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Turn Out Anxiety

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  • Turn Out Anxiety

    Does anyone have any solutions for horses that panic and run when turned out? Food does not work. This gelding does not drag his handler, but takes a few steps away then bolts in a panic. He has injuried himself several times putting us behind in training and showing. Is turned out alone in a 1/2 acre paddock, with hay and grass. Wears boots all around (which is a consistent rubbing issue). Getting really frustrated! I have considered leaving him out 24/7, moving him to a larger paddock with a buddy (had issues with this before), or turning him out in a super large field with a herd. He has at some point been in all of these situations with little success. HELP!

  • #2
    I would suggest cross posting this in horse care or off course - you may get more responses that way. I know of one show horse (an Arabian) at the barn where I board who is like this - they don't turn him out, period. He gets exercised every day.
    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


    • #3
      My OTTB had serious anxiety when we first got her. It took a few days before the farrier could come yank her hind shoes, and all she did was run, run, run.

      As soon as we put her out with two other mares, she was fine. She will still get a bug up her butt and get a case of the zoomies, but we just made sure that she had a lot of room to get away from them if need be (she's low man) and all is well.

      I agree with oliverreed though... some horse just can't handle turn out.


      • #4
        Does he have an old reliable babysitter friend he might be able to go out with? Some horses don't do solitary turnout well.

        Does he run around and act looney and then settle, or does he just run himself into a froth the whole time he is out? Is he really in a panic or is it a "I'm free!" celebration after being in for half a day?

        If he settles after a little turnout, I might try to introduce it in a medium-size paddock with a horse friend and a "friend" like a little ace, then try to keep him out as much as possible so "free" is normal. I would avoid a large herd situation.


        • Original Poster

          He does settle after an initial OMG!!! I am out!!! Panicked bolt around. Sometimes gets worked up again, but mostly stays quiet and eats. His neighbor is a quiet pony. He occasionally gets worked up about coming in too, but I think I will try to 24/7 out to see how that works.


          • #6
            Give him a friend or two...some horses just don't want to be out alone.
            Boss Mare Eventing Blog


            • #7
              I don't agree that "some horses just can't handle turnout." It's a horse, not a porcelain doll! Let it run! The more you worry and try to keep him cooped up, the more hyper he will be. I recently had to move barns and my OTTB went from being out 24/7 to getting turned out for 6 to 7 hours a day. The people that work there always mention that he is so mellow in turn out. I tend to think that this is because he is used to being turned out and it's nothing new or exciting for him.

              I have seen so many "show" horses come up lame because they get excited that they are finally able to be a horse! Rarely will a horse that is used to turn out hurt themselves in the field.


              • #8
                I'm thinking about a few horses I have known who have paced endlessly while in TO, no matter what situation that they are put in. I agree that probably 99% of horses just need those few moments to 'be a horse'. It sounds like the OP's guy settles down and is fine. My guess is that he doesn't run in a panic, but just is happy to be out. My OTTB will fling her head in the air and do a lap or 5 as fast as ever she can. Every morning. She's just a happy girl. If he wouldn't STOP running even after some time, then I'd worry.

                OP I still say give him a buddy or two. And don't watch! They feed off our nerves.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for the advice so far. I am going to try 24/7 turnout now that the weather has warmed up a little. I would eventually like to get him back out with some buddies if I can find the right situation at our boarding facility. He had some bad turnout experiences with other horses and gets scared, but I think we can over come that. I really would like for him to stop injurying himself!! The part about not watching I think might be the best advice! The anxiety is probably coming from me!


                  • #10
                    If he's going to be out 24/7 (I agree, definitely try this), don't boot him....
                    The big man -- my lost prince

                    The little brother, now my main man


                    • Original Poster

                      Yeah that's my other concern. Current plan is to let him get his jollies out then go take the boots off. We will see how that goes!


                      • #12
                        First, always give the horse a workout before turnout. Always riding or longeing before turnout should take away some of the excess energy until he habituates. I have also had success by using electric fencing to fence off an area of a paddock so that it is is too small to run in. Then very gradually enlarge the paddock, as he gets used to being outside. This works best if the horse can have an in/out access to a stall or shed and let him have access 24/7. But it can be done without it, especially if you work him before turnout.
                        "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                        • #13
                          I'd try this...Take him to the paddock on a lunge line and WALK him on the line. If he wants to trot/canter fine, but NO crazyies/running. Don't let him run himself down...just encourage "slow" until he walks. When he will WALK quietly...turn him loose. It takes some time, but you have to "teach" him to be quiet in turn out. And...have a really quiet friend IN the paddock during the lunging phase. After all...he IS a horse. Horses DO get turned out!! OTTB's tend to forget how, but there was a time in their lives...pre-track...that they were turned out. Good luck.
                          Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                          • #14
                            Last fall our horse went bonkers when they changed him from night to day turnout. He ran the fence line constantly. Threw a show gave himself and abscess all of it. I started with him in the medical paddock with lots of hay and water. He cannot run in there. He sees horses all around. Then I put him on quiettex. Worked like a charm! He got over it very quickly and has been a gem ever since. Hopefully, when we go back to night turnout I won't need it again! It was easy and safe for a little while until he got over whatever was bothering him.
                            Mai Tai aka Tyler RIP March 1994-December 2011
                            Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson
                            "And here she comes. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's ZENYATTA!"


                            • #15
                              Ulcers? He may be irritating them when he gets to running, which makes him anxious when going out, which irritates them, which proves to him pain will come.


                              • #16
                                Could the handler walk the fence line with him when he's first turned out to get over that OMG moment? Instead of just letting him loose at the gate, taking an extra 5-10 minutes to help him stay calm?
                                life + horses


                                • #17
                                  gardenie may be on to something -- try a tummy soother, just to see. There are a lot of things on the market now. Try one of them and see if it helps. We had a horse at my barn several years ago that the vet insisted couldn't have ulcers because "he didn't fit the profile." Well, even though he wasn't currently a show horse, he had a very "anxious" personality, and worried a lot. We treated him and he was 95% improved. Vet said "huh, must have been ulcers after all." It never hurts to try something -- I put my OTTB mare on the Smartgut pellets and saw a huge improvement in her overall anxiety level. I think her tummy got better and she was less likely to be worried about having a tummy ache and the overall anxiety level dropped. She went from 24 hours in with exercise, to 24/7 turnout here, and it took a few weeks, but she settled in and loves it now.

                                  Also, on the boots -- I had a different OTTB that had to wear boots due to an old bow -- it was so large that he whacked himself if it wasn't covered. I ended up using the boots from Dover that had the fuzzy lining -- the dressage sport boots, I think.

                                  And I had three pairs -- we switched boots at breakfast and dinner, so that we had clean ones to put on, and I kept them washed pretty well -- I could throw them in the washer. The key with him, though, was that I used the gold bond powder and sprinkled his boots with it before they went on. Prevented rubs and fungus. It was a must for him if he ever had to wear ones for training or competition that were neoprene inside (like Woof boots, for instance) as he always got rubs if he didn't have his powder first.

                                  Good luck with him! I had a time transitioning the second horse to 24/7 turnout when we moved because he was afraid of the dark. I had to leave lights on all around at first and then slowly turn them out over a period of a couple of weeks. Seriously. He had gotten into dust ups with raccoons right at dusk at two different barns, and when it started to get dark, he would begin to pace and worry. He ended up doing fine, though. Just had to condition him and watch him pretty closely.

                                  Libby (yes, a raccoon beat the crap out of my horse, including removing part of a nostril and requiring a bunch of stitches. sigh)
                                  I have Higher Standards ...do you? Find us on FB!
                                  Higher Standards Custom Leather Care -- Handcrafted Saddle Soap


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by scottytoohottie View Post
                                    Thanks for the advice so far. I am going to try 24/7 turnout now that the weather has warmed up a little. I would eventually like to get him back out with some buddies if I can find the right situation at our boarding facility. He had some bad turnout experiences with other horses and gets scared, but I think we can over come that. I really would like for him to stop injurying himself!! The part about not watching I think might be the best advice! The anxiety is probably coming from me!
                                    24/7 Turnout is the way to go... Our top level show horses even go out 24/7. The only reason they ever even see a stall is bad weather and to eat, other than that they are out! The more you get him out the better off he will be. Horses are not made to live in a 12x12 space, they are grazers and need to be able to roam A LOT! The bigger the turnout you can give will also help. As will another horse for him to go out with, I second the opinion of a babysitter horse that's older.

                                    Give him a good solid couple of weeks to try it though, at least 12 to 14 days. Also when you pull his halter off, don't pull it over his ears unbuckle it by the crown piece and safer for both of you.


                                    • #19
                                      Also, make being out more desirable than being in!

                                      Rather than bringing him in to food and friends, feed him outside and if you bring him in, bring him in to an empty barn with no food.

                                      You have to think about if you are rewarding him for bad/dangerous behavior. If he gets upset and running and you bring him into the barn with friends and feed him you have just rewarded bad behavior.

                                      Giving him a pony friend can be better than a large friend--they usually do less damage.


                                      • #20
                                        Kentucky Horsewear makes an elastic tube that can go on under the boots to prevent rubs: