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When to throw in the towel?

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  • #21
    Sounds like everyone has covered the angles, but one comment from retrofit - "lacking interaction with other horses" - struck a chord with me.

    If she doesn't have an outlet for her natural social energy, she may be turning it on you. I had a reminder of how powerful a force this is recently.

    I am working with a colt whose gelding turnout buddy was stalled for two weeks due an abscess - he's normally quite contained and an attentive student but he became a real nippy, distracted PIA for a little while. I realized what I thought of as "good character" was in good measure the result of constant interaction with the slightly older gelding - who still young enough to participate in gamesmanship, but confident enough to enforce boundaries. I was thrilled when he returned to turnout and did most of the work for me!

    And though more vet bills are not what you want - if you get your old horse back, they might be worth it. A friend's mare, with whom she showed remarkable patience and did all of the training remedies described by meupatdoes, was still cranky under saddle and extremely defensive towards other horses and strange people when she was cycling - and she seemed to constantly be cycling. After trying a variety of approaches, Regumate was most effective in mellowing her behavior. (my friend has consolidated her experiences here http://haikufarm.blogspot.com/p/equine-spay.html for anyone who is interested). Now the mare is so much more consistent that they are actually making progress in their training, although the fund of entertaining stories about her misbehavior has dried up... well, not entirely. Spaying isn't a fix for everything.
    Publisher, http://www.endurance-101.com
    Blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/


    • #22
      Just a couple of thoughts for you, and lots of sympathy!

      You say you have tried calmers, but for how long? Some horses take rather a long time for the calmer to become fully effective (up to 3 months for max effect sometimes). There are two I would recommend, either a magnesium based calmer, or a B vit based calmer (essentially like taking stress tabs for humans). there is a magnesium vendor that a lot of people on here really like (can't remember the name right now but if you search on magnesium you will find it). I found that horsetech's Glanzen 3 (has the B vit complex) worked well for one of my b^&Y mares. My younger mare seems to do better when on Equipride (which coincidentally has a rather healthy dose of magnesium in it). But with both of those I saw gradual improvement over time, not an overnight, WOW shes better thing.

      I do feel for you, grumpy mares are challenging. And like others, I would say give it a little more time, but if she doesn't come around then I would consider bailing in favor of a horse I enjoyed working with.

      Good luck to you.


      • #23
        Just asking...Do you ride her anywhere but the indoor in the winter? Does she need more variety under saddle? I have a bunch of smart mares, probably not as talented as yours is, but they get bored (and then cranky) easily. Lots of turnout helps, but having a gallop out in the snow or a hack seems to be as great an attitude adjuster for them as a glass of wine is for me!

        And maybe skip the pop rocks and try 5 days of Ulcerguard to see if that helps. I agree that scoping won't show every ulcer, and in winter, even if they're out 24/7 there may not be that much great forage, compared to summer when they can pick at grass whenever they want. Much easier on the tummy to have juicy grass around the clock.

        But if you and she aren't a match, you aren't a match. You've already been awfully thorough in your workup, and my suggestions are no doubt redundant.
        They don't call me frugal for nothing.
        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


        • #24
          What is her breeding? Has she got PONY in her?


          • #25
            What about putting her on hormones?


            • #26
              in instances like this, the old masters had it right by not developing mares into mounts, but rather using them for breeding and pulling carts. They are every bit as talented (sometimes more talented), but tend to lack the consistency.
              Modern day help with hormones can make the progress manageable and more pleasant, but it doesn't always work.
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • #27
                I own someone else's bad-breakup horse. And he's great for me, but was an absolutely terrible match for them. Whether that's the case here or not, I'm not sure, but there are happy endings for these horses. My guy was a failure at 2nd level and now is a GP horse. I know someone else whose horse flunked out of 4th level dressage and is now happy as a clam as a babysitter-type hunter. Regardless of what some of the books and some BB posters may say, there are such things as bad matches with horses.

                Now, I'd be more concerned if it were a recurring issue (e.g. all of my horses have gotten sour and refuse to bend left after 6 months). One-offs of personality mismatches, though... that'll happen.

                Now, I will say my pony mare is a lot like you describe on the ground. Very standoffish and protective of her stall. She does A LOT better when she has time outside (winter's rough). She also does better with constant consistent work inside and outside of the arena (trails, trot poles, suppling and lateral work). There are some days I get on and I know she's gonna be a tough ride. There are some days that she's brilliant and easy. Part of that is being a young horse, a lot of that is being a pony, and some of it is just her personality. It works for me. It work for just anyone.


                • Original Poster

                  She's been on Vita-calm for about a month and a half, but I've heard that it tests, so I was hoping that it would help her settle a bit but I haven't seen a huge change. She has another few weeks until the jar is done, and I don't think that I'll be buying a new one.

                  I'm going to feed read labels tonight when I go out, she needs something really easily digested as she has a history of colic. Bran, maybe? She's on a Senior feed right now, which isn't ideal, but has been great for her gut. Hopefully when she has access to 24/7 grass/hay I can cut out grain totally.

                  Monica- Interesting that you bring up her turnout situation. She has a pretty decent sized space with two other mares, one older paint and another 12 y/o TB. She's at the bottom of the totem pole out there. The footing has been so yucky, she hasn't been able to really explode when she goes out. The freeze/thaw makes it awful. I'm loving that blog. I think that I'm going to ask our vet about the marble as well, to see if it's something that she might benefit from. She seems to have a lot of the same issues that that mare did. Poor guy is going to have a list a mile long, but if it helps then I don't really care!

                  Maybe I'll hold off and give her a few months in KY. The change of pace and living situation will hopefully benefit her. I still feel a bit like I'm grasping at straws, but I just know that she can be good!

                  ETA: Her breeding is Michellino x Wivace x Stravinsky... which makes a lot of people go "Oooh... I understand" after they see her behave, but I don't think that breeding should be an excuse for bad behavior.


                  • #29
                    I don't know your backstory but here are my two cents for what it's worth.

                    Is your barn really busy? There was a mare at my old show barn (55 stalls) that was truly a witch. She would lunge in her stall, turn to kick, had to be drugged for the vet/dentist and would still fight to the point of even rearing up. If she was out grazing and you went to get a mare from her field she would flat out charge you so everyone had to carry a lunge whip with them. Riding she had lots of attitude too but was somewhat willing, def for an experienced rider only. She was also on two different types of hormones to try to regulate her attitude. The owner went to college and moved her to a small barn same turn out time and everything and she turned into an angel. She had no attitude whatsoever and was really friendly.

                    I had a similar but not as drastic experience with my gelding. I moved him to a small place right next to some large showgrounds. His field was also bordered by some fairly busy roads and there was a walking trail next to the other side of the field that always had people on it. He had always been a really really bombproof horse and had lived at the same place for years before I got him. I rode him in their rings and there were always a million things going on, kids running around, shows with new horses, other types of events. Even on quiet days where there was no one there he was bratty. He never outright spooked so it wasn't necessarily the distractions but he was never really listening to me. I spent 6 months there only able to w/t because he was so unpredictable no matter what I did. He would buck, speed up randomly, slow waaay down randomly, focus on another horse in the ring so much I had a hard time steering him. I moved him back to the country and immediatly he was perfect, was cantering and trail riding in a week. He wasn't necessarily spooking at individual things but he was on such a high alert at all times that he was just unpredictable and miserable. I now know that he needs to be at a barn with a country feel. He had been at larger busier barns out in the country and was fine but the smaller barn in a city feeling setting wasn't his thing.

                    The other thing is are you just doing dressage with her? Some horses have a harder time with just flatwork. I personally loooove flatwork but my horse hates it. I have to change it up constantly to keep him interested and he will still give me some attitude. His love is jumping. I can even just do his flatwork in the jumping ring and he is better behaved or throw in one or two jumps inbetween working on dressage and he is better behaved. If your mare has a love for a different type of riding be it jumping or trail riding maybe it's time to move on.

                    One more thing, do you ever go out and not ride? If it is pain related or she doesn't love her riding sessions you might still be able to gain some respect and build your relationship with her by just going out and grooming her. Sometimes I'll go out and give my horse a peppermint bran mash, give him a good grooming and turn him out. Or I'll give him a bath and hand graze him until he dries. I'll also take out a bag of carrots and after grooming have him do a bunch of stretches and then turn him out. I really think that these moments are what helps our bond the most not just riding. She might just need a bit of a mental break you could give her a week off but go out everyday (or as often as normal) and just do some grooming and spend time with her. I wouldn't even do groundwork or lungeing because she will most likely view that as work as well. It's worth a shot if it helps.


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by frugalannie View Post
                      Just asking...Do you ride her anywhere but the indoor in the winter? Does she need more variety under saddle? I have a bunch of smart mares, probably not as talented as yours is, but they get bored (and then cranky) easily. Lots of turnout helps, but having a gallop out in the snow or a hack seems to be as great an attitude adjuster for them as a glass of wine is for me!

                      And maybe skip the pop rocks and try 5 days of Ulcerguard to see if that helps. I agree that scoping won't show every ulcer, and in winter, even if they're out 24/7 there may not be that much great forage, compared to summer when they can pick at grass whenever they want. Much easier on the tummy to have juicy grass around the clock.

                      But if you and she aren't a match, you aren't a match. You've already been awfully thorough in your workup, and my suggestions are no doubt redundant.
                      We are confined to the indoor (and it's tiny) at the moment, so I'm sure that that is part of the problem. She is HORRIBLY herd bound and while I'm okay dealing with it, the footing isn't safe at all should she decide to explode. We also have nobody to hack out with, at the moment.

                      The barn is smaller, about 12 stalls, but low key. I don't think that she's ever been at a busy place so I don't know how that would compare.


                      • #31
                        If you were me.... I'd probably find something more suitable for me and my speed.

                        But I also read your blog and your description of your ride sounded to me like a bored energetic busy body type horse. I ride horses like this - and yes, they spook at stupid stuff ALL.THE.TIME in the winter especially if the footing is bad outside. They get bored silly with straight dressage. And they LOVE to just move when it's cold. Making one of mine just walk and stop - steam would have come out of his ears too. We'd have added a few really good spooks just for kicks too. Now the upside to mine compared to yours is they don't seem to be as, well, expressive as your mare both in bolting and spooking and bucking but I understand where she is coming from.

                        IF you decide to continue, my advice would be: turnout as much as possible (I know you're working on this), with a buddy to play with and be stupid with. Lunge first every day where she's had a day or two off. When doing dressage as long as she's between the aids and listening (sort of) let her go forward in a trot. Half halt every other stride if need be to keep control but let her move. Switch it up every 2nd or 3rd day to cavaletti or jumping or even free jumping...
                        You sound like you can stick really well and are probably much braver than me, but I've found that trying to "keep the lid" on the energy only makes it explode...

                        good luck!!

                        ETA:And nothing makes mine grumpier than disturbing their nice warm blankie on a cold day... standing under a heater helps w/ their attitude


                        • #32
                          I have never personally been in a situation like yours, but from watching friends it seems that those who do "cut their losses" one way or another (through selling/giving away, retiring the horse, buying a second horse to primarily focus on) are happier with their riding/barn time than those who continue to struggle with little progress.

                          I know a few people who have had good luck with putting these types of horses (all mares that I've known) in full time training with a trainer who has a knack for the tricky ones and a good team of vets, farriers, etc. to rule out physical problems.


                          • #33
                            Superminion, if I read your location correctly, you are due to get some snow Friday. If it's deep enough, your mare might be able to go out and have a good time with cushioning to keep her safer and slower. And I think you mentioned that you ride late to have the indoor to yourself. Are there ground poles for you to fool around with or maybe little cross rails? If you're not comfortable jumping her, you can always longe her. Or even make a little jump chute if you think there's space and enough "stuff" available.

                            Cheaper than sending her to Kentucky!
                            They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                            Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                            • #34
                              How often are you riding her? There is a HUGE difference in my mare's attitude when she is ridden 6 days a week versus 3-4. She also seems to actually do better when there are multiple people riding her than when there is just one. Maybe it has something to do with keeping it interesting and keeping her on her toes?


                              • #35
                                OP, there are a lot of nice, easy going horses out there. A LOT. Don't waste your time anymore. You've investigated all the potential physical causes (though I *would* try a few weeks of UG or GG) and you've spent a lot of time trying to work through it.

                                You're busy-- your barn time should be fun, enjoyable and it should not leave you in tears.

                                I spent *5 years* fighting with a mare like this. Ran the gamut of vets, and trainers, boarding barns, you name it. Turns out, she was just a beyotch. Her dam was a beyotch, too. Like, big time. I kept waiting for her to grow up, or I'd get encouraged by her brief moments of brilliance, but at the end of the day the grind was just exhausting, not fun, expensive.

                                I FINALLY sold her to someone who *loved* her and kept her for 8 years. She was still a major beyotch, lol.

                                Leased and owned horses since her, had no issues with that kind of insane 'tude, so I'm guessing it was HER not me, lol. Then last year I bought a mare who just wasn't a good fit for me. She was sweet on the ground but quite dominant, stubborn and her and I just didn't click in terms of a working relationship. 6 months into it I gave her away, with full disclosure, to an excellent home. She is doing awesome in an entirely different discipline than I intended (I think that was part of the issue.) I did catch some flack from people who said I didn't give it enough time, but I KNEW I was unhappy, and I KNEW the horse was too! So why drag it out? My earlier experience had taught me to cut my losses....

                                Anyway it is ok sometimes to say "when."
                                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                                • #36
                                  My mare got like this too when on indoor board. Also, I feed myself, so she always has incentive to come to me and gets fed after work. Don't you wish they could talk?


                                  • #37
                                    Short Answer: go get a November 2012 copy of Western Horseman magazine.
                                    An article on page 40, titled "Ain't Misbehaving", describes a gelding with a problem that sounds remarkably like yours.

                                    A few quotes from the article:
                                    "He got cranky being brushed...I chalked it up to his personality."
                                    "As soon as cold weather arrived, his grumpy nature returned."
                                    "I'd commented to his trainer all through spring and summer what a lovely, easy horse he was...Then fall and winter came, and he got really cold-backed and tight-muscled...One time, I asked him to walk and he launched me without warning."
                                    "As winter progressed, Opie became increasingly cranky and resistant."

                                    The diagnosis was PSSM type 2, made by muscle biopsy.

                                    Is Willow a Morgan? The horse in the WH article was a Morgan.

                                    PSSM is 'tying up', because of a genetic problem. The horse in the WH article was not having obvious, 'usual' tying up episodes. The research vet that helped the owner get things right with the winter-cranky gelding says that horses with PSSM can show signs of tying up withOUT exercise.

                                    So, moral of the story is, research PSSM type 2, perhaps contact Stephanie Valburg DVM, the research vet who helped the gal in the WH article, and don't dismiss PSSM because you haven't seen any classic signs of tying up after exercise.


                                    • #38
                                      Cramps or just mare meanness...we have one like this and what she seems to require is for someone to be with out a doubt in charge. She goes to nip I block her and give her a bonk in the neck and tell her to knock it off. It's like having a bitchy girlfriend, soon as you establish there is nothing really wrong and they just want to bully you, you bonk them or growl at them and they straighten up.
                                      Just saying


                                      • #39
                                        re: feed. I wouldn't do bran it is high in sugar content. I would also do a trial of no soy products. Some horses are sensitive, some are not. Guaranteed soybean meal is in your senior feed. Good feeds to try are: flax seed, rice bran (in moderation), timothy pellets, alfalfa pellets, no molasses beet pulp. Timothy is supposed to be particularly gentle to the gut, is apparently fed alot after colic surgery. Also adding some psyllium once a month as a sand colic preventative might be helpful.

                                        If there is any chance she is epsm/pssm low sugar, higher fat in the diet is supposedly helpful. HOrsetech makes a product that is designed for tying up called TUP. It is magnesium, vit e, selenium, and some other little ingredients. Might be worth a try if muscle disorders may be a possibility.


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by Superminion View Post
                                          We are confined to the indoor (and it's tiny) at the moment, so I'm sure that that is part of the problem. She is HORRIBLY herd bound and while I'm okay dealing with it, the footing isn't safe at all should she decide to explode. We also have nobody to hack out with, at the moment.
                                          My coach's conditioning schedule for her students (eventers) REQUIRES a hack day once a week. If the roads are unsafe, you do a hack in the indoor. The indoor hacks are boring, but they help the horse to realize that every ride/venture into the indoor doesn't automatically mean work.
                                          "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"