Sudden-onset, intense box walking -- UPDATE post 47
Hi COTH folks,
I was called home from conference travel this weekend because while I was away my mare suddenly started box walking fast and furiously and cannot be quieted down (it's now been more than a day and a half). I plan to call a vet during normal work hours (i.e. not Sunday night) if I can't get her to rest, but in the meantime, since I won't be able to sleep tonight, I thought I'd see if anyone here has any experience/ideas that might help.
I left Friday mid-day after hand walking her (she's rehabbing from an 8-week-old ligament injury), and got a call at 7a.m. Saturday saying the barn manager found her at breakfast totally undone, lathered with sweat, racing around her stall and could not calm her down -- I came home as quickly as I could. In the meantime the barn manager administered ace (with little effect) and called me periodically with updates.
The mare was (and still is) totally calm and responsive and enjoys attention when not in her stall, but the minute she is returned to her stall she starts walking/jogging around it intently and cannot be distracted from it. She doesn't stop when the lights go out and the barn is quiet -- I don't think she's slept since at least Friday.
She has zero history of stall vices or issues like this -- usually her stall is her happy place and she's typically a pretty mild mannered little thing.
Nothing perceptible to me/others at the barn has changed -- hay, bedding, schedules, facilities, weather have been stable, and no horses/trailers have been in or out in weeks. I travel somewhat often and have the same reliable people keeping her routine for me when I am gone as always.
She is used to stall confinement -- she lived for many years in an urban barn that had zero turnout, and has been characteristically quiet during recent stall rest
She is still eating, drinking, and eliminating normal amounts and her vitals are w.n.r.
I put up a NibbleNet to try to occupy her but she's just snatching little bits as she passes by. If I go in the stall with her she ignores me and keeps going -- she has awesome ground manners normally so this is very out of character.
She looks like she's lost at least 50lbs in the last ~48 hours and I'm worried she may (re)injure herself
There are no open stalls at the barn and the manager does not want to make someone else switch with her to see if a different stall would help. This is her first real winter and she's injured, so I don't want to put her out all alone in a snowy/icy paddock. I don't know what else to do! She is acting like she's terrified of the stall itself -- hesitant to enter it (but obedient enough to do so when asked), and wild when left in it. I can't identify any change that could have triggered this.
I feel totally helpless. Does anyone have any ideas about how to deal with this sort of situation?
Last edited by x-halt-salute; Nov. 14, 2013 at 10:27 PM.
I wish I had suggestions for you, but I don't. My gelding had an episode like this about 4 or 5 years ago and went from totally fine being stalled, to one morning having a panic attack. Ever since then he hasn't been OK in his stall. He isn't in a total panic like that morning, but he weaves and won't lay down to sleep, and kicks the walls. He is turned out for 12+ hours a day, and as soon as he comes in he is uneasy. He can't be out 24/7 right now, but that does help.
Moving barns and switching stalls did nothing for him. I feel like there must be a physical cause but we haven't found anything (Lyme, ulcers, etc etc).
I hope you can find something to help your girl, and this is a limited occurrence. I know the above isn't very reassuring, but at least you aren't alone!
As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.
I'd wonder about a snake, racoon, or something that has burrowed under her stall, or is in rafters or something. Or do any electrical wires/water heater run thru stall, so she is feeling low voltage shocks?
Are you friends with anyone at the barn that boards, that might be willing to switch with you for a few days to see if a different stall solves the problem. I know I would be fine helping out another boader that way, if asked.
No suggestions other than: please do NOT administer ACE to an already worked-up horse. There can be serious adverse reactions in a calm horse, administering to a horse that is already anxious can have serious results.
"If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."
My gelding went though something similar. Never had problem in stall.Then one day found him in a sweat and stall walking. He
rapidly lost weight. Tried everything and the only thing that worked was switching him to another stall. He was perfectly fine in changed stall. I then treated him for ulcers just because of the upset but the stall change ended the problem.
A second to the reminder to NOT ace a worked up horse.
My mare became a stall trotter after smelling and hearing a pig on the other side of the farm. She was exactly how your mare sounds. Fortunatlely she was sort of ok in the pasture, but her stall was too confining for her hyper alert state.
It is possible that she heard/smelled something that you will never know about...it is also possible that "it" is still there! (behind a wall?)
I don't have much to offer you, but I would BEG the stable manager to let you switch stalls...even as an experiment to see if all stalls are "bad", or if it is just her current stall's location. A good manager will put the horse's health first... It's worth some inconvenience to try to keep your mare from stress colicing or re injuring herself. If the barn manager won't budge, consider moving. Your horse's needs are not being met.
Also, a manager should have KNOWN to not give (or allow a horse in their care to be given) a horse ace when their heart rate was already through the roof. Enough of a reason th move, right there, I think!
The only thing I could do to help my quiet her in the stall was to tie her. Over two weeks she progressed from short tying sessions to short free with food sessions. She is almost back to normal.
I would also consider stray voltage from the barn's electricity source, somewhere.
We were at a horse show once, and there were a few stalls where the horses would randomly freak out. It was discovered that the underground power line was not placed into conduit like it should have been, and there was damage to a line, allowing stray voltage to leak out and affect horses in certain areas.
While you may not think there is power NEAR your horse, it very well could be leaking out in a close enough proximity that she is feeling it and reacting accordingly. Try shutting off the main breaker and see if it makes a difference.
"If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."
there's nowhere you can put her outside? I can't imagine that running in circles in a stall can be somehow less damaging than anything she might do to herself if put out in a paddock.
I'd look into the "leaking voltage" theory too.
Over where it's HI in the middle and round on both ends.
I had a horse start running his stall when melting snow slid off the roof. I don't know if you live where it snows but that may be what triggered her. I agree with tieing her up where she can reach her food and water. You may call your vet for suggestions, there are other tranquilizers other than Ace that may be helpful. I hope you can calm her down soon.
I second snow on the roof or other strange noises and electric shock from some source.. I'd hang her a hay net where she can reach her hay and water bucket and put her on a tie chain/rope. First issue is to stop the crazy running and potential damage to her legs/body!! Good luck.
She's finally calmer this afternoon -- moving around more than normal, but taking longer pauses to eat and drink, and occasionally resting for several minutes at a time by her window. Not sure whether she exorcised her demons or if she's just too exhausted to keep racing after 48+ hours of moving. I'll update again once it's clear whether it was a temporary reprieve or a real breakthrough.
I did manage to try her in another stall for a half hour or so -- she wasn't quite as wild and she slowed down a bit to sniff things, but still paced around continually. The moment she steps into the aisle (she can literally be just across the doorway) she calms down 100%, but the full-on panic seems to set in when I put her back in her own stall. I'm a little afraid to tie her when she's this upset because we've had a couple of pull-back episodes (years ago) and she's got c-spine issues. I did take her out for a few hour-long rests in the cross-ties, but I couldn't stay awake and didn't want to be asleep next to a cross-tied horse if anything should startle her, so I had to put her back in the box most of the night.
Thank you all for the suggestions! I knew ace isn't an effective sedative when the horse is already agitated, but I didn't realize it was dangerous -- that info will help me to make better decisions on her behalf in the future. As for omeprazole -- I've now ordered a bunch of UG (I should keep it on hand, especially since the local tack store doesn't stock it). Whether or not ulcers are at the root of this problem, she is certainly at risk for getting/worsening them after the weekend she's had so she'll get treated as soon as it arrives.
There could definitely be something scaring her that I can't find -- there are often squirrels in the rafters and I did find a snake in the aisle once in the summer. She's never reacted to the indoor fauna, but there's a first time for everything. I don't see any evidence of visitors, but there could be something in a wall or burrowed under the building. Also, it did start on a warm day so snowmelt is a possibility, but I've never noticed any whooshes as sheets of snow slide off the roof (this barn is wood with shingles on the roof, which seems to be really quiet).
I'm hoping to work on the voltage leak theory soon -- there's no auto-waterer or anything in the stall but there's an outlet on the aisle wall and an overhead light. I haven't found the circuit box but will ask the staff if they can try the breaker.
I also think that this behavior is worse for her recovery than turnout in a limited space. There are issues with turning her out at the current barn (in terms of appropriate spaces, supervision, and separation from the other horses) but I'm now thinking she'd be better off at a nearby barn where she can go out in a very small paddock during the day with friends over the fence to socialize with, and be stalled next to a buddy at night. I'm willing to move her to keep her happy.
More soon, when I have a better sense of whether the worst is over!
Any chance/signs that she got cast? Can you pull all of the bedding out to make sure nothing is hiding in there?
I did come across something like this once before. Pony just would not settle in his box. Turns out that some people (and I use the term very loosely) had been tormenting him in his box. Not saying that's what happened to your mare.