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**** 5/25 UPDATE **** Problem horse. Where have I failed him? Or have I? WTD!

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    **** 5/25 UPDATE **** Problem horse. Where have I failed him? Or have I? WTD!

    UPDATE: Sadly we had to euthanize our wonderful old grey mare last week; much earlier than expected. Old age complications + advanced DSLD.

    Silver lining: I turned Mr. Anxiety out with old grey mare's younger pasture buddy (mare with mild EPM) and they are getting along great! No drama + my other two geldings seem a lot more content without him in their midst.

    Problem solved. Peace has been restored in the kingdom!

    I wish I had better news for those of you who were hoping for a thumbs up on Trazodone -- it did not work at all, even at high dosage. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't work on a different horse.



    I’ve had this 10 yr old OTTB gelding for well over two years. Lovable, sweet guy, great personality — all except for an extreme and ongoing problem, one I have not been able to solve through training or other means. My extensive skill in dealing with problem horses (getting inside their heads etc. finding solutions) has failed me here. I’m out of ideas.

    This is the same horse I posted about 2 years ago: the horse that screamed a death scream when he saw me carrying a saddle. Some of you might remember that post. Thankfully he got over it. He is also same horse from a more recent post -- the one where I was thinking of moving him to my mare pasture. I was going to switch him with older mare & he could stay turned out 24/7 with a younger mare. But due to health issues with older mare (among other things) I did not make the switch….

    ……so gelding in question is still turned-out with his buddies: my two wonderful geldings that I ride…..well, would like to ride but rarely do anymore because of the problem.

    And the problem is: Severe separation anxiety. And when I say severe, I mean dripping in sweat, teeth grinding, screaming, stall walking, weaving, blown mind, excessive pawing/rolling, potentially colic inducing anxiety.

    It starts as soon as I take one of his buddies out of their stall. It happens even when buddy doesn’t leave the barn and simply stands in the aisle 10 ft away to have feet trimmed etc..

    Things I have tried at length that have not worked:

    Ignoring behavior hoping he’d get over it in time.

    Training sessions / behavior mod. -- end goal: See, your buddy always comes back; you’re not going to die etc..

    Leaving him outside with one buddy.

    Every calming supplement known to man.

    Tricking him by sneaking out horse I want to ride.

    Having a ground person stand by his stall, hang out with him and distract him.

    I have tried many other things and combinations of things which work maybe once or twice -- then he figures them all out and reverts back to insanity. Plus it can take him over an hour to calm down after buddy that left stall comes back. On occasion he doesn’t calm down at all; stays upset until all three are turned out again and herd is back to normal.

    Thankfully my 2 other geldings are unaffected by all this: don’t care about the whinnying etc -- go about their business like pros. So at least there’s that! But it’s very unsettling because I’m often alone on the farm when I go for a ride and therefore don’t know what I’m going to find when I get back — will Mr. Crazy have hurt himself or have colic?

    Needless to say I have put off riding so many times that it seems not even worth it to have my farm! So depressing!

    I’m sure this horse always had separation anxiety (from traumatic weaning or other) and this issue (latent) finally had a chance to rear its ugly head once he was off- track and on a farm where he could have turn-out buddies full time.

    While ON the track he had no opportunity to manifest the anxiety because too many horses come and go through the day; no specific horses to bond with, no herd to be a part of. Now it’s like he’s a weanling all over again, traumatically losing his mommy every single time I take one of his buddies out.....

    .....and he's been this way since the day I got him. Time, patience, TLC, positive training (the whole 9 yards) has solved all other the issues this horse had. But it hasn't made a dent in his separation anxiety.

    He is the alpha in turn out, but so incredibly insecure when in his stall = can’t watch over his herd; has no control etc. which either adds to the problem or IS the problem. Yes, ulcers and other health problems have been ruled out. One of my favorite vets has been working with me; prescribed Chinese herbs, but the effect was too slight to warrant continuation. At this point we’re both out of ideas, short of trying Depo which we’re not keen on. Last resort, maybe.

    Interestingly no separation anxiety when he’s taken out of his stall and away from his buddies. Couldn’t care less.

    Ace and Dorm do work, but drugging a horse 3-4 times a week? No. Not a long term option.

    Since I can't help this horse and feel like I'm failing him, it would be great if someone else has an idea — something else to try that might reach his mind, calm his fears, give him confidence -- or whatever else it is he lacks or that I can't see. But until then, this post is more of a woe is me kind of thing for commiseration purposes.




    Last edited by danacat; May. 25, 2020, 03:09 PM.

    #2
    Personally, I would have long ago tried depo, though I of course understand the case against it. His anxiety is so bad that you worry about colic, he disrupts barn business, it prevents you from riding as you need/want and it’s been more than two years of you diligently trying to resolve it? I’d say you might be to the point of last resorts.

    Does it help at all if he gets worked first and tired out?

    Comment


      #3
      Well, this sounds horrible, and it sounds like you have covered all of your possible bases well. I would agree with trying the Depo. The way things currently are isn't working for you or for him. Separation anxiety is tough enough to handle in a dog - I can't imagine dealing with a horse with this issue. I hope the Depo works for him.

      Comment


        #4
        I also would give Depo a try for this behavior. But I understand the controversy around it currently.

        You might also try Prozac (no side effects that I've seen or that my vets have noted except for local reaction to the injectable kind--but supposedly the new compounding is much better). It can work for these kinds of anxiety behaviors such as for horses on stall rest, but in my opinion it won't do enough. It just slightly dampens the insanity. Like, I thought it was doing nothing for my horse on stall rest util it wore off and I saw how insane he really wanted to be. He could still get very worked up while on it.

        Comment


          #5
          I had one in for training like this. I'm sorry I wish I had better news.

          Nothing worked. The first 48 hours he was on the property, he ran the fence non- stop. This was in the middle of summer. He was drenched. My other horses were all standing in the shade. I tried putting him in the stall. He reared up and put his feet out the 5 inch gap between the boards at the top of the stall. I never stalled him after that.

          Every time I removed a horse from the herd would result in this behavior. He would run the fence every time I trailered off the property, until I returned 4 hours later. You could not walk him from the paddocks to the barn. He could not be 40 feet away from his buddies. If you rode him, he was fine, provided the other horses were close by. His owner got him for free off Craigslist.

          The only thing I think might have worked was to keep him totally separate and out of sight of other horses.

          He was not bonded to my horses. My boss mare hated him and wanted to kill him. He just could not tolerate seeing them leave.

          Another thing I wondered was what would happen if you let him leave the herd with one horse? Take both horses from the pasture, move both of them out of sight, then perhaps you could ride the 3rd horse that was left behind.

          I would definitely try putting him in with the other mare you have. If it doesn't help, at least you tried.

          He would run the weight right off. He put trenches in front of my paddocks. I was just glad he wasn't my horse. His owner was a beginner rider and once he was trained they seemed like a good fit. The horse was a bit lazy and was happy to go slow under saddle. Assuming the owner has someone that wants to ride his other horse with him, I think they will be fine together. Last I heard the owner was very happy with him. The owner did not have a trailer so I don't think he will be separating his horses very often.

          It just shows you that even a horse like this can end up in the right place.

          Comment


            #6
            How often are you doing this?

            No way to the top of the hill except up. Being herd bound is one of those things you just have to keep working at. BTDT, and I totally feel your pain. I might try the Depo if you're doing this daily and it's not working, but if you're stopping and starting, I find that usually brings you back to square one.

            All of our horses get the winter off barring an occasional walk-hack around the property. Every spring when I leg up TB#1, there are Herd Hysterics.

            Mine all live out together 24/7, so there's a bit of horsey co-dependency going around. One of the TBs (TB#4) in particular will gallop around the paddock calling, while I am hacking TB#1. It takes about 2 weeks of doing this every day before TB#4 learns that it's okay.. and yes, he gets drenched in sweat doing it. I have learned that worrying about it makes it worse. Getting him to calm down takes way longer if I ride inconsistently, or have to take breaks. Going to get him, bringing the horse back, or paying attention to it all reinforce his screaming behavior.

            Incidentally TB#1 also has a bit of herd-bound behavior in him, and it takes about the same amount of time and daily riding away from the herd, for him to remember this is what we do. They all get the program eventually.. it just takes doing it everyday, consistently.
            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

            Comment


              #7
              Wow I have never heard of a horse that bad before.

              Is he in work?

              If so, work him first.

              Put him in a round yard with hay. Work your horse around the round yard. Getting further away and coming back in depending on how he reacts.

              From there ride behind a shed but come straight back to working around the round yard. Gradually you stay longer and longer behind the shed. Repeat a trillion times.

              My boy went stupid when next door changed paddocks with their mares and foals. To start with he was stupid for 3 days. I could not hold him. He cantered for 3 days. Hubby had to hold him for me to tack. I put him on the lunge and worked him. I could then get on and work him. This seemed to stop him thinking about them for awhile.

              I asked John Chatterton. He said not to hold him. Let him loose. Pull and release to reprimand instead of trying to hold him still. He puts the lead rope through a circle on the halter, behind the jaw, through the circle on the other side and clips to the circle above it.

              I did that. At least he didn't get away! But afterwards I was able to lead him and it worked in that it seemed to settle his mind. 3 days went down to 1 day and the last time hubby said he was stupid but he rode him and that was it. I actually can't remember the last time he did it now, it has been so long.
              It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by danacat View Post
                I’ve had this 10 yr old OTTB gelding for well over two years.



                Maybe.... more time?

                Now my Dexter was not as severe as your guy, but it took him pretty much an ENTIRE YEAR of being tied to the trailer EVERY DAY while I rode my other horse, to learn to just stand quietly and not dig a hole to China and beat up my trailer. Granted, he never pulled while tied and had too ground manners otherwise, and was fine (mostly) in the pasture by himself. Just didn't like being tied at the trailer alone. He was safe for me to leave him there while I left with the other horse, but gosh dang did he dent up my fender, ding my trailer, and dig a hole practically to bedrock. That was 2018. After the winter off, he pretty much didn't paw at all in 2019. I think he finally figured out to just learn to sleep at the trailer.

                So sorry. I don't have any better suggestions for you!
                It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

                Comment


                  #9
                  You say that ace and dorm work. How often have you used them?

                  I used to have a young mare that lost her shit when tied, and my routine was to ride her, cool her out, and tie her with a cooler to finish drying while I rode my other horse. Her inability to tie quietly was a problem. I tried *everything* and she wasn't getting better, and finally started giving her a dose of ace after the ride.

                  It didn't take many. Less than a week? Maybe just over? Before she was quietly standing on her own. If I had to guess, I'd say the meds managed her anxiety about it and she learned that it was fine to just stand.

                  I get that drugging a horse routinely isn't fun, and it's $$$ if you're pulling out the dormosedan every day. Maybe depo is a better option for you. But consider how absolutely miserable this horse is, all ramped up in his anxiety that something is happening. He's making you miserable, but his experience is a whole lot worse than how you feel about it. It sounds like you've run through the other reasonable options, try the depo, or see if ace/dorm before every event has any long term effect.

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by beowulf View Post
                    How often are you doing this?
                    I've tried each of my various methods -- aside from drugs -- for weeks upon weeks at a time. Very consitent.

                    But unfortunately consitency would sometimes have the opposite effect. He would begin to expect that being in the barn and in his stall meant that something was up, and he'd begin to get upset before even coming inside. So....I'd have to stop doing that particuar thing and just bring them all in and do nothing other than let them relax and eat hay and hang out in their stall until Mr. Crazy realized no one was going to leave and no 'method' was afoot. It would take days of doing nothing until he would forget and come into the barn at a normal mental level. Vicious circle.

                    Comment

                      Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                      Wow I have never heard of a horse that bad before.

                      Is he in work?

                      If so, work him first.

                      Put him in a round yard with hay. Work your horse around the round yard. Getting further away and coming back in depending on how he reacts.

                      From there ride behind a shed but come straight back to working around the round yard. Gradually you stay longer and longer behind the shed. Repeat a trillion times.
                      He currently is not in work. But when he was, it made no difference. And yep I've tried your round pen idea -- not the exact set up you've described, but something very, very similar -- to no avail.

                      Even my vet has said that he's the worst case she's ever seen.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I do what I can to protect my horses, but there does come a point where they just have to cope. And the herd bound stuff is one of those things that I won't give in to.

                        I have 5 horses and a mini so no one has to stay at home alone, and I want to ride and refuse to be held hostage by herd bound issues.

                        We have a couple of "safe" pens with gravel footing and no climb fencing with electric over the top, and that's where the herd bound ones go. I make sure there's a herd member in an adjoining pen and then I just leave and hope for the best (and so far, so good). They trim their hooves running the fence while I'm gone, and while I realize that someone may get ulcers, or get hurt, I'm not going to stop riding because I have horses and mules who think they have to go every time someone else goes.

                        They do get better with practice, and I suspect they'd get better faster if I separated them more often, but what I'm doing has worked for a long time so I continue to gain confidence that it's not as high risk as I used to think it was.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I tentatively second using ace or whatever drug works, but in a strategic way. As someone who was having random, out of the blue anxiety and panic attacks, exposure to something, even daily, doesn't always help the anxiety when it's severe.

                          But, if you can, say, give him some ace a bit before you want to work other horses, let it start to work, then work the other horses while he is doped up, there is a chance he will start seeing "buddies going away" time as "happy relaxed" time. At this point, I think he gets himself worked up, which reinforces to himself that "buddies leaving" is scary and miserable. He doesn't realize that he doesn't have to freak out. And once you are freaking out, its INCREDIBLY difficult to convince yourself to calm down, even as an intelligent human that knows you are getting upset over nothing. He might just need some extra help figuring out that he WILL be okay.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I'd probably try Depo if your vet will do it or look into rehoming him as a pasture pet for someone who doesn't ride. If either of those didn't work I'd probably put him down
                            Wouldst thou like the taste of butter ? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

                            Comment

                              Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                              You say that ace and dorm work. How often have you used them?

                              I get that drugging a horse routinely isn't fun, and it's $$$ if you're pulling out the dormosedan every day. Maybe depo is a better option for you. But consider how absolutely miserable this horse is, all ramped up in his anxiety that something is happening. He's making you miserable, but his experience is a whole lot worse than how you feel about it. It sounds like you've run through the other reasonable options, try the depo, or see if ace/dorm before every event has any long term effect.
                              I used ace a few times a week at one point -- 3cc -- and he started blowing through it so I backed off to occasional use rather than increasing dosage. My plan is to ask my vet how much, how often and for how long I could use it before it would become problematic. Yep, dorm is just too $$$ to use often + he gets it to be shod -- acts bad for farrier without it.

                              Depo is proably the way to go.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by tabula rashah View Post
                                I'd probably try Depo if your vet will do it or look into rehoming him as a pasture pet for someone who doesn't ride. If either of those didn't work I'd probably put him down
                                Agreed, though I’d skip the rehoming as pasture pet part.

                                OP you said health issues are ruled out, not sure if that includes consideration of possibly being proud cut? Or perhaps a brain tumor, those can produce strange behavior.

                                Comment

                                  Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by RainWeasley View Post
                                  .... there is a chance he will start seeing "buddies going away" time as "happy relaxed" time. At this point, I think he gets himself worked up, which reinforces to himself that "buddies leaving" is scary and miserable. He doesn't realize that he doesn't have to freak out. And once you are freaking out, its INCREDIBLY difficult to convince yourself to calm down, even as an intelligent human that knows you are getting upset over nothing. He might just need some extra help figuring out that he WILL be okay.
                                  ^^^^^ this has been the plan with everything I have tried. I think drugs really are my only option.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I remember both of the posts you mention, dana, about this gelding.

                                    And I have to say I agree with tabula rashah.

                                    There comes a point where you have to call it: from what I gather you're quite a competent horse person. While I do think drugs have their place...I am not sure this one is going to be remedied by better living through chemistry. Call it a gut feeling, call it experience, but the horses I've seen that have anxiety this high have something NQR upstairs and either end up finding the one living situation they can handle or they end up being euthanized.

                                    This may or may not be an option, but I kind of wonder if this horse would be happy living out in a large herd and being used in a ranch type situation. Somewhere where he is "on the payroll" so to speak and has a job that takes up a large chunk of the day and thus is mentally taxing (not just an hour or so of riding a few days a week). You may not be able to place him in something like that, but it was honestly my first thought.
                                    Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

                                    Comment

                                      Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by mmeqcenter View Post

                                      OP you said health issues are ruled out, not sure if that includes consideration of possibly being proud cut? Or perhaps a brain tumor, those can produce strange behavior.
                                      Not proud cut and no brain tumor -- he's a totally normal horse outside of the separation issue stuff.

                                      Comment

                                        Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Abbie.S View Post
                                        \. While I do think drugs have their place...I am not sure this one is going to be remedied by better living through chemistry. Call it a gut feeling, call it experience, but the horses I've seen that have anxiety this high have something NQR upstairs and either end up finding the one living situation they can handle or they end up being euthanized.
                                        I think he would do great in a different situation -- it's been on my wish list. I would give him up in a hearbeat if I found that perfect place for him.

                                        And yes, he might very well be NQR. Putting him down is not beyond the realm of possibility, but of course I would only consider it once all other options are fully exhausted.

                                        Once spring arrives I plan to make one last concentrated effort -- with the help of drugs I think. Worth a shot.

                                        Comment

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