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Its my birthday and I'll cry if I want to: UPDATE!

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  • Its my birthday and I'll cry if I want to: UPDATE!

    UPDATED! See my most recent post at the end of this thread.

    Today is my birthday, hooray. It is overshadowed by the feeling that I've run out of patience and lost a lot of faith in my horse.

    Saturday afternoon we hauled over to a friend's to ride and use her washrack - we had signed up for a dressage schooling show on Sunday and needed to clean the beasts up a bit.

    My mare will be 5 in April. She's a TB, about 16.1 and slight of build. I bought her out of a field as a scrawny and wormy misfit last February - and the prior owner had purchased her as a two year old living in yet another field and done next to nothing with her in the time between. Next month, she will have about a year under saddle. We showed consistently last year at schooling shows with more success than not - she attended at least a dozen shows and came home with at least one ribbon every time, sometimes many more.

    She's a pretty horse, a nice mover, a catty, scopey jumper and generally willing, although with a hell-on-wheels attitude that makes her one of those mares that isn't for everybody and requires some serious brass at times. She's athletic and must somehow be related to one of the great bareback broncs.

    Back to Saturday. We tacked up, she lunged pretty quietly with just a few buck-leap-run moments, and I hopped on. She was basically quiet, nothing more than her usual tense/nervous moments, which usually work themselves out if we warm up slowly. At a walk or trot, I don't exactly recall - another horse cantered by and she reared, almost flipped, regained her balance and flailed around before finally returning to the ground. I exited stage left at the peak of the rear, inserting myself directly into the arena footing on my head and left shoulder at which point my flustered steed stepped on my left thigh in her haste to exit the scene.

    I'm bruised and beaten but not broken, fortunately. She attemped this maneuver once more during the ride (again, while another horse passed) before I convinced her to pursue other avenues of disobedience and focus on the work at hand. She put in some nice work and stood quiet as a church mouse. Rearing is not a new disobedience to her; it has been her first reaction from day one. 99.9% of the time they are controlled, calculated moves and have become less and less frequent as she becomes more sensible - mostly just threats these days that are easily thwarted by being pushed forward and made to work. I can't recall the last time she actually went up, and even the threats don't occur often anymore.

    This jekyll-hyde behavior is what concerns me. Her actions on Saturday were without warning, and she returned to her quiet church mouse state within seconds afterwards both times. She's had no diet changes, no atmosphere/turnout changes, nothing. She's worked 4-5 days a week, mostly flatwork (schooling first level) with the occasional o/f school once a month or so.

    We went to the show Sunday, rode a little in the warmup area but it was just too much for her to handle. There was a heavier gelding being warmed up that was very uptight and hitting the ground hard with each stride that bothered her in particular. The rider seemed oblivious to my horse's plight when she persisted in doing multiple walk-canter departs within a horse length behind my poor mare. We retired to a secluded, empty warmup area to get some decent work accomplished - but in the end, I scratched. I wasn't confident that I could hold her together and hadn't yet found the return of my youthful courage.

    I just couldn't do it. I feel like I'm out of patience with this mare and her quirks, and I don't know if I can trust her in the future. She has a lot of talent, and the road to where she's at hasn't always been easy. I've worked my ass off. She's getting her teeth done this week, and I'm planning on having the chiropractor out to see if she's out anywhere.

    I'm considering my options this week, and hope to make a decision by the end of the month. Either I find some renewed patience, or she goes off to the trainer's for 30 days. At the end of that 30 days I'd re-evaluate her progress and discuss her potential as an eventer with said trainer. If I'm still not satisfied, she'll either be put up for sale or thrown out to pasture.

    I'm not sure what kind of guidance or advice I'm looking for here, but at the very least it was helpful to vent.
    Last edited by Heinz 57; Mar. 15, 2010, 01:15 PM.

  • #2
    Happy Birthday and I'm sorry.

    It really doesn't get much less fun than hot green horses in crowded warm-ups.
    Was this your first time out this year? If she was generally good last year perhaps just a cobweb issue?

    All I can really think to offer, is that the few times I've decided to give up on a horse, or send them for training, it's been because I've finally reached that point where NOT having to keep trying was actually a relief.

    It sounds like you're reaching that point. Try to think about how much better it will be to get to watch these formative experiences from a safe spot on the ground.


    • #3
      On the one hand, she's only 5, and this is probably your first time out in a bit, so it's not too unexpected that she'd be green and unsettled. It may be that, because she was tense, you were tense, and you didn't really get her going forward, hence the rearing. OTOH, nothing scares me like a rearer. If that is her go to method of resistance, and she's coming close to going over backward, and she keeps doing it, eventually she will flip, and break your neck or hers or both.

      It's a tough position to be in! I think your plan sounds realistic.


      • Original Poster

        You guys are quick!

        That was not her first outing of the year. We went to a schooling show back in mid January where she was equally as tense, so I can agree with the whole cobweb/rusty issue as far as nervousness at shows, and I can cope with that.

        However, as far as the outing on Saturday - we don't have an arena at home right now so she gets hauled to another farm 4-5 nights a week to be ridden. Travel is not an issue with her, or at least it shouldn't be. She's been to that arena a number of times and isn't a spooky horse.

        Keep the thoughts coming, nothing like collective COTH wisdom to help think through an issue!


        • #5
          I used to keep a journal on my horse. OTTB mare. Got her just when she had turned 5. She did all sorts of random naughty things, including rearing and generally being unpleasant and unpredictable. Full time turnout, longing, longing, longing, a big slug of patience, a can of smart calm, a couple of brave friends for back up....

          2 years later, she's sweet as a lamb. Kind, quiet and reliable. High winds, rain, stuck in a stall for a week. Throw a saddle on and she is a good egg. Was reserve champ at her first show, did not step a hoof wrong. LOL, no smart calm or longing necessary.

          You know, you have a young horse and young horses do unreliable things. Most grow up. Hopefully yours will.


          • #6
            she's a mare...this time of year she could be coming into season...most of mine are a bit more reactive this time of year.

            I think you are putting too much emotion into....she sounds like she is progressing and improving. I'd just take it a ride at a time. If you are not enjoying the process...and enjoying her...then sell her or give her away.

            Honestly...one year under saddle isn't a lot of time for some horses....and 5 is still young. I'd give it more time...and change your expectations a bit. Try not to put emotion into...just ride the horse you have at that moment and work to improve her....which it sounds like you have. (and make sure you are checking saddle fit and soreness.....I had one mare that would get back sore with her first few cycles every year....putting her on Regumate helped that a ton).
            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


            • #7
              She's five. Not a great year for many horses, as you probably know. She's a mare. Spring is coming. She probably feels a heck of a lot better with your good care than she did even six months ago.

              Has she always been tense about other horses, even at times? I have one that has issues about horses coming towards him, esp larger more ponderous horses (we had a Friesian at our barn for awhile, and adding hair and an inconsiderate rider really put poor Star over the top). I have left show warmup rings to stand around and chill. It's worse when he's high, as are most horse issues. Ear plugs (which I know you can't use in dressage, but maybe you could try for schooling) help him. He will sometimes come out a bit "up" but walking around the ring or the property on a long rein will usually settle him. I know that there's a school of thought that says you should put them right to work, but that doesn't work with him.

              I share your pain WRT the less-than-helpful rider. I had an FEI rider on a large thundery horse come right at Star repeatedly in a warmup, despite my frantic gestures and the fact that the FEI riders had their own warmup area that the peons weren't allowed to use. The inevitable finally happened--he lept, spun, bucked, and fired out. Whereupon she yelled at me "get THAT THING out of here!" Yeah, that was helpful.
              The Evil Chem Prof


              • #8
                I used to throw my jumper mare out in the pasture from late February until early April she was so bad when she was in heat!

                Time and patience.



                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by Peggy View Post
                  Has she always been tense about other horses, even at times?
                  Just wanted to answer this. No, she's not. I've had her packed into a small warmup arena with 30 pleasure horses, boxed in nose to tail rubbing stirrups and she's an angel hacking along on a loose rein. Rarely is she reactive to other horses, even naughty misbehaving ones. I made a point to ride her in groups with other naughty babies early on so she would learn that it doesn't matter what the others are doing, whether we're in a show warmup or elsewhere. Apparently we need to revisit that lesson. A friend of mine ropes and they have practice every Friday at a local arena - we've been considering hauling over and paying to warmup with them and then just stand in the corner while they do their thing.

                  Also hadn't thought of the ear plug thing. Might be helpful for those schooling shows where they would be allowed.


                  • #10
                    I read your post and a question immediately poped into my mind: why are you showing her? She is barely 5, has been under saddle for only a year and is having significant training issues...it sounds to me that showing should be the last thing on your mind right now.

                    I think you should take her to a trainer that you respect to get some help.

                    Take her to shows when she is going consistently well under saddle at home for you. Shows can be a positive learning experience, but a horse that is having the issues you describe probably doesn't need the additional distractions and challenges that shows present. Everything in due time.

                    ETA: WRT the warm up at shows. Your horse is your responsibility in a warm up. You cannot expect other riders to look out for you. It is wonderful if they do, but warm up is an every-man-for-himself type of experience, right or wrong, at every show.


                    • #11
                      1. If you really feel (after a glass of wine or two) like you're getting nowhere and trying to figure her out isn't fun but has become something you dread, it may be time to move on.

                      2. If you are still interested in working with her, I agree with everyone else who said 1 year of work for a now 5 yo (mare!) is just a beginning. I always tell people that somewhere 6 months to a year after they acquire a young, green or OTTB horse, they will hit a wall and wonder if they did the right thing and should they just cash it all in and leave the game NOW. You may be hitting that wall. If you are willing to take a step back and then continue, you just might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

                      In either event, best of luck.
                      They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                      Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                      • #12
                        All of the other posters have been very wise but I will suggest that 30 days of training for an evaluation.

                        I sold this lovely horse who I had for 8 months or so in training. He had been to tons of places-shows, clinics, lessons and more in those 8 months and was a 5 yr ottb but very quiet. He was sold and about4-5 months down the road I got the call that he had begun to do all sort of crazy behavior in the warm up but just at shows. He came back to me and was then resold and the problem as not resurfaced. I believed all along that he learned he could intimidate and he knew what worked because it was just not like him.

                        I would take the pressure off yourself as far as competing and just go to some local hunter shows or something where she can learn to become bored with herslef. Lunge a bit, hang out, ride, hang out and ride again. Some of them just take a long time to relax and perhaps she knows you are tense? She could be using the other horses coming at her as an excuse or maybe she is in season.

                        When mine start the idiot behavior I pick a small area and keep working but make them go forward and focus on ME. They can't look around because I have them working every second. If I see something that might scare them then I am leg yeilding them or doing something to make them stay focused.

                        Maybe even having someone else ride her at a show? Sounds like you have done a great job but there could be a bit of fear or nerves with you and she is playing off of that. Some of them can be so tough so I understand the dilemma. At the end of the day riding is supposed to be fun and if you don't feel like dealing with it then move on. There are so many less complicated horses out there!


                        • #13
                          I feel your pain and you should peruse the other thread about giving up on a naughty mare, I can't for the life of me remember what the title is, but it's a current thread.

                          I ended up sending my mare out to a cowboy who basically read her the riot act and she had a come to Jesus meeting. He found her temper button and pushed it, after all if there isn't a problem you can't correct it. I still work on problems, but her renewed respect for the human is invaluable. She basically had no respect for humans and also had never bonded with one. She now respects me and we spend a lot of quality time bonding.

                          Interestingly, she turns out to be a fairly quiet horse. . . who knew???

                          Having said that, I'm not too thrilled about her (your horse) rearing problem.

                          Happy birthday too!!!
                          RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                          "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."


                          • #14
                            happy bday!

                            in virginia, we are still snowed under and all the horses are bucking bronco, pogo-pistols... Any chance she has been snowbound/mud/whateverbound and just had a isolated brain meltdown w/ the show?

                            Might want to consider having the vet come check her out- acute behavior changes could be symptoms of an infection or dental issue (and the eq.dentist is coming already ). I would also consider an ovarian abnormality, which could alter hormonal levels and given the fact that baseline mares get wacko as they begin cycling, similar explosive reactions wouldn't be too far fetched.

                            In the meantime, lunge???
                            And the wise, Jack Daniels drinking, slow-truck-driving, veteran TB handler who took "no shit from no hoss Miss L, y'hear," said: "She aint wrapped too tight."


                            • #15
                              I have one like this. He had to spend a winter at the hunter-jumper barn to get over his crowd phobia. He also had quite a lot of antics in the warm up at events. He even got a "do over" once down the center line-- at training level, but I digress.

                              Now that's older I am actually proud of the way he handles himself, most times. It was a long haul and required mucho patience and a tight chin strap.

                              The patience was easier to bear because my solution was to get horse #2. It was a good solution for me because my confidence didnt' take a total hit.

                              I can tell you that I am closer to the horse with the antics than the horse without them. Once he let me "in" there has been a good parternship.

                              These kind are not for everybody, and may be tough if its your only horse. Sometimes it's hard to wait it out, especially on your birthday--don't mark time, mark progress.



                              • #16
                                Horses cost a lot and they should be fun.
                                Period, end of story.
                                It's a hobbie, not a job.
                                Being stepped on is unacceptable for any age of horse at ANY experience level. That shows lack of thought on the horse's part and lack of thought = dead or injured rider.

                                You could try regumate if the suspect is the season. (sp?)

                                But I think sending her to a trainer for 30 days would be wise. She what she pulls there. You may not want to play this game.

                                There are more than plenty of 5 year old OTTBs out there that are pleasant.
                                Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                                • Original Poster

                                  I'm going to see if I can arrange for more turnout time for her, switch her from orchard to grass, and see about having a good saddle fitter out. I had intended to go saddle shopping this spring anyway. If I can get her closer to at least half day or 24 hour turnout, she would likely benefit greatly. The barn is literally 15' from my back door, and I feed in the AM most days so seeing that she's fed in turnout isn't an issue. Her diet aside from orchard consists mostly of beet pulp, sunnies, flax and vitamins (including vitamin B, which has helped her considerably).

                                  She sounds a lot like many of the horses mentioned, and I do hope that with age will come some sensibility. Belligerent is a good descriptor of her when she's having a fit.

                                  Flabbergasted, as far as why I've been showing her - we're not talking recognized HT's here. Her show season last year consisted mainly of in hand and walk/trot classes at open schooling shows (think 4H and some stock-type breed shows).

                                  Part of the intention of showing her last year was to get her familiar and comfortable with working in a busy arena full of stressed out people and horses. Obviously we need to work on that some more and IME the best way to do that is to get her out there as much as possible, lunging and hacking in warmups until she's confident enough to go in the ring again and do it there too. I'm trying to set her up for success; when she's ready to start competing at recognized events, showing will be an old hat. The stressed out atmosphere will be old hat. Dressage test, dressage arena, scary judges stand? Old hat. Stupid kid on minibike with yappy dog? Old hat. The more scary moments and issues we can work through individually, the more successful she will be when they all appear at once. She doesn't get worked any harder at a show than she would in an everyday ride; I'm not campaigning her in 10 classes a day.

                                  I really appreciate everyone's thoughts, suggestions, and advice thus far - the encouragement and the honesty/reality checks. I think one of the determining factors here is going to be whether or not I get that 'youthful courage' of mine back soon. I suspect it will return as the bruises fade. The vet doing her dental work is also the local track vet - I'm interested to see what he thinks of her royal highness.


                                  • #18
                                    I'm sorry, and happy birthday. Green horse blues are no fun. If she's a horse you really enjoy, for sure see if the "best management possible" (turnout, saddle, feed change, patient exposure to the world) makes a difference in a time frame that is reasonable. But ultimately you have to really want to go ride her every day, and if you don't, well, maybe she's that horse for someone else.
                                    Click here before you buy.


                                    • #19
                                      I too got to experience the 5-year-old loopies. I had an OTTB gelding I got as a 4-y.o. that was sweet as pie, easy going and went to his first couple of schooling shows the fall of his 4-y.o. year. He turned five, and for a while turned into an absolute twit. Pushing buttons, imaginary demons everywhere, etc. He grew out of it with patience and consistency.

                                      I don't think you are out of line taking her to schooling shows at this point. Maybe, though, instead of worrying about the competition aspect just take her to the show, warm up in the regular warm-up then find a quiet place to do a mock test. Kind of like what you did, but go with the intention of not actually showing. Just take the opportunity to go out into a show atmosphere and make it a lah-dee-dah everyday occurence without adding the stress of being ready to go in front of a judge. Do it until you and she are comfortable. Does the schooling show allow late entries? Maybe if you have a constructive warm-up you can hop into a couple of classes.

                                      I had a lot of frustration with my little man, I would sometimes forget that he was only five. It was a heck of a learning curve, but we worked on it and he grew up into a solid citizen.
                                      Leap, and the net will appear


                                      • #20
                                        I'm sorry about that, I hate being frustrated. Thoroughbreds are the MOST frustrating, they really are. You have done a lot of work with her, but honestly, not all TBs make it after racing. I hate saying that because we all want to turn them into the lovely dream horses, but in truth, some are just too messed up.

                                        Rearing is something I won't touch with a 10ft pole. Its really dangerous and scary, and as much as you want to succeed with her, it's not worth getting hurt over.
                                        I can't really recommend another 'job' for her as it seems you are doing pretty laid back stuff.