New OTTB is seeming to be the hot house flower type. Very sensitive to certain things, I ride him in the fattest french link snaffle since he likes it the best, anything "sharper" and he flips his head. Rubs from his well fitting blankets, saddle pads and even the on his neck from the reins... It's a good thing he's a talented creature.
When I first brought him home in September, he seemed to be a happy-go-lucky kind of guy in the cross ties. Took maybe a week for him to settle into standing still on them. Very relaxed, loose lower lip drooping the whole shebang. Now he's turned into a grump when tacking up, ears pinned, occasional swipes with the teeth (met with a firm smack and "NO!"). I'm not a huge fan of giving treats before a ride, but he seems to perk up when the bag rattles. Saddle fits, has not changed. I added a sheepskin pad under a regular A/P pad since he was starting to get rubs on his back under the cantle area. After I saddle, I leave to get his bridle from the heated tack room, ears are all forward and happy/inquisitive... come back with bridle, ears pinned again. I slowly tighten the girth in the indoor and he's in a better mood then. Untacking he's fine, back to Mr. Relaxed Droopy Lip.
He's fine undersaddle. Ears pricked for the most part, happy to go the work, no nappiness whatsoever. I found he does get cold, so I use 2 fleece coolers when warming up and slowly peel off the layers. I make sure he's never "naked" from when I take off his turnout to the switch to the coolers. He is eating OK, he does leave some of his supplements and flax in the bottom of the bucket which I think is mostly because they don't really get mixed in with his feed and stay under the grain. When I bring him in from the field, I mix 1c of 10% sweet feed with the leftovers and he happily eats everything up. I let him in his stall first to grab a drink, have a pee/poop, eat his leftovers, pick out his feet and then put him in the crossties for grooming and tacking up.
He's out at least 8hrs with access to 3 hay feeders stocked with large square bales and a water trough with a heater. Inside he has 2 buckets of water and gets 1 1/2 of the large flakes to eat over night. Grain he gets 2x/day (no way to consistently change that) ~2lbs each serving of an oats/corn/sweet mix. Supplements 1x/day (night) are Selenium&E, electrolytes and 1c whole flax seed. Wormed with Equimax in Nov. He did have a nasty impaction colic 5 weeks ago, treated with fluids and oil, seems to have made a full recovery. Treating vet did not think it was ulcer related, although no scope was done. Coat looks nice and full for winter, very shiny.
I'm thinking he either a.) hates winter/cold weather or b.) might be a little ulcery. I do have the free trial of Pop Rocks I thought about using to see if he improves on that and treat for a month if it proves to be useful, then possibly switch to a ulcer preventative supplement.
I think ulcers--stomach and hindgut--are certainly worth ruling out, but if he's still very touchy after treating for those, you may want to consider wind up syndrome and try gabapentin.
Sometimes the nervous system goes a little nuts and begins to perceive all sensation as pain. Gabapentin allows it to "reset." Blush had this issue when we were in the middle of her neuro stuff--she was cranky about grooming, cranky about saddling and would actually twitch the saddle pad off her back if I wasn't quick enough to get the saddle on. I thought it was behavioral at first. It was not and she responded very well to the gabapentin.
Here is an article about gabapentin use in equines:
I would treat for ulcers - being an OTTB, it's highly likely he has them. My gelding is the same way and that's how I know he is having an ulcer flare-up. He is always a happy saint under tack so when he gets irritated/ears pinned during grooming and tacking, we start Succeed.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill
My horse has extremely sensitive skin and is also very sensitive to different sensations on his body. Especially this time of year, he can be snarky and grumpy while getting groomed and tacked up. He is a peach to ride and is usually pretty pleasant at the end of the ride getting undone and rugged back up.
I think, at least in the case of my guy, a lot of his crankiness is just the way he feels. He's clipped, he hates being cold, and his skin is so sensitive and reactive. Pulling his rugs off and tacking him up is like the perfect storm for over stimulation for him and he reacts by snarking (caveat: he's a snarky horse with lots of personality, anyway). He's much happier to be dealt with in the summer when he's warm and his coat isn't clipped.
It may be ulcers and it's easy enough to find out (a few days omeprazole). But, some guys just are sensitive types.
I figure I can't lose using the Pop Rocks I already have, just have to make sure they don't end up under his grain. Might try syringing them in just to make sure he's getting the full dosage.
Already on flax for his coat, since I saw all the hair breakage from the rubbing, I wanted to try to strengthen his coat. MSM would also be good to try...
As far as grooming, he likes a good curry on his neck, eyes closed, leans into it. Go past his shoulder and you take a chance of getting nipped! I only use medium-soft or soft brushes on his back and barrel, again chalked it up to be very sensitive. This is nothing new, although he did grow to love the neck curries. I can curry his legs when he's got mud dried on them, he's pretty tolerant. He is also prone to scurf/scratches on his pasterns even though he has no white on his legs, another reason I added the flax to his diet.
I would definitely treat for ulcers. I've got an OTTB, sounds quite similar to yours. He was nasty to tack up, kicking, biting, etc. Fine to ride though (aside from not knowing anything) and he was much more relaxed/happier to untack.
We treated him for ulcers and it definitely helped quite a bit with his attitude while tacking up. He was even a bit more peppy to ride (not quite as lazy, still lazy, but not quite to the extent he was).
I know part of it was my guy's personality, he's just not a cuddly, in your pocket type of a horse. Since he's aged (he's 10 now, I got him at 4), he has become much friendlier with me and while I consider him to be very much like a dog (very sweet, cuddly, friendly), he still has his moments while tacking up and always has his own opinion about pretty much everything.
I do know though that treating for ulcers helped take the initial edge off and I think made him a significant big happier. A feed change also really made a big difference for him (following a colic surgery).
The rubbing sounds like thin-sensitive skin. Flax and MSM worked wonders for our thin skinned OTTB. MSM often helps if they're prone to skin irritations and general itchiness.
Yes. My guy is on MSM. I don't do flax, but Cocosoya oil. Both I think help, but don't eliminate the winter skin blues.
However, he s sensitive all over. There is no pleasure from him when currying him anywhere (and I just recently found a curry he would tolerate this time of year). Even a cactus cloth can make him twitchy. So, I'm more inclined to think belly with unrelated skin issues.