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Training issue or Pain issue?

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  • Training issue or Pain issue?

    If your horse started backing and rearing to evade after getting cleared into work from sports vet, would you call the vet back out and see if it's an injury or possibly a spine ?
    Not kissing spine, I have x rays of her back. Not hocks or coffin joint . If it is pain- possibly back or neck ?
    She is very barn sour. She goes out with a herd from sun up to sun down. LOVES her herd and her turnout. Is great in the arena- will pull some back up tricks or mini rears but nothing major.

    Reason I ask is because I hauled to a lesson with a 4 star rider and couldn't even walk her in a field without her trying to rear and spin home . The instructor ended up having me get off and he long lined her, which she spent going backwards for most of it. She worked out of it and he had positive things to say. Said to nip this in the bud or then it WILL become a problem

    Pain? Behavior issue ? Both ? Want to help her. She's a good soul.
    Dark Side of the Moon
    2010 Thoroughbred mare

  • #2
    What is the general temperament of the horse? You say she is a good soul. If that means "generally willing to pleasantly do what you ask," then I would say almost certainly pain. My young mare (who is generally people oriented and is happy to do what you want) suddenly behaved very similarly to your description (rearing, spinning, going sideways & backwards toward the barn) starting last fall, diminishing over winter (when we were only riding at our home barn), and getting far worse this spring. It showed as only very mild, occasional behavior at home, but was unrideable away from home. Long story short, it was hormone-induced discomfort. Tried Regumate and she was back to her normal, wonderful self within 14 days and has remained wonderful ever since (on Regumate). I have had only mares for 30 years and never previously had one that needed/was on Regumate, so it never crossed my mind until a clinician suggested it.

    Good luck


    • #3
      I would start with checking her hormones and saddle fit. Then check teeth and jaw. Then I would work on her herdboundness by a slow progression of separating her from her friends from time to time. Ground driving is actually an excellent tool as they eventually have to walk out ahead of you with no one leading them. It really improves self confidence. I use it quite frequently.


      • #4
        And not knowing where you are from and whether she was tested, is Lyme or one of the other tick borne diseases a possibility?

        But I agree with the trainer in that she's got to understand that this kind of behavior isn't permissible no matter what the circumstances. Even just a little rearing can't be allowed for her sake and your safety. I'm not saying to beat her, but work with someone whom you trust to get her past this whether she has pain or not.
        They don't call me frugal for nothing.
        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


        • #5
          I had a similar experience as leheaths, a mare that was in a lot of pain during ovulation, to the point she couldn't tolerate a rider's leg at all. When not ovulating, she was her usual, delightful self. So it's something worth considering and to eliminate as a possible cause. Based on what you've written here, I don't have as strong opinion on pain vs. training.

          I have two terribly herd bound horses who are a pain to work separately, but with consistent work, they get over themselves and work sensibly with just occasional hanging on a rein towards the buddy.

          Keep eliminating possible causes of discomfort and see what you get. I would also be tempted to try moving her to another barn for a month and seeing it if breaks the herd attachment.
          Last edited by McGurk; Sep. 13, 2017, 09:54 AM.
          The plural of anecdote is not data.


          • #6
            I would think behavioral is most likely - she's back into work but prefers hanging with her herd. You haul her away from her comfort zone and then head to a field, likely with no horses nearby, and she strongly objects. I'd say that's pretty herd-bound behavior. I'd haul her a few more places and see if it gets better, or haul her with a friend and see if she's happy to go then.

            Also, consider ulcer treatment or preventative if hauling.


            • #7
              I feel like this is the type of question that is near impossible to answer over the internet. Could it be pain? Yes, it could. Could it be behavioral? Sure. Personally I'd be wary of telling someone to ignore the possibility of pain.

              That said...a couple things jumped out at me from your post. First, you've had two sets of professional eyes on her: she's been cleared by a vet - so pain is less likely though not impossible. (Perhaps a bute trial might help if there's any doubt?) Also during your lesson it appears that your trainer was seeing a behavioral issue since they mentioned needing to nip it in the bud. So two in-person professional opinions point towards behavior.

              Second, you mentioned that she's barn sour and that she was "trying to rear and spin home". IMHO, pain doesn't occur only when heading away from home . If there's a way to do some "experiments" that might help -- i.e. ride somewhere away from home but bring a friend with a horse; keep the other horse at the trailer at first, but if your horse starts acting up, does the behavior improve or go away if the other horse then joins you?

              So, I won't discourage you from working to rule out pain - I do think that's important, but from from the description in your OP I'm seeing behavior. I've known several horses who are great in the arena but difficult away from their buddies, and I've also seen it escalate quickly when not nipped in the bud.


              • #8
                If she is running with her herd but backing up on long lines, I'd go with behavior. It could always be pain but it doesn't sound like you're asking very much of her.


                • #9
                  Is this totally new behavior? I would say at least take a good look in the mouth and how the bit is sitting.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for all the great replies-

                    Will look into her having female discomfort. As well as Lymes.

                    She is an OTTB and when she's normal , she's awesome to ride . Willing and calm. I would hate to move her since she is so happy where is if but I agree , this herd turn out is really becoming an issue .

                    She goes in a French link loose ring and a Dy'on Difference Bridle or a regular headstall and figure 8.
                    Last edited by mychestnutvalentine; Sep. 13, 2017, 01:19 PM. Reason: Typo
                    Dark Side of the Moon
                    2010 Thoroughbred mare


                    • #11
                      I'd say it could be either. Unless she is in truly severe pain which, one would think, would be visible at other times, she really needs a come to Jesus session because this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable pain or not. There are other ways for horses to express discomfort without trying to kill their riders.

                      When she eats, does she quid her food? That is usually a good sign of a jaw/mouth problem.
                      "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                      Thread killer Extraordinaire


                      • #12
                        I agree with others that it could be either and that these are often difficult issues to sort out. A couple of questions: you mention she's been "cleared back into work" by a vet, was she off for a long time? Two, have you ridden her off the property elsewhere other than this clinic, or was this the first time she's traveled in a while?

                        I had a mare with similar issues, so I understand how frustrating this can be.


                        • Original Poster

                          She has been to horse shows, trail rides and on Friday I trailered her to my dressage trainer. She started the backing thing during my Dressage lesson (we were riding in the pasture) and then backed into the electric fence , which shocked her and she didn't do it for the rest of the lesson.

                          She was off for awhile in the hind- the sports vet did a extensive lameness diagnosis then returned and further blocked to find where her pain was. Was injected and then she was slowly brought back to work.

                          I am wondering if I just need to throw my western saddle on for awhile for something extra to hold on to and just be a bit more firm and confident when she pulls her crap. I have never owned a rearer so this is new.

                          She is up to date medically, had teeth floated in spring, is on Smartgut Ultra and is in excellent weight for a thoroughbred. No other supplements currently
                          Dark Side of the Moon
                          2010 Thoroughbred mare


                          • #14
                            I had a wonderful quiet, always sensible mare, my heart horse, for 27 years. She acted similarly once in her life when she got heard bound as a five year old soon after moving to a new farm in late winter. Vet recommended Regumate which improved her behavior. I moved her back home that summer, stopped the Regumate and never had a problem again. Hope you get it sorted out.


                            • #15
                              How long was she off for? And how long has she been back in regular work-meaning until she's breathing hard and sweaty? You could just have a fresh horse that wants to return to that life of leisure, not go back to work. That often bites you when you start ramping the work back up, they are OK at hone and with light work, start getting serious and go off property? Not interested.

                              Diet? Might be too rich for her current level of activity. Excess energy does not always manifest as running off.

                              Transitional estrus can be nasty this time of year as the hormones fluctuate to shut the system down for winter. Lots of mares have hissy fits around early March then again around Sep and early Oct as that cycle ramps up then back down yet aren't bothered much during routine heat cycles. If it's that, it will resolve itself shortly as hormones level out.

                              IMO it's really unfortunate she back into the electric fence, must have scared the skin off her. She'll remember that for awhile.

                              Pain wise, have you ultra sounded the suspensories? Classic behavior there, they can be hard to find in horses that appear sound, especially behind.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                              • #16
                                I experienced a similar situation with my mare at one point. Rear/spinning/bolting/spooking and generally being an obnoxious individual. And those episodes were scary. Felt like riding a bomb ready to explode at any second. She would be fine and then be out of control and inconsolable.

                                We looking into a hormonal problem and had an ovarian ultrasound after having her hormone levels checked. Found one ovary enlarged and put her on oxytocin to suppress estrus. See attached link. Reultrasounded with the intent to remove to offending ovary but it had reduced in size to normal so no surgery needed.

                                Never had the same sort of issues again.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mychestnutvalentine View Post
                                  She started the backing thing during my Dressage lesson (we were riding in the pasture) and then backed into the electric fence , which shocked her and she didn't do it for the rest of the lesson.


                                  • #18
                                    Behaving after backing into the electric fence sounds like behaviour rather than pain. She got a timely, effective reprimand and quit the behaviour.

                                    Rearing is dangerous. Stay safe and get some help.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Well I'll say it's behavior - had a great Dressage school on her tonight in the field next to the barn . With a carnival going on across the street . Didn't even bat an eye at it even with kids screaming and lights flashing .

                                      My plan now is to haul her to the local shows and just ride , maybe just even go and lunge . I also am looking into hormonal treatments per my vet.

                                      Thanks everyone for your insight !! (:
                                      Dark Side of the Moon
                                      2010 Thoroughbred mare