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Does this sound like a Lyme issue, a training issue, or a mare issue?

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  • Does this sound like a Lyme issue, a training issue, or a mare issue?

    I have a little Appy mare who was started very late (at 8 years old) and has only had a total of about 4 months of light training (last fall, 2 months about 2x per week with my trainer, and this fall, 2 months 1x per week with my trainer and 1x per week in a lesson, me riding, with my trainer). She started out with some serious attitude problems, I assume from being started so late. I tried to ride her a bunch of times myself before realizing she was TOTALLY green (we were misled by the seller), so we had some challenging moments in which I thought she was being disobedient, but later realized she had no clue what I was asking. Also keep in mind that she is an Appy mare.

    With the trainer's help, we've worked through all of that, and she's now going quite well most of the time. However, my trainer has brought up a suspicion that she may have Lyme disease, because she tends to get very tight and tense in her back sometimes--it's like her whole body is vibrating with tension, but not in a hot or spooky way. Also she sometimes has a very negative reaction to leg aids--she will sometimes suck back instead of going forward, and arch her neck, pin her ears, and shake her head. She does this especially with lateral aids, like asking for a leg yield. Sometimes you can just work through it, but in my last lesson things just degenerated to the point where the moment I put my leg on to ask for a trot, she would slam on the brakes, pin her ears, tense up, and start crow-hopping. She is MUCH MUCH better for the trainer than for me, but trainer still has to work through these moments too. Then other days she's totally relaxed and awesome, and a blast to ride.

    I do know that when she's confused and doesn't know what's being asked of her, she tends to revert to this sort of behavior. But in my lesson last week, all I wanted her to do was trot. Nothing unusual.

    Also, when not being ridden she is basically fine. Very relaxed and mellow, doesn't mind being groomed, not lame or anything. She does pin her ears when you first put the saddle on and when you tighten the girth, but I always just figured she was being mareish.

  • #2
    I don't know too much about lyme disease in horses (only humans!) but it sounds to me like a training problem. I've seen several horses that were started super super late and it almost always happens that they have a super weird behavior problem. That's not to say they won't work out of it but still. I would say that she's super super tense. Maybe not demand so much. Not saying you're asking too much maybe just introduce it to her even slower, really let her warm up, and back off when she gets confused, be creative. Training ANY horse takes creativity so that you can change your way of training and try a different approach. If you're really worried I'd have a vet check her just to make sure.

    Comment


    • #3
      I am no expert but have started several Apps. Boys though. Couple of thoughts from that perspective.

      Are you using spurs? She may have been started western, and to a "spur stop" or whatever they call it. There may have been a lot of spur, yank, spur, yank.

      Appies tend to have a "when in doubt, don't go" mindset. This is wonderful in many ways. My App's saddle slipped around to his belly at a show yesterday while I was mounting from a little ladder. He stood there, stock still, while I slipped to the ground. My trainer said he stood there, with a "get your act together, Mom" look on his face. If he could have rolled his eyes and sighed, he would have. But when they are young, you have to sort of ask, let them process, ask again. Not brute force, but patience. Appies like some time to process things.

      I do recall a phase when the same App was four, he would not go forward. I It has been 6 years ago, but I thought there was something wrong with him. He was about to go to a trainer to learn his canter better, but I almost did not send him. I wish I could tell you what the trainer did, but when he got back he was fine. But even today, sometimes he thinks it is hilarious to not go when I ask him to.
      Last edited by ToTheNines; Nov. 7, 2011, 09:00 PM.
      Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.

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      • #4
        Tough to diagnose these things with precision.

        Take it sequentially if you're trying different things. Otherwise it's hard to know what is working!

        Maybe step 1 is try her on bute for a few days, And if she's better then 2 weeks off if you think she may just be a little sore in general from increased work. This (a mini-break) might also help if you think she's just mentally shutting down a little.

        Step 2, recheck saddle fit, maybe chiropractic exam if you are so inclined.

        Step 3, (nothing is helping) then have the vet out. Here's where you could test for Lyme, or consider a course of omeprazole if you think she's ulcery. Personally I'd go with the latter first; a 30 day trial.

        By now you ought to have some idea of the problem, OR it will have worked itself out!

        I'm a BIG believer in trying or changing one thing at a time when faced with a diagnostic puzzle.
        Click here before you buy.

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        • #5
          What Deltawave said. Though it wouldn't hurt to get a Lyme titer right away, if for no other reason, to have a baseline.

          Comment


          • #6
            And if following Deltawave's and Snowdenfarm's suggestions still leaves you with a puzzle, consider the possibility of low-grade tying up and do a genetic test for PSSM / EPSM.

            *star*
            "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
            - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926

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            • #7
              another idea Ulcers...
              I love cats, I love every single cat....
              So anyway I am a cat lover
              And I love to run.

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              • #8
                Having dealt with lyme last year I would say 98% NO

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by ToTheNines View Post
                  I am no expert but have started several Apps. Boys though. Couple of thoughts from that perspective.

                  Are you using spurs? She may have been started western, and to a "spur stop" or whatever they call it. There may have been a lot of spur, yank, spur, yank.

                  Appies tend to have a "when in doubt, don't go" mindset. This is wonderful in many ways. My App's saddle slipped around to his belly at a show yesterday while I was mounting from a little ladder. He stood there, stock still, while I slipped to the ground. My trainer said he stood there, with a "get your act together, Mom" look on his face. If he could have rolled his eyes and sighed, he would have. But when they are young, you have to sort of ask, let them process, ask again. Not brute force, but patience. Appies like some time to process things.

                  I do recall a phase when the same App was four, he would not go forward. I It has been 6 years ago, but I thought there was something wrong with him. He was about to go to a trainer to learn his canter better, but I almost did not send him. I wish I could tell you what the trainer did, but when he got back he was fine. But even today, sometimes he thinks it is hilarious to not go when I ask him to.
                  This is an interesting perspective, thank you. She absolutely has the "when in doubt, don't go" mindset.

                  No, we are not using spurs. I don't know much about the initial riding that was done with her, but my impression is it was basically just to sit on her with a hackamore and saddle and follow another horse down the trail. (She is GREAT at that! ) She didn't know anything at ALL about what a bit was for, what leg aids meant, or even how to balance through turns with a rider on. She literally couldn't trot and turn at the same time. To clarify, she was actually STARTED at 18 months old--backed and trail ridden, as I mentioned--and then nothing at all was done with her from age 2 to 8. So we pretty much re-started her when we bought her at last year at age 8.


                  Here's a little more info about my last ride on her, that went so wrong. She had had about 10 days off due to the freak snowstorm, and then my trainer rode her out on a dirt road on a Tuesday. She said the horse was great, very forward, walk trot canter, got her leads. Then Friday I had a lesson, and it was atrocious (as described). Trainer ended up getting on and did get her to move forward eventually, but she was definitely not happy.

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                  • #10
                    I have appys and your last description sounds like "I don't want to". Appys are smart and a bit defiant. I think she enjoyed her road romp and probably had other ideas about what you should be doing (not going around in circles).

                    IME appys are very "fair" minded and they must also see "the point" in what you are doing. It is very easy for a horse to understand going from point A to point B but very often a smart and "fair" minded horse does not see the point in going in circles.

                    At this very green stage, if I was working her in an arena then I would keep changing things up. Use ground poles, cones, changes of direction etc. You have to show her a reason to move. If she sees that moving will only bring her right back to where she is now, then what is the point?

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                    • #11
                      Could she be confused with the lateral aids? My guy will sometimes either shut down or get angry when he is confused. For him, learning the shoulder-in going right has been a real struggle.

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                      • #12
                        I have an Appy-cross (chestnut, too!) and would agree to some extent that their personalities can be challenging. HOWEVER, I certainly don't subscribe to any mollycoddling a horse because it doesn't see things my way. TOUGH. If the answer eventually turns out to be "Eff you", then boot camp is in order. I don't really care if my horse thinks today's assignment is boring. First we are obedient, no exceptions. I tell all my horses they're not old enough to vote. Of course the old mare was the exception, but by the time SHE was 18 she was always right anyway!
                        Click here before you buy.

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                        • #13
                          I would have to say attitude all the way. I have had experience with a horse with Lyme disease and there was absolutely no attitude involved just no energy very lethargic even red cell did not help.

                          Have you ever tried working with her on the ground on the lunge in side reins getting tighter as you go till she is in desired frame. She needs to understand and respect you both on the ground and in the saddle. Do not lunge to make her quiet lunge to train i.e. only walk and trot switching it up not constant trot. Don't push her or get frustrated she is already frustrated starting so late etc so you have to go slower with her than you would with a young one. I have a mare now that I just bought that is very very sour has alot of attitude not from starting late but as a result of inproper training and negative human contact. I have had to take a step back with her but she's worth it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            To me, this sounds very much like a typical late-starter, no-work-ethic issue.

                            I would, however, have some blood pulled for a Lyme test the next time the vet is out. It's cheap peace of mind.

                            I would also palpate her back, and see if there are any sore spots, all the way from withers to ovaries. She if she is reactive anywhere. Check the fit of your saddle too - a tree that pinches makes going forward no fun at all.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My appy mare ( 7) does some of the same things. She will pin her ears sometimes while being girthed , will walk out fine, but when asked to trot she will, stop, pin ears, turn her head and try to bite at my legs. This happens a few days before she comes into heat ( she is obvious). She has always been super sensitive to leg and probably the easiest horse I have ever trained to ride. I ride 5 or 6 days a week. When she acts like this I am firm, but also understanding with her. It only takes a minute and then her irritation is over and we trot and canter just fine. The fact that you only ride your mare 2 days a week and you can probably add muscle soreness to the mix.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My mare had exactly the same symptoms when her ulcers were bad, years ago. I'd already had her a few years, and she'd always had a good work ethic, so when the tight back, kicking out/crowhopping, and girthiness appeared (she'd always been a touch girthy, but not the other stuff) I knew it was pain.

                                Treated ulcers, returned to normal self, symptoms reappeared, though less drastically, a couple of years later, treated again, and now keep her on maintenance.

                                If you don't want to shell out for GastroGard/Ulcergard I'd try a week of generic ranitidine (2-3x/day, I forget the dosage), plus maybe a syringe of Maalox for the first few days, about 1/2 hour before you ride, and see what happens. Inexpensive and should give you a pretty quick indication if it really is ulcers.

                                Good luck!
                                Custom and semi-custom washable wool felt saddle pads!
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                                • #17
                                  Having broken several horses at the later years (8 and Up) I'd say it's typical of late start and typical appy behavior. You have the Appy, "convince me it's worth it" attitude and the later start "who are you to tell me how to move" attitude. the good side is once you get through it you have an awesome, reliable horse. The bad part is getting through it. Certainly doesn't hurt to check for ulcers, definitely agree that it tdoesn't sound like Lyme.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have found some (not all) horses started late in their lives are brats. They are used to being a pampered princess, they wanna do what they wanna do and what they are used to doing, eat, drink, pee, poo, sleep. Some do not like their routine upset, so I say attitude. Think about it, if you are a bum, who wants to go to work with somebody making them do physical work? They wanna do what they wanna do, and continue being a princess.

                                    Good luck.

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