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Does it ever get any better?!?

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  • Does it ever get any better?!?

    I'm almost at my wit's end. I have a very lovely 5 year old Friesian X National Show Horse mare that I absolutely adore, however, she's hot. Not only is she hot, she's athletic, and a spookaholic. She's super sensitive to everything and the athleticism mixed with the spookiness makes for some hair-raising and rather spectacular moments.

    She's been under saddle for a couple of years and there have been times when she's gotten better, calmed down, and we've been able to accomplish some things. And then there are times like now, I moved her to a lovely higher end dressage barn about a month ago and she's been jumpy ever since. I would normally think, it's the move that got her, except that I've moved her in the past and she's been calm from the start. Despite the dressage focused barn, it doesn't seem to have that highly energized atmosphere and does seem rather laid back most of the time. She gets ample turn-out with an OTTB mare.

    But still, she's freaky and jumpy (there has to be a better way to explain that). I know a lot of this is her personality and to a point, she'll always be this way. I'm absolutely ok with that.

    So after that big wall of text. Those of you out there with athletic, spooky greenies (I'm assuming I'm not the only one, ha!)... does it get better? Is there some exercise that helped you really break the barrier to better focus and calm? I tried the "Valium" exercise from Jane Savoie (thank you to whoever posted that thread) and it helped a little, it's still a work in progress though.

  • #2
    I have some suggestions

    If you PM me I'd be glad to give them to you.
    MW
    Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
    Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
    New edition of book is out:
    Horse Nutrition Handbook.

    www.knabstruppers4usa.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes.

      But I would make sure you see definate results as you progress.

      Good training is the best resolution for spooks IMO
      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
      http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        I can say yes, it gets better. Except mine was 9 when I bought her, and 11 or so when she finally "grew up." Only rarely do I get asked if she's a green 4 year old anymore... She is now 14 and trustworthy and safe. *Looky* like heck, but not inclined to go airborne.

        The new barn thing is a concern though... think about what changes there might be in her routine. And some horses actually do better in a busy, high energy barn.
        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by Melyni View Post
          If you PM me I'd be glad to give them to you.
          MW
          PM sent! Thanks!

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by quietann View Post
            I can say yes, it gets better. Except mine was 9 when I bought her, and 11 or so when she finally "grew up." Only rarely do I get asked if she's a green 4 year old anymore... She is now 14 and trustworthy and safe. *Looky* like heck, but not inclined to go airborne.

            The new barn thing is a concern though... think about what changes there might be in her routine. And some horses actually do better in a busy, high energy barn.
            She's been at the high stress barns and did not do well there, she tends to do better at the quieter calmer barns. This one is kind of in the middle as far as activity and energy level.

            Comment


            • #7
              What do you feed her? Maybe talk to a nutritionalist to make sure she's not getting anything that would cause excess energy. Lots of hay would be best with minimum grain, especially not oats or any high sugar feed. I don't know too much more about it besides that sorry!

              Watch out with "calming" or mare supplements, as some contain ingredients that would eliminate you from competition.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by kmmoran View Post
                What do you feed her? Maybe talk to a nutritionalist to make sure she's not getting anything that would cause excess energy. Lots of hay would be best with minimum grain, especially not oats or any high sugar feed. I don't know too much more about it besides that sorry!

                Watch out with "calming" or mare supplements, as some contain ingredients that would eliminate you from competition.
                She is on a low sugar feed, and the hay is a mix hay, although I don't know the exact amounts of alfalfa, but I can certainly ask. She's on competition legal calming supplement (I was very careful to make sure she wouldn't get something she couldn't have in competition). To be specific, she's on SmartCalm Ultra and Mare Magic. They've helped, but like I said, she goes through stints of absolute insanity. I am going to see about getting the chiro out this week because I know that slight discomfort for her, can manifest into total distraction and goofiness as well.

                Comment


                • #9
                  They may not be related at all, but when I moved Fella to a dressage barn he went from a 3 spook to about a 9 crazy. Moved him to another barn and he's about a 2 spook. What are they doing different? Feed, turnout, etc.

                  JMO YMMV
                  Paula
                  He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Keep in mind you bought a NSH/friesian...
                    Wanting her to be consistently calm is like asking a jack Russell to be happy as a purse dog in a one bedroom loft.
                    She will always be easily excitable, and a hot tomale. She will most likely gain focus as she ages but won't settle and be 100% consistent til her late teens. Such is a hot horse.

                    To me she sounds fun, but I like my horses hot
                    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                    chaque pas est fait ensemble

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Is she getting too much grain? Too little turnout? Enough exercise? Is she able to see out of her stall - hang her head out and watch barn aisle tv type thing?
                      I've had a HOT horse who really couldn't stand calmly even in his stall and he turned around with a change of diet, more turnout, and a consistent program.
                      And yours is YOUNG. There's a lot of growing up to do still.
                      Just good luck!
                      Born under a rock and owned by beasts!

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by ako View Post
                        Is she getting too much grain? Too little turnout? Enough exercise? Is she able to see out of her stall - hang her head out and watch barn aisle tv type thing?
                        I've had a HOT horse who really couldn't stand calmly even in his stall and he turned around with a change of diet, more turnout, and a consistent program.
                        And yours is YOUNG. There's a lot of growing up to do still.
                        Just good luck!
                        I don't believe she's getting too much grain, but I'll check to be sure. She goes out daily for about 8 hours, rain/shine/mud/etc. I've been trying to ride her 4-5 days a week. She does indeed have a front row seat to aisle tv and can nab anybody that goes by too close.

                        She stands quietly and calmly in her stall, practically sleeps in the cross ties and is even sedate looking on the lunge line. But looks can be deceiving. She's the sort that looks ok to the untrained eye, but to the person on her, she's a spring coiling, or a bomb getting ready to explode.

                        Petstorejunkie - I know she is what she is, I'd just really like to figure out some ways to channel that. She is a blast to ride, when we aren't copyrighting new moves to be added to her own personal dressage test, such as "M - Spin spook 180 degrees".

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have come to believe that zebras don't change their stripes. Of course with proper handling, training, and horse keeping (and with age), she will be at the good end of her own personal range. But her personal range is always going to be in keeping with her breeding, her sensitivity, and her personality. You can't change that.

                          You have to decide whether you want a horse like that (even on her good days) or whether you prefer something more easy going.

                          I had that horse for 15 years. I kept waiting for him to calm down. He never did. He did get better and better, but he never became, for example, a Fjord, which I started fantasizing about.

                          When I had an opportunity to buy a different horse, I bought -- guess what -- a Fjord! And I know he'll never be the incredible athlete my previous horse was, even if I keep him fit and supple.

                          You just have to decide what you want.
                          I have a Fjord! Life With Oden

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I like sensitive (hot) horses. One of the points in dressage is to refine your aids and the response of the horse so that it would appear that you and your horse are one. You think it, the horse does it Personally I think it's more likely to happen with a sensitive horse than one you have to make do it. Of course I'm also one who prefers to survive the cartwheels and airs above the ground without having to kiss the dirt or part ways with the saddle. I purchased a horse several years back of which the former owner said that he just had way too much energy for her and the key was to learn how to channel it. Well after many miles in the saddle not only did he earn my bronze for me, he became my daughter's first real show/dressage horse. She was 11 at the time. So through thick and thin I guess I found that channel. I've since had many a sensitive fellow. Time, patience (a hard one for me but my teachers/the horses have taught me a lot over the years), fortitude and being thankful for that responsiveness has helped. I have always found that it gets better; but, I will also add that I have never wanted nor expected any of mine to be complete dead heads either. Learning not to over-react, staying calm, being dogmatic in warm-up and requiring that they remain focused on you through exercises that gain confidence as well as suppleness and relaxation continue to help me (and we're still perfecting it)........now having said all that there are still times I have to suck it up and just ride. Oh and then, of course, double digits in age brings a lot to the table too
                            Ranch of Last Resort

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              it does get better - so says this owner of a very athletic and sensitive mare. what worked for my mare is consistent, fair, level appropriate work - 6 days a week in a no nonsense workout that asked her to challenge herself and progress.

                              when she was young she would leap/spin and i went off i think a couple times.... but it got better and better and better. now at 13 she is a dream to ride.

                              but. i have very good professional help and during my mares prime i took 2 lessons week for many years and i rode her 6 days a week - every week, for years.

                              so..... it sounds to me, based on my personal experience that a fair, intense workout as many days a week as possible with a good trainer would be of benefit.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have a very confused, hot, sometimes spooky, Arab. Given to me for just those reasons. You have gotten good advise from the above posters. Let me add one thing. The bonding process takes longer when your horse is boarded and you are not the primary caretaker. The day-to-day interaction helps speed up the "getting to know you". Trust is what it's all about. Do you trail ride? As we used to say "ride the hide off her". Meaning not only short training sessions but longer rides. I find that helps (although I have to go alone and have learned how to hit the dirt and hold the reins I don't recommend that). Ground work/play does help. You also have to learn to lie and not let her know you are thinking that she might shy. (you know she can read your mind). You have to ride her like she's gonna do everything right. (some of the best advice I ever got)

                                I had a horse in the past (also free) that learned he could dump the rider. All it took was sticking on thru one of his performances and he never tried again. (of course, I was younger). It doesn't sound like that's the kind of horse yours is. She sounds more like my Arab.

                                My guy's gotten better (sometimes thinks before he freaks) and in new situations I let him check things out out of the saddle as much as possible but I've had him 4 years and keep him at home and he still has his moments. Probably always will. He's an orphan and was handled mostly by green handlers when younger so he's a bit different. I accept that. I'm getting too old to fall off and am trying to get that thru to him. LOL.
                                Last edited by CFFarm; Dec. 17, 2012, 09:32 AM. Reason: spelling
                                Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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                                • #17
                                  How many days a week are you riding?
                                  Hot, smart horses need lots of consistent work to exercise their brains and bodies. If they aren't getting enough stimulation they create their own.
                                  www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                                  chaque pas est fait ensemble

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have one of the hot smart ones too. No advice to add to what others have said here but it does get better with time. Mine still occasionally does his patented 180 degree spin but one benefit of owning him is that my seat is tremendous and he cannot get me off (famous last words?). He's a blast to ride and is mostly just looky now.
                                    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Also, go check out the Horse Care forum, there is a thread about the terrible 4's. It's a thing.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        One thing that I found worked with my OTTB that hasn't been mentioned is groundwork. I may get slammed for mentioning him but Clinton Anderson's "Establishing Respect and Control" book has some great exercises in it. (He's a little too smack happy for me so I toned things down a bit.)

                                        When I first got Lady I spent the first 3 months on the ground - because she put me there the first couple times I rode her! She can still be spooky but rarely and when it happens it's generally a "spook in place" kind of thing.

                                        I also believe it's something that will lessen with time and, as your bond strengthens, she'll look to you before she spooks and if you're ok she will be too. When that happens...it's awesome.

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