Hi, I am new to this forum and have a pretty confusing horse problem!
I have a 4 year old Warmblood mare that I have owned for about a year and a half. I was riding her primarily dressage with a bit of western. She has always been a high energy horse and has always been really anxious and nervous under saddle, always on edge and spooky and even bucked a few times. It a year under saddle before she would actually relax during our ride, still spooky and nervous some days but for the most part she was well behaved and energetic. It was actually difficult to get her to just walk some days, she just always wanted to go! I was riding her 4-5 days a week on average, all in an indoor arena.
I recently moved to an acreage with only an outdoor arena, there is snow on the ground here so I have only ridden her approx once a week since we moved and all walk and a bit of trot (english, western, and bareback). She was doing amazing! Every ride here so far she was relaxed and quiet and happy, even her first ride outside in the snow after a week off! But the past 2 rides she has been acting very strange.. I get on and she just wont move. She doesn't pin her ears, swish her tail, or act irritated; she just stands and actually lowers her head and closes her eyes shes so relaxed! She'll stand there for as long as i let her "sleeping". But the problem is when I ask her to move forward she just won't go. I can kick her as hard as I can and she just wont budge; she'll either just stand there and continue to sleep or will turn her head and look at me or nibble my boot or her shoulder then turn her head back around and go back to her "sleepy" position.
I got a new western saddle that I thought maybe it was bothering her but I can't feel it pinching anywhere and she did the same thing when I got on bareback. My mom can lead her with me on her and she'll go (slowly), and I got a crop and finally got her to walk a couple slow circles too and both times she didn't act uncomfortable or in pain. But I haven't been letting her get away with this behavior, always ending after I get her moving at least a little bit.
She is eating normal, a good weight, excited for food and to see me, seems happy and content, plays with her buddy, runs around and rolls, teeth were done a few weeks ago, deworming done last week, and she is utd on her vaccines. She doesn't seem sad or sick.
I'm just at a total loss as to what could possibly be going on to cause such a drastic behavioral reversal and I have no idea what to do! Any ideas and/or tips would be greatly appreciated!
If anyone needs any additional info or has any questions don't hesitate to ask
I don't have a trainer as I've been the one doing all the training with her but later on in April I was thinking about trailering her to a barn and taking some reining lessons on her, so that trainer might have some ideas. Ive never seen a horse change so drastically! I was thinking it could be the snow that for some reason shes decided shes unsure about and wont go but Im not sure. I just dont know if theres any kind of medical related reason that could cause her to suddenly be so lazy and sleepy. Is there any other info I can give you?
She's quite young, and young horses can have lots of things that might cause discomfort that aren't medical in the emergency sense -- tooth eruption, growth spurts, etc. Since she's only 4, I presume she hasn't been under saddle all that long. You might want to have a vet, chiro, and / or farrier check her. If you have a saddler, have them check saddle fit. I second what Simkie says, it's either medical or training related.
Also, when you say she's "sleepy" does she actually fall asleep -- as in narcolepsy?
I had her teeth done a few weeks ago and her feet are okay as well, I do equine massage therapy and i checked her out and she doesn't seem to be sore at all, but if it doesn't improve ill get a more experienced chiro out.She has been under saddle for a year and a half, she'll be 5 in June. I'm not sure if shes actually asleep or just THAT relaxed but ill be sitting on her back and she'll put her head down and a lot of the time she will close her eyes. What exactly is narcolepsy? If she doesn't improve Ill definitely get a vet out to check her out, just wanted to see if any one had any ideas or have had the same problem.
Regardless, in my experience, I have not had a horse do what you're describing. You mention that you'd been training dressage with her previously: How is she on the longe line and / or in side reins? Has she consistently been willing to move swingingly forward into contact until recently?
I had a thread on here a while ago about my horse that would stand with his head low and close his eyes. He'd get to the point where he would literally fall asleep and almost fall over before catching himself. Though he didn't just do it when I was on him... he'd start it when I was tacking up and it would keep going until I'd get on and tell him to move it or else.
I don't know how similar these situations may be. But my horse was in good weight, in good health (I thought), and wasn't sore. Turns out he was anemic and wasn't getting enough food either even though he looked fit. We started giving him Lixotinic, upped his grain, started giving him a flake of alfalfa and gave him a couple weeks off of work. Now he doesn't ever do it anymore.
May not be the same type of thing, but I might try to have your vet get some blood work done if I were you.
Ill have to look into it more and see if it could be that. She definitely does lower her head and close her eyes. But she will "wake up" and look a bit if someone calls her name or if i pick up the reins before she goes back to that position. She is great lunging, I used to lunge her before I rode when I was first starting her and lunged her anytime she was a little too fresh. Ive never had to use side reins or anything like that with her, shes always been very easy to engage her hind end and move forward into contact. Forward moving was always her strong suit. Walking used to be the difficult gait for her, she just wanted to trot and get moving, she was high energy and very responsive and sensitive. Its just kind of all of a sudden that shes like this. The first few rides out her she was quiet and slow but I had no problem getting her to walk and even trot a bit (dont want to do too much in the snow) until the last 2 rides. She doesn't get mad or anything when I ask her either, she doesn't try to fight with me or kick out or anything she just wants to stand there and relax
Thanks NBChoice! That does sound like what shes doing and it could be that since it was so sudden and we just recently moved here. She hasn't done it while tacking up, she is relaxed but not as relaxed as when I get on, but she does it while I'm untacking her as well. I give all mine beet pulp and hay thats a mixture of alfalfa/brome/timothy. What kind of grain did you give him? Ill try giving her a bit of grain and I might have to get a vet out to get her blood checked
Before we figured out what was going on he was on a mixture of Strategy and Ultium. Now he's just on Ultium and a little bit of Amplify in the morning. He's really filled out and looks (and acts) a lot better than he did before.
Okay thanks! Ill definitely have to look into that, its quite possible! I only have oats and step 1 and 7 for my pregnant mare right now but Ill give her a little bit of oats with her beet bulp tomorrow and Ill get a vet out next week if she doesnt improve at all
Many, many years ago I had a very similar experience with my now 33yr old retired gelding. Always very much a hot rod, once in a while I'd have a couple of days where he'd lead into the indoor just fine for a ride but once mounted wouldn't go anywhere. Even despite quite firm urging. He was the type of horse that would be off to the races the moment you had your toe in the stirrup, so this was REALLY strange behavior. Once he even laid down.
Bareback, english or western, bitted, bittless or naked, tack didn't matter.
I never did figure it out, vet could never find anything wrong that would cause that, and he slept just fine in his stall.
Years later, after nearly losing him to ulcers, I finally realized his very subtle signs and it turned out he was suffering in silence from pretty bad ulcers way back then too. I was a kid with her first horse, and ulcers weren't really talked about back then, so I was clueless
His attitude was always bright, always a pig about his food, his coat always luxurious, never acted girthy, always happy to go for a ride. Only signs he gave were a lot of yawning and laying down, which again, back then, I didn't pay much mind to, I thought he was just relaxed. Otherwise he was about the happiest horse you'd ever meet.
I now attribute his strange standing still behavior to ulcers. He was probably in a great deal of discomfort but too kind hearted to tell me in an aggressive manner - despite me digging my heels into his ribs or taking a whip across his hide thinking he was being willful oh the guilt I still feel to this day. He is a willful hot head, but also an incredibly peaceful and kind horse.
I wondered back then if it was the indoor itself, in bad weather that is where he would be turned out so I thought perhaps he wanted to just nap. But in hindsight, the only time we ever were in the indoor was when the weather was poor, which meant he only got out for 45min that day in the indoor. 23hrs of stall time likely was a huge contributor to his ulcers.
Just sharing my story.
Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.
How long has she been at the new barn? Is she actually laying down and sleeping? If she is not laying down and not getting rem cycle in she may just be tired. New barn and nervous and doesn't feel comfortable laying down can cause this. I would have a vet out to take a look at her first and start having the barn help pay attention if she is in a stall if she has shavings on her in the mornings or any signs that she's laying down. If she is just in pasture it will be harder to tell but just ask if someone can peek at her on and off until they go to bed to see if they can catch her laying down or not.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
She's at my farm, we've been here about a month and I've seen her laying down once or twice but ill try to take a look more often and see if she is. That's interesting to know your horse did that with ulcers. She hasn't seemed stressed out at all her, she seems to really like it and she's outside 24/7 so I'm not sure if it would be that, but anything is possible!