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Thoughts for the anxious horse?

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  • Thoughts for the anxious horse?

    My mare (5yo TB) has become more and more of a nervous nellie lately (the last six months, or so). She developed a nervous habit of chomping - clacking her teeth together when she is nervous. She does it with or without a bridle on, with or without a rider. We'll go more in depth about her anxious behaviors in a minute.

    She's had her teeth checked and power floated by a respected dentist. She's barefoot and comfortable with a balanced trim. She's been worked on regularly by the chiropractor, and has had all of her saddles checked for fit - a Stackhouse, a Kieffer, an old Crump and her favorite, a big heavy Circle Y roping saddle. We've tried different bits, different bridles, different types of cavesson. I've worn spurs, big spurs and little spurs, and no spurs. I've tried fluffy sheepskins, fancy Thinline pads, and no pads at all.

    I've tried diet changes - orchard, good ol' grass hay, alfalfa, no grain, grain, different grain, beet pulp with sunnies/flax/rice bran, added vitamin B, raspberry leaves, different vitamin/mineral supplements, added magnesium, and we tried her on ranitidine for 4-6 weeks. Obviously not all at the same time, mind you.

    She lives in a paddock 24/7, gets fed 3x a day and gets turned out on grass at least a couple times a week. I've tried working her more, working her less, working her on the same schedule every week.

    This is not the horse I had a year ago. That horse was a lope-along-on-the-buckle, quiet churchmouse with a sensible mind that I personally started from the ground up in March of 09. I rode her bareback for three months with a broken foot during the summer, took her to dozens of schooling shows and brought home dozens of ribbons. Now she's tense, on the muscle, prancy and over-sensitive. And will occasionally lose her mind.

    The only other thing I can think of is to do a lameness workup on her now, even though she doesn't appear to be 'off' in the traditional sense.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  • #2
    has their been an excess amount of rainfall in Oregon this year?

    If so, the grass could be stressed. In which case it will be much higher in sugar content.

    What was she eating a year ago?
    Has her living situation changed at all?

    Where did you get her? How long have you owned her?
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    • #3
      Does she have a new neighbor/did she lose an old neighbor? My mare has very significant personality changes based upon the horses around her. Night and day differences - like the ones you're describing.

      I think possible changes in the grass are a likely one, too.
      Originally posted by Silverbridge
      If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Actually, from what I understand at least a month or so ago, we were behind on rainfall this year. We may have made up for that with the recent lack of sun these last few weeks, though.

        I bought her out of a field as a wormy, underweight coming four year old last February (2009). Her behavior changed when we moved at the beginning of the year, which meant going from a boarding barn with a handful of other horses, stalled 24/7 with no turnout, to living first in a stall, now out in a paddock 24/7 and getting turned out into the pasture. I have two horses and the property owner (a good friend of mine) has two. Pasture has only been up for about a month and a half, so I'm not thinking it's an issue with the grass. We both live on the property, also. Its a pretty quiet place.

        ETA: purpl, a year ago she was eating the same hay she's got now, plus Ultium mixed with some beet pulp and rice bran. The Ultium slowly made her crazy, so ultimately I had to work out a new diet. It took about a month for the 'crazy' to wear off. ATM she is getting beet pulp, rice bran and sunnies/flax plus some vitamins. I've had trouble finding something that will put and keep weight on her without making her a crazy bat. I'd prefer to keep the beep around, she likes the sloppiness and is much less agressive towards her food.

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        • #5
          Sounds like she was sick and unhealthy...and now you have her feeling better her true personality is showing more.

          You are also probably asking more of her in work...and that can make them anxious.

          You could scope her to check for ulcers.....or try Regumate....but honestly, this could just be her.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
            Sounds like she was sick and unhealthy...and now you have her feeling better her true personality is showing more.

            You are also probably asking more of her in work...and that can make them anxious.

            You could scope her to check for ulcers.....or try Regumate....but honestly, this could just be her.
            I would think that too, if she had begun to act like this after being wormed and put on a proper diet, but I don't think she was so malnourished or underfed that it would take an entire year for her to get back to her 'normal' personality. She's been muscled up and of decent weight since about this time last year.

            I dearly hope this isn't just the way she is! Its not a personality I get along with well, really. She was always pretty sensible, never an airhead or a bimbo, but now... she reminds me of my mother. Dramatic, overreactive, with a serious case of Chicken Little syndrome. And if you dare to push buttons, well... I hope you like a hissy fit.

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            • #7
              My mare gets like that sometimes. One thing we tried was dosing her with some ulcerguard and it has worked wonders. It has mellowed out her personality, especially at shows where it was the worst. I usually just give her a tube over a show weekend since the initial dosing. It wouldnt hurt trying it, even if ulcers arent the cause.
              RIP Charlie and Toby

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              • #8
                I also thought ulcers, but if the ranitidine didn't work, maybe it's hindgut instead of stomach? Still would think you'd have seen some improvement, though....

                Anyway, my mare got like that a little while after we moved to Florida a few years ago from CA. Although she's never been quite as mellow as you describe yours being (I've had her 9 years now), it was a dramatic and noticeable problem.

                I'd have to dig into my memory and my former BO's memory, but there's a vet in FL named Dr Wessner who makes a homeopathic something that seemed to bring my mare back to earth within a couple of weeks of use. I don't have his contact information on hand here at work, but I'm sure you could find it and give him a call?

                Good luck, that is frustrating!
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                • #9
                  You might try getting her checked for an ovarian cyst...I had a TB mare who was always a bit out of her mind, but one spring she was abnormally hypersensitive and borderline unrideable. Once she was treated for a cyst (series of shots, unfortunately I forget what they were because this was YEARS ago) she was back to her quasi-rideable self

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Well, and to compound the thought process...

                    She was totally game-on when it came to stadium and XC this last weekend, despite her idiot antics in the warmup.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You might want to see if she is getting any soy in her hard feed or supplements. Soy enhances estrogen levels, which most young mares don't need. I notice a dramatic difference in my mare when she is on or off soy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                        Well, and to compound the thought process...

                        She was totally game-on when it came to stadium and XC this last weekend, despite her idiot antics in the warmup.

                        Maybe she needs MORE of a job? My mare is a fruitcake in a lesson/clinic situation until it's our turn and then given "something to do besides think about bucking me off" she's a star.

                        Sometimes it's a fine line between enough direction to make them feel secure (oh good, you're in charge, I have my little task, I'm safe) and overload, which makes things worse.

                        Does she stop fretting if you do something like clicker training, or easy but complex tasks under saddle - walking through ground poles with alternate ends up?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                          I would think that too, if she had begun to act like this after being wormed and put on a proper diet, but I don't think she was so malnourished or underfed that it would take an entire year for her to get back to her 'normal' personality. She's been muscled up and of decent weight since about this time last year.

                          I dearly hope this isn't just the way she is! Its not a personality I get along with well, really. She was always pretty sensible, never an airhead or a bimbo, but now... she reminds me of my mother. Dramatic, overreactive, with a serious case of Chicken Little syndrome. And if you dare to push buttons, well... I hope you like a hissy fit.
                          Hate to tell you...it does take some time to get them feeling better....usually 6 months to a year IME. In addition, you are talking about a 4 year old growing into a 5 year old. Think teenage with people. They can and do develop a lot in these years. The can get more opinionate...hotter...more demanding...or calmer etc. That's the fun part for me...watching them grow into themselves and seeing who they become.

                          I also agree with Hilary...Could she be bored? And the lip smacking is just a way for her to entertain herself instead of being anxious? It sounds like she was really good at the show....some times they need more of a challenge...


                          Good luck...but I do have to say, some do really change their personalities after their 4 year old year....
                          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have you noticed whether the behaviors have any connection to her heat cycle? Transitional heat cycles can be very strong and cause a lot of discomfort and anxiety. If you think it may be connected, you could try a product like depo provera or regumate and see if she levels out.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                              Her behavior changed when we moved at the beginning of the year, which meant going from a boarding barn with a handful of other horses, stalled 24/7 with no turnout, to living first in a stall, now out in a paddock 24/7 and getting turned out into the pasture.
                              To me that says it's probably the change in boarding situation. It could be different feed if that changed when she moved, but she may just not be as secure now. Did she immediately start behaving differently when you moved, or was it when you put her in the paddock? Can you try giving her different neighbors? She may actually feel more comfortable in a stall, silly and unnatural as that sounds to most of us.
                              Originally posted by Silverbridge
                              If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Have you checked for lymes or a displaced ovary?
                                Intermediate Riding Skills

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                                • #17
                                  I'm going to go along with BFNE on this. Vernon was kick along quiet, VERY relaxed as a late 3 year old and all through his 4 year old year. When January 1 of his 5 year old year rolled around, I swear it was like a switch and he became a totally bratty teenager. He was a pretty rotten brat most of last year...but only in things he doesn't love. He'd grump and sulk about flat work, but draaaaagggged me around all the show jumping and xc courses I wanted. The good news is, now at 6, he seems to be getting over it, mostly.

                                  Had another little TB mare who was PERFECT at 3 but turned into a pistol at 4. And she DEFINITELY needed plenty of work. The more she worked, the happier she was. She didn't seem to grow out of it. Sometimes I think they put so much work into growing like bad weeds at 3 and 4 that they often don't have enough energy left to act silly.

                                  But, I really also think you need to consider scoping or treating seriously for ulcers. Again, Vernon gets really nasty if his belly is in turmoil...he did not have full blown ulcers when we scoped him, but it was apparent that he had them at some point and was prone to them. Ulcerguard makes him a lot nicer to be around when he's in a stressful situation.

                                  And, yes, I've had some poor doers turn into raging lunatics when they finally get totally healthy...sometimes they settle into a more suitable state of mind, some times they don't.
                                  Amanda

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                                  • #18
                                    PSSM
                                    It can present itself in strange ways... i figured it out with my horse through the help of this board $1500 into diagnostics that were going no where.
                                    low starch everything and then add 1/2c oil to each feeding. and see what happens
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                                    • #19
                                      Five years old can really be the ugly year. And I agree that it takes a good year to fix them when they are a mess and you don't know what you have until then.

                                      But one thing the OP wrote jumped out at me... That she is on grass a few times a week. I'd be concerned about that, for more than one reason -the first being that it could cause stomach issues. Horses develop the ability to digest what they eat over time, which is why we make feed changes slowly. I would wonder if she never acclimated to the grass because it is sporadic.

                                      Then there Is the possibility that as P&P talked about, that the sugar in the grass is causing her issues. Maybe even like a sporadic sugar high since she is not on it regularly.

                                      Then there is the fact that horses dislike inconsistency... And also that if she lives in a paddock and stall most of the time that she is not getting enough turnout for her new, healthy, fit body.
                                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                      ---
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

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                                      • #20
                                        I guess if all health issues are ruled out and she doesn't grow out of it....don't be surprised.

                                        I have a 13yo OTTB that raced for 6 yrs. He has been treated for ulcers, had chiro, saddle fitted, feed changed, living arrangements changed, teeth done, tried 100 different bits... He is highly neurotic. He grinds his teeth a lot, weaves, throws tantrums, yells, decides he can't do things some days ("I DO NOT HAVE A LEFT LEAD TODAY SO STOP ASKING!") and all manner of other silly things. I long ago gave up on trying to solve him in that respect. He is who he is and I love him to death.
                                        "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

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