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Posting in here as well...Anxious horse...trainer? vet?

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  • Posting in here as well...Anxious horse...trainer? vet?

    So, I've posted about this mare a few times. Back story is that she is a 7 year old OTTB, retired at 2 after 5 starts, sound. Got her through New Vocations. When she arrived in my barn she was a hellion. I could barely enter her stall let alone ride her. When she was tacked up she would grind her teeth and pin her ears. So I said OK, I'll leave you alone. So for a year all the interaction I had with her besides basic care, was feeding and turnout.

    At 3 1/2 she moved to a farm with 24/7 turnout where she was sat on maybe 2X the entire time she was there, no real riding. She was there for 2 years. BTW she is a cribber and that continued there, she would leave the herd to go crib on the side of the run in.

    At 5 1/2 I brought her home to me and starting doing ground work with her, lunging. Did one ride on her and then she sliced her hind leg open and was out of commission for 6+ months.

    At 6 I starting riding her consistently. Well, as consistently as I can get out which is sometimes 3X a week, sometimes 1X a week. During my rides she is very forward, wanting to jig, trot, no relaxation at all. Head is tucked toward chest, she is on the bit and pulling, she won't relax even to walk. If she is asked to trot and then walk again, she is so tense and anxious that she prances and grinds her teeth and bobs her head UP and DOWN.

    I have spent months just walking and trotting, I even spent two weeks only walking. No improvement. She is always anxious.

    For the last two months she has been on 24/7 turnout only coming in to eat. She is eating 9# of Strategy daily, with 4 flakes of grass hay daily. I ride her 3 times a week and I'm just frustrated. We are getting nowhere, she won't relax. She grinds her teeth non stop.

    So, at this point I'm thinking it must be pain. She moves quietly and comfortably without me on her. I doubt its me, she is that anxious with any rider, but it could be the tack that is causing her pain, or back pain with a rider on her.

    She does not react to any palpating to her back. She does have sometimes snappy stifles and hocks. I've never had her injected, nor had the chiropractor out, but I'm thinking it might be time (for chiro not injections).

    Any help??

    Post 2
    I agree with ulcers. However, I forgot to mention I did 30 days on poprocks and did not see ANY difference. I will take the advice though and get her scoped, it's not too pricey and would give me a definitive answer.

    Also, I would LOVE to let her go forward but her legs just keep getting faster and faster and she hauls like a freight train, to the point the nothing is getting accomplished. I have done circles, serpentines, etc trying to keep her mind busy and she doesn't ease up at all.

    Also, I am open to suggestions on the grain front. She hasn't always been on that amount of grain, she used to be on mainly beet pulp with 3# daily of Strategy Healthy Edge, but then she choked 3X on the beet pulp (soaked 12 hrs) and I've nixed it from her diet. She loses weight rapidly when she doesn't have a good amount of grain, no matter the amount of hay and grass. When I had her at home for a few months I fed her 45lbs of alfalfa daily but she still didn't keep the weight on without grain and beet pulp. Yes, she is dewormed regularly and fecals done.

    She has the sweetest temperament, really easy going horse. I forgot to mention as well that along with the cribbing she weaves like it's going out of style.

    Looks like a vet workup is in order.

  • #2
    The mare at one point was eating 45 pounds of alfalfa hay a day?


    • Original Poster

      A bale, which I assume by lifting it weighed about 45lbs, which was mostly alfalfa, yes. Is that insane or something? Not understanding the question. I gave her free choice hay in an attempt to up her weight and that's how much she ate.


      • #4
        45 lbs of alfalfa hay, or a full bale is way, way too much. Did you type that correctly? And if you did how long has the horse been eating that amount?


        • Original Poster

          OK well it was only a month, she put on weight well while I had her at home. I threw her flakes throughout the day I would say on average she ate 2/3-3/4 of a bale daily. It was second cut, I assume it was a blend alfalfa. I guess I don't see what the issue is? Tons of people feed free choice hay? Anyway, that was well over a year ago. For 9 months she was boarded at a place that only fed like 5-10lbs of hay daily and I was supplementing her with alfalfa cubes soaked since she was super ribby. Two months ago she was moved to where she is currently where she is turned out 24/7 and gets the 9# of Strategy and four 3-4# flakes of grass hay. She is currently lighty ribby. There is no grass left in the turnouts, just nubs.


          • #6
            I'd take her off alfalfa and put her on timothy or grass hay. If you want her to have a little alfalfa, limit it to 2-3 flakes per day. Alfalfa typically makes horses 'hot' tempered. Also, being a TB, she could possibly be more calm if she is in consistent, more strenuous work.

            It could be pain or ulcers, but she could just be a bit hot as it is and then with a lot of alfalfa on top of it and minimal work, she has no way of burning off all that energy...

            I'd take her off alfalfa and increase her workload (as long as pain is ruled out)


            • Original Poster

              It's been 2 months without a drop of alfalfa, and before that 9 months of only 3# of alfalfa cubes every other day. I really doubt its the alfalfa, but thanks the taking the time to write your advice. I must admit I've always suspected ulcers and it might be time to fully investigate that avenue.


              • #8
                I would pursue the ulcer as a possibility as well. I would also change how I was working her..if she were mine. I would explore reward based training where she could start to think differently about your sessions. I have a horse that would respond to my que to move forward by getting nervous and just going faster. As soon as I added food rewards for very specific behavior responses...she calmed right down and started looking to me and waiting for me to 'tell' her what we were going to do next. It started to change the process of understanding and learning for her.

                I also spend some time during a riding session just letting my girl stop and rest. It allows them to completely relax with no pressure...I have a couple of horses that improved their attitude when I picked up the reins again. Just something to try and see if it helps you.


                • Original Poster

                  Ticker, could you give me a bit more information on the technique you used while riding. I have found that treat based rewards really keep her interested, ie when teaching her to clip, mane pulling, etc.


                  • #10
                    I reread your whole post. Basically, this is a horse who has been sitting around doing nothing for 5 years and really, aside from the injury layup, I don't know why you haven't been doing anything with her this whole time? Ulcers could be the case, however I don't think she's been doing anything to warrant having ulcers at this point - she probably had them when she came off the track (hence the grumpiness, pinning ears etc) but now, it is not the most likely scenario - at least not for her to have them bad enough to be causing THIS much of an issue. However, since she's pretty much been a pasture potato for 5 years, you are essentially working with a barely broke 7 yr old - have you tried putting her with a trainer for 30 days if you are not capable of starting her over?

                    Maybe get a chiro out and adjust her? Check her tack, including her bit (she may need something with rollers or keys to help keep her mind off of grinding her teeth) and you can get her scoped for ulcers. But you may just need to put her in training and start working her. Work her through the issues. Rather than just walk around on her if she is nervous, why not try jogging her and doing a bunch of circles, serpentines, etc. Keep your reins loose and don't tense up. Just jog her for a while. You may not be giving her enough time to settle down while you are on her. If you keep your reins tight, she may be reacting like a typical racehorse - tight reins = go faster (and tense up)

                    That said, maybe you already do everything I mentioned. Just thought I'd mention it.


                    • Original Poster

                      I'll post a video in a second of me riding her. I guess I probably need to do the vet check and then send her to the trainer. I have done the trotting and changing directions, I have tried nice loose reins and slowing my post, but she barrels faster and faster until she starts cantering, even when I'm sitting tall, posting lightly and saying "easy, whoa."

                      I refuse to say that she is basically unbroke. She has been ridden enough to be broke. Green, sure. Uneducated in how to use her body correctly, yes.


                      • Original Poster


                        Let me know if you can see this video, I'm not sure if my privacy settings are on or not.

                        If you can see it you can notice that sometimes she braces on my hands quite hard, sometimes she gapes her mouth open. This was a relatively good day for her.


                        • Original Poster


                          Other direction where you can see that if I ease up with my hands she tries to jump into a canter.

                          Also, wanted to add, I have committed to riding her three days a week minimum and I have the BM starting to ride her 2 days a week starting next week. I talked to BM earlier in the week and we hope that with the upped work schedule she will ease some of her nervous habits. She is on 24/7 turnout.


                          • Original Poster

                            Cantering http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=...type=3&theater


                            • #15
                              TBs that are race trained are taught to "lean" on your hands. It feels like they are pulling or very heavy on your hands. This helps them to go faster because they have something to push against. It also has them unbalanced so they are sort of barreling down hill. The more unbalanced a horse is (from back to front) the faster they will go and the harder they will pull. My TB gelding will pull like a freight train and go faster and faster if he isn't balanced. When we first got him it took quite a while to get him balanced so he could "carry himself" and not lean on his rider's hands. Basically we did lots and lots of 20 meter circles at the trot using half halts to help him balance. It took time for him to develop the muscling over his top line that allowed him to maintain his own balance for longer periods of time with less "help". Does that make sense?
                              Your mare is green but she likely has no idea how to carry herself in a calm balanced way.
                              "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp


                              • #16
                                I see a very well behaved, green, confused, unbalanced horse with a rider trying so hard to be 'light', the rider is just doing.... nothing. The mare isn't rushing. She's just unbalanced and not being asked to step into contact. She's actually not moving very fast, it just seems quick because her stride is short and choppy (again, green, unbalanced). She 'jumps' into the canter because you have absolutely no leg on her and no consistent, following contact, so when you do bump her or drop the reins, she says "oh, faster!'. Same reason she's gaping her mouth, your hands aren't following with a consistent contact. Sit up, put your leg on, keep a soft, consistent feel of the reins and ride. She looks (at least in this video) like she's very honest and pretty calm, just confused about what's being asked of her. I'm not seeing nervous/high strung behavior at ALL, just typical green/out of shape horse.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Apparently I've given the wrong impression. She is NOT high strung or hot at all. She is nervous, grinding teeth, etc. Ugh, it's just so hard to explain. I'm guessing perhaps I just don't have the skill to teach her. She is not bad, at all, she is an angel. But she doesn't want to give to the bit at all. She won't stand still at the halt. She won't walk from the moment I get on until I get off, its walk-jig-walk-jig.

                                  I completely agree, I don't use ANY leg on her at all. When I do she's off like a bullet.

                                  Like I said, maybe I just don't have the skill set to teach her. She is a good girl, but I can't get her to relax at all.


                                  • #18
                                    I agree with BigGreyHunter. You are trying to stay light and instead are too far forward and ahead of the motion. You need to sit up and slow yourself down. Post slower, bring your upper body back and she will follow your lead. Change things up on her...circles, serpentines, figure 8s, transitions. Make sure your aids are consistent when you ask for these.

                                    I would also take her off the strategy and feed something lower in sugar. And try to keep her schedule consistent...5-6 days of work, even if it is lunging a couple of these days. A lot of TBs just do better on a daily work schedule.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Bedazzle View Post
                                      I completely agree, I don't use ANY leg on her at all. When I do she's off like a bullet.

                                      Like I said, maybe I just don't have the skill set to teach her. She is a good girl, but I can't get her to relax at all.
                                      First, Get her off the strategy!! Put her on something very low in sugar and high in fat. I had an OTTB years ago that could not handle ANY sweet feed.

                                      Second, have you taught her to stand at the halt, or walk quietly? These are not things they just know naturally; they have to be taught to OTTBs. I used to stand in the middle of the ring during lesson hours on my OTTBs and just make them chill out. It takes a lot of patience but they need to learn how to do this; it does not always come natural.


                                      • #20
                                        I would say a trainer would be able to help you a LOT. A horse can't give to the bit if you can't put leg on. It's something she has to learn to accept. Same with halting/walking calmly.