from all the fuel she is eating right now. So yes, you might need a trainer as well. Or someone to help you ride her more.
My mare, who I ride every day quite hard doesn't get that much.
Yes she probably has ulcers. But she sounds like a typical OTTB. I just got a 5 y/o OTTB, last person who had her only got on, jumped her, and put her away. Zero flatwork, zero ground work. I had a jigging hot mess as well.
In addition to getting her gut happy here is what I did with mine:
- If you can access Tribute grains, I'd suggest their product called Kalm N Easy. Worked wonders with my mare. A lot more useable nutrition that is focused on a low energy diet. 9# is a LOT of grain, and Strategy is a pretty high energy feed when you actually read the label.
- A calming supplement never hurts. I have my mare on SmartPak's Mare Harmony, as well as a joint maintenance supplement. I've noticied a difference in her attitude after the first 2 weeks!
- Vet check. I did chiro (she wasn't out), teeth floated, and hocks. She needed her hocks done badly. Your horse needs to not be in pain.
- Ground work. Do you have someone who knows how to use a rope halter and teach a horse respect from the ground? I didn't realize how important this was until after we did it. This did wonders for her respecting my leg, weight, and hand aids. It also gave her mind something to think about and work without being ridden.
- Walking won't get you anywhere with this type. Trot. Lots of it. Everytime you hit resistance, turn, change direction, figure 8's, serpentines, something. OTTBs want to keep moving, that's how they learn best. Establish rhythm and respect for aids.
This was all done over a 3-4 month process. I could have done it in less, but I had other things going on. But, my mare eventually learned that:
1) She wasn't hurting anymore
2) We aren't at the track
I've really only had maybe 15 "training" rides on her since she has been comfortable, and she is learning so fast - and enjoys it! Our trot work is already great and we are introducing canter slowly.
Definitely make sure she isn't hurting and that her gut is happy, I wish you the best of luck!!
A young TB needs consistent work. At once or twice a week, you are having to teach the same things over and over again.
If you only have time to ride 3 days a week, those 3 days need to be consecutive so that the horse gets into a work mode, doesn't forget everything she learned 3 days prior, and starts to relax.
Training a young horse every other day will result in 1/3rd of the progress as riding the horse 3 days in a row. If you can only ride on an every other day basis, find someone to flat her on your off days.
Agree with everybody else. Sounds like she's got ulcers and needs to have something to do. Even with my older TB, if he was at a new place and was anxious it was better to canter and just jump to give him something else to focus on. He always needed a job. Also, if she will, maybe a toy or something in turnout or in the stall may keep her a bit more entertained and busy when she's not working.
ETA: TBs really like routine so you may need to really standardize her schedule to help her get into a routine.
Last edited by kmwines01; Dec. 16, 2012 at 12:40 AM.
For everyone saying it must be ulcers, I would ask what her body condition is like? It was suggested to me at one time that my horse may have ulcers causing her to act up under saddle, but when the same pro who suggested that saw her again a couple months later and saw how fat and shiny she was, he said "Nah, it wouldn't be ulcers".
Just sayin, if the scope comes back negative don't be surprised. TBs, especially mares, can have their own quirks and you might have to come up with a new approach for training if it can't be medically explained.
9 quarts of Strategy a day is a lot of food and Strategy is not particularly low in NSC.
My hard keeper OTTB is on Triple Crown Senior -- 6 quarts/day. It has a very low NSC and a reasonable amount of fat. When he needs more calories I top dress with either Purina Amplify or oil (Amplify is easier to feed). Feeds with any more starch in them are rocket fuel for him. He's a very high energy/high strung horse and he needs calories but cool calories. I also feed alfalfa pellets as a way to help buffer stomach acid.
Have you tried a calming supplement? When I first got my boy I fed him Quiessence and it made a huge difference.
I agree with those posters who suggest trotting and lots of it. Bridge your reins and get her feet moving. Trot circles, serpentines, poles, and other figures to get her brain engaged. Start to add some shoulder fore to get her to use her body better and make it harder for her. She may also be better if you canter first. My current OTTB used to bounce up and down like a pogo stick for the first 15 minutes of every ride. What worked best for him was to just let him bounce and just chill and ride through it. If I had tried to make him walk then, we would have just had a battle.
Make sure you are relaxed.
Ride with a neck strap so that you have both a safety handle and another way to pull back without touching her mouth. Many horses find the pressure from a neck strap to be a good way to balance them and slow them down. My own horse will walk/trot/canter/halt with just pressure from the neckstrap. Using one also allows you to keep your body back and make sure you are not fussing with your hands.
Ground work is great. Teach your horse how to long line or work in hand.
More rides/week will also help. My OTTB is now 14 and if he isn't worked 4/5 per week I can't expect him to be focused. He still has way too much energy. If he's had some time off I'll just let him canter for awhile until I can feel his body relax and I don't ask him to do anything hard.
Regarding the weight issue, does she get dewormed regularly? Some horses have weight issues who have some worms. I would get a fecal done. It can also change them neurologically. Horses are supposed to get 1-2% of the body weight in hay every day. Giving so much grain without 1-2% of hay can make ulcers worse. I would put the grain back to 5 pounds and use a weight supplement such as empower. That is just a ton of grain. How big is she and what is her weight?
Can you get Triple Crown feeds where you are? I've had success with a similarly hot mare on TC Complete or Senior. Mine's not an OTTB though - probably an appendix QH or maybe TB/WB but hot & anxious, extremely herdbound, all kinds of emotional baggage from terrible ownership & riding in the past... basically not happy to be ridden at all until I made addressing her anxiety my top priority above all else.
Mine didn't begin to settle until she was out 24/7 on a decent sized pasture on a diet of mostly grazing & hay in winter, and no more than about 3-ish lbs TC.
Although I have to say, this thread is making me wonder if she had ulcers too which (mostly?) resolved on their own.... definitely something for me to think about if her anxiety increases again as the work gets harder.
(If you don't know about the organization, they did the Trainers Challenge earlier this year and have website to support transitioning OTTBs into successful new careers)
I will say that my OTTB training challenge took more like 1000 days to complete, but mostly because of MY learning curve. There is usually a way, it just takes time to find it and to be consistent enough to get a result.