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Unexplainable "anxiety attacks"

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  • #41
    Just a thought - might not even be relevant.

    Check the magnesium content of his food stuffs, including any supplements. A horse can have a maximum of 2.6 grams (2,600 mg) of magnesium in a 24-hour period. If he's not quite getting that, you can supplement it, but really it is better that he get it in a good general multi-mineral supplement because it needs to be balanced out against calcium and such. Magnesium can calm the nerves. Too much causes diarrhea and it is always better to be no more than 2.6 grams per 24 hours.

    Otherwise, other obvious suggestions are having his eyes checked? Sometimes the start of irregular cataracts cause weird light alterations that make normal objects look rather bizarre. And retinal detachments can cause freaky "light-shows" in your line of vision - sparklers, lightning bolt streaks, streaming blobs. Need a vet check to determine these sorts of things. If his vision is going, his balance will be off so you would have noticed something like this by now, however. And seizures can also cause prolonged erratic behavior as a seizure doesn't even have to result in actual falling down and tonic-clonic movements. Some seizures the subject can remain standing, but become confused and out of it. A confused horse is a dangerous horse.

    And remember also, his hearing and sense of smell is uber sensitive. He could be hearing something waaaaaaaaaaaaaay off that really has blown some smoke up his butt. Has a distant neighbour lately added a new critter to their gang? Pig maybe? Goats? Llamas? They make strange sounds and smell weird (to a horse).

    I had a calm sensible gelding. But get near a pig and he would nearly have a stroke.

    It's mating season for coyotes. Maybe he's hearing territorial fighting and such going on.

    Badger near your barn? They smell funny and are particularly nasty-tempered. Other rodents that smell really bad, like possoms??

    Just a few ideas to poke around and be on the look out for.

    Hope you find out how to settle him.
    Practice! Patience! Persistence!


    • Original Poster

      We actually started him on Quiessence a week ago to help with some muscle tightness.

      There's a donkey down the road....???


      • #43
        A donkey could do it.... that screeching heehaw makes some horses really freak out until they decide this critter isn't going to eat them. Maybe you could arrange a meet and greet (but have friends to help in case he freaks out).
        Practice! Patience! Persistence!


        • #44
          I would have someone check the buzzing light to see if all is well with the outlet or if it is "leaking" some current, a simple gauge test can let you know. I hate bright lights at night too, poor fellow.
          "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK


          • #45
            Just got a new temporary rehab boarder in yesterday, and drove down to the barn this morning to find him all hot and bothered because one of the semi-feral barn cats had been running back and forth in the hayloft. Which they do regularly, and all the "regulars" are used to it. But this poor boy thought it was VERY scary! No doubt it will be "ho hum" before long and I know this isn't a new barn for Toby, but they do very definitely react to things that we might not even notice sometimes.
            Click here before you buy.


            • #46
              My horse has had the same issue and I understand how frustrating it is when you have NO idea what is causing your horse to be so upset!

              With my guy, I came out to the barn one day to find my horse hadn't eaten any of his grain or hay all day, had only two piles of manure in his paddock (when he usually has at least ten), and had paced up and down the fenceline so much that it looked like that area of the paddock had been dragged. The BO's son came up to me and said, "Hey, my dad said to tell you that your horse hasn't eaten all day and hasn't stopped pacing." Yeah, information that would have been helpful to me eight hours ago! I thought it was colic and put an emergency call in to my vet.

              Turns out it wasn't colic, my horse was just *freaking* out for no reason that I could see/hear/smell. It continued for several days, during which I had multiple people go over his stall/paddock with a fine-tooth comb at all different times of the day and none of us could find anything wrong. I tried locking my horse in his stall to make him eat, and he completely flipped, weaving and thrashing around and trying to look out his window. I found that if I put his hay and grain in his paddock he would eat it, and when I took him out to hand-graze he was fine. But he still was on edge, so after a few days I had my vet come out and give him a low dose of reserpine. It took just enough edge off for him to settle down and eat normally and not be a complete nutcase.

              After the reserpine wore off, he would sometimes have a short epidose of extreme nervousness on the cross-ties (right in front of his stall) where his heart would pound so much his body shook, and I found the best thing to do was to just put him in his stall/paddock and let him investigate and trot around snorting like a T-rex for a few minutes and then he would be fine. *Fingers crossed* he hasn't had an episode like that in a long time. He's still a hot/spooky horse, but the "panic attacks" have subsided.

              With my guy, when he had his panic attacks he was always looking towards the grove/nursery nextdoor. I have *never* seen anything over there to cause alarm, but it's the one constant in his freak-outs. We joke that they must raise panthers/velocirapotors/chupacarbras over there, and so far it's the only explanation that I can come up with, lol.

              Best of luck with your guy! I hope you can find the reason for his nervousness, or that it will sponateously go away as quickly as it came on. If not, there is always better living through pharmaceuticals. I certainly did not want to resort to drugging my guy, but thankfully just the one time was enough to get him over the worst period. I just couldn't watch him suffer anymore!
              Topline Leather -- Bespoke, handwoven browbands & accessories customized with Swarovski crystals, gemstones, & glass seed beads. The original crystal braid & crystal spike browbands!


              • #47
                I didn't read all the posts, but did notice that someone finally mentioned MSM. It was the source of the problem for my OTTB, he was at times unexplainably (is that a word?) scared, panicked and even aggressive. I had started him on MSM about a month before I started to see these episodes. Took him off and voila, a week or so later, he was normal again. I did some research and it seems that it is somewhat common. I steer VERY clear of products with MSM in it. Good luck
                Last edited by Cruiser12; Mar. 10, 2013, 08:22 PM. Reason: can't spell


                • #48
                  Originally posted by Cruiser12 View Post
                  I didn't read all the posts, but did notice that someone finally mentioned MSM. It was the source of the problem for my OTTB, he was at times unexplainably (is that a word?) scared, panicked and even aggressive. I had started him on MSM about a month before I started to see these episodes. Took him off and voila, a week or so later, he was normal again. I did some research and it seems that it is somewhat common. I steer VERY clear of products with MSM in it. Good luck
                  Your horse and my horse could be unfortunate twins. Your description matches my horse to a tee when on MSM.
                  Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                  • #49
                    Had a similar situation many years ago at a barn I was boarding at, anxiety behavior from a normally calm horse repeated sporadically over a few days. Turned out there was a snake that had taken up residence in her window sill which we could not see but totally freaked her out. Snake terminated, so was the problem.

                    Hopefully your problem will be as simple as that.


                    • #50
                      was his GGT level high (liver function) when you had blood work done? one of the horses at the barn has hepatitis and one of the symptoms is sudden changes in behavior. also going off feed - not wanting to eat, shaking, etc.

                      just a thought and good luck with this situation.


                      • #51
                        Just wondering: have you taken TPR or stuck a heart rate monitor on him during these?
                        This sounds environmental -- electrical in nature. Something you turn on when you come in the barn. We humans are kind of insensitive I think when it comes to environment --
                        Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                        Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                        • Original Poster

                          I took his temp the first time it happened, but nothing else. Nothing the next time (although it was obvious both times his heart was pounding!). I do wonder about that buzzy light. You don't typically hear it during the day when the music is on and there is lots of activity, but it was quite loud (to me, since it was just me and the ponies) the night he got so upset. That being said, wouldn't we expect a similar reaction every time I turn the lights on?


                          • #53
                            This may sound a little off the wall but have you tried meditation? I used to do martial arts and so did a lot of meditation. I have tried this with off the wall horses. I would sit in or near their stalls and meditate for 10 minutes or so. They almost always settled down and got really quiet. I got so I could even groom in a bit of a meditative state and they would be calmer than normal. Under saddle I work to get really grounded. It is hard to be in a meditative state and ride but if I get really grounded and quiet in my mind I find the horses are often less distracted than if my mind is really busy.

                            Of course you have to rule out physical stuff first. Lyme always comes to mind because it is so common around here.


                            • #54
                              I also first thought of a possible eye issue when reading the OP. It's very possible for a horse to have a minor eye issue go unnoticed. In this case, it's possible he was doing well with the eye issue but something else (buzzing light?) made him panic.