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Aspergers in horses?

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  • Aspergers in horses?

    How many of you have encountered horses with Aspergers-like behavior? Or call it High-functioning autism? NOT the same as the average horse's sensitivity to it's environment. I was working with a horse with a trainer today and we had this conversation regarding a specific horse. The horse seems to have reasonable training issues (meaning, typical for his age and experience) but also "checks out" occasionally in his brain when certain (and somewhat unpredictable things) trigger a "moment". Coincidentally, she had had a recent conversation with a friend about the incidence of mental defects similar to human mental defects in horses. We wondered if this particular horse had an Aspergers-like issue. I'd love to hear from people who have experience with such horses or people with ideas about such horses. Do you think that some horses have physi9olocial mental issues, like people can have?
    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

  • #2
    I had a horse that had a history of severe abuse (I'm not talking fluffy-bunny "oh, snookem's been so abused"...she'd had a very bad life. Just an example: several of her molars were broken in her jaw and came out in pieces over the years I had her) that would unpredictably have flash backs or something. She was normally a horse who was very careful and not at all likely to do anything that would harm a human, but every now and then something would set her off and she'd lose her mind. That "something" would change and you never knew what was going to cause it. If you happened to be in the way, you were going to get hurt.

    I had been trying to get her broke to ride, as she really would have been a neat riding horse, but the ... third? time she put me in the ER, I threw in the towel and called her a pet. I kept her for several years, with the instruction that I was the only one to handle her (I was willing to take the risk--wasn't going to ask anyone else to) and when I could no longer keep her, I put her down. I was afraid she'd kill someone if I rehomed her.

    Is that what you're talking about? I wouldn't call what I saw Aspergers or autism spectrum...I'd call it PTSD. Or just broken in general.

    If you've got a horse that unnaturally sensitive to his environment, (that's not really how I'd describe my mare) I'd take a good hard look at PAIN before even considering behavioral. Feet, joints, back/spine, stomach, hind gut, saddle fit? Then I'd try a magnesium supplement. Only after all that would I even consider something mental.

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    • #3
      I think you really need to do a lot of research of what autism really is.

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      • #4
        My morgan was like this. High headed and alert by nature, every once in a while he'd "check out". Get the "1000 yard stare" for a few moments at literally nothing. Then explode dangerously, kicking out north, south, east and west and mowing down anything in his path. Slamming into fences or trees, etc. along the way. Really psychotic behavior.

        I too, wouldn't allow anyone else to handle him, and was very grateful I had a BO that was savvy and understanding enough to allow me to board such a beast on her property.

        I won't say he was abused by his former owners, they actually loved him very much, but he was severely mishandled.

        Turned out this horse very much was in pain due to broken withers, despite looking (and vetting, more than once) sound as a dollar. He also responded very favorably to ulcer treatment, despite not displaying any sign other than erratic, nervous, explosive behavior.

        In my horse, what appeared like the door falling off the hinge was really just the sign of a very mentally stressed out horse. As a riding horse, he was in a position where he couldn't win - behaving and being ridden hurt like hell, yet he was vehemently punished for trying to tell people "this hurts". He was in a no-win situation. For years. He's smart enough that he knew it, and after years of this stress, it drove him bonkers.

        Since learning a new trade, driving, where he can be a happy, pain-free, functioning member of society, he's become a well adjusted happy horse, no longer ulcering him self up with worry, and no more unpredictable behaviors.

        Moves me to tears every time I think on it. How big a horse's heart is, and how willing they are to forgive the unforgiveable.
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by spotted draft x filly View Post
          I think you really need to do a lot of research of what autism really is.
          And Asperger's. To support a disorder like this requires a very complex set of frontal lobes and a lot of cortex, and horses don't have either, really.

          Not every difficult individual has a mental disorder.
          Click here before you buy.

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          • #6
            Had a horse I used to ride suddenly become unsafe. It was so random and incredibly sad as this mare was a doll to work with and had one of those "we're going for a ride today, awesome!", very cheerful. She ended up developing a brain tumor (maybe more than one) and it made her very neurological and unsafe. One minute we'd be on a nice hack, the next she'd be running in a blind panic. The owner ended up giving her the rest of the season off being a pasture puff and humanely euthanized her before winter as she was such a hazard to everyone around her.

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            • #7
              Actually aspergers is part of the autism spectrum. Just like my daughter's condition, it's on the higher side.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by spotted draft x filly View Post
                Actually aspergers is part of the autism spectrum. Just like my daughter's condition, it's on the higher side.
                Pretty sure everyone is on the same page with that.
                Click here before you buy.

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                • #9
                  several of her molars were broken in her jaw and came out in pieces over the years I had her) that would unpredictably have flash backs or something.
                  In view of her history of such severe mouth injuries, I'd suspect pain episodes, including nerve pain, before looking for psychological reasons although could be both I guess.

                  Heliodoro gives a good example


                  Had a horse I used to ride suddenly become unsafe. It was so random and incredibly sad as this mare was a doll to work with and had one of those "we're going for a ride today, awesome!", very cheerful. She ended up developing a brain tumor (maybe more than one) and it made her very neurological and unsafe. One minute we'd be on a nice hack, the next she'd be running in a blind panic. The owner ended up giving her the rest of the season off being a pasture puff and humanely euthanized her before winter as she was such a hazard to everyone around her.
                  It's good that the owner found the physical reason rather than concluding her horse had aspergers syndrome or flashbacks or assumed it was training issue .

                  When I hear hoofbeats, zebras are way down the list.
                  Last edited by Crockpot; Jun. 7, 2013, 08:28 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Some are born like that, a bit "off".

                    We had many foals over the years, some years about 50.
                    In all those years and foals, we had two fillies that were born "different" and were never consistent to handle.
                    They would come in from the pasture with cuts, when something set them off and they would blindly run thru anything.
                    Both fillies, born years apart, were the kind that just would not retain what they were taught well.
                    One was right down wild acting, no matter what all we did to keep her comfortable.
                    Since all our other foals were fine, there was a clear difference that she was not "normal".

                    The first filly a friend that trained cutting horses wanted her, so we gave her to her and she never could get her going under saddle safely.
                    A cowboy she knew took her and made a ranch horse out of her, but said he had "some interesting times" over the years with her.

                    The second one a local fellow wanted her when she was weaned and said he never could put her out to pasture, she would run blindly thru anything, so he kept he in a larger, safe pen by the round pen with his old horse.
                    One day she evidently ran into the round pen fence and killed herself.

                    Some horses just don't have a properly wired brain, just as some people don't.
                    I don't think we can compare too much those glitches humans have with those horses may have, because we don't have brains similar enough for that.

                    Then, there are those horses that had other happen, like some kinds of encephalitis, West Nile Virus or such, or have some really bad experiences, that make them act up when something triggers them.

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                    • #11
                      Yeah. I shook my head and laughed when i saw this thread. I'm use to hearing a lot of people asking if their kids have autism but this is the first for a horse or any animal for that matter lol

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                      • #12
                        I thought the thread would be about the horses that just don't get horsey social skills or communication with other horses. That horse in the herd who pesters another guy and won't stop, or he one who's always off by themselves and doesn't interact.

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                        • #13
                          There is some whackjob out there with a website about her "autistic" horse and her mad therapy skillz that helped it...I consider that more anthropomorphic pop psychology than diagnosis, though.
                          "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                          ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by betsyk View Post
                            I thought the thread would be about the horses that just don't get horsey social skills or communication with other horses. That horse in the herd who pesters another guy and won't stop, or he one who's always off by themselves and doesn't interact.
                            Sounds like my gelding. I don't think he has autism ; but we do call him The Cheese (as in "the Cheese stands alone" from the Farmer in the Dell. )

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                              Not every difficult individual has a mental disorder.
                              Are you sure about that? I'm pretty sure all of us will eventually be diagnosed with a disorder, even if it's not one that exists yet. Are you sure you don't suffer from linear thinking disorder ?

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Discobold View Post
                                Are you sure about that? I'm pretty sure all of us will eventually be diagnosed with a disorder, even if it's not one that exists yet. Are you sure you don't suffer from linear thinking disorder ?

                                If you want to call that a "disorder". But I am not a difficult individual! Anyone who would think otherwise CLEARLY has issues with confrontation.
                                Click here before you buy.

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                                • #17
                                  I'd take the OP's title to be a brief description rather than any attempt to
                                  make a real medical diagnosis. Describing a horse who had all the advantages yet still was not normal.

                                  I knew one that seemed that way. He was imported from Germany as a
                                  green or unbroken 2/3 year old. From the day he arrived his owner said he was a strange one. Ten years later he was still strange (I call it dangerous).
                                  This is an owner who I absolutely respect for her patience, gentleness and consistant ability to start many young horses - a young horse specialist.
                                  Had his moments of greatness, then pfff, explode. Never learned to tie,
                                  move away from pressure, needed a chain all the time, never could be trusted.

                                  So, after knowing that horse, I'd say yes, to the OP.
                                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Hmmm I wonder what PP would have to say about Aspergers in horses... or is that just a Horsenality?

                                    ...sorry, couldn't help myself.
                                    "Be the change you want to see in the world."
                                    ~Mahatma Gandhi

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      We had one, displayed many of the same behaviors described about. Many people, including myself, got a bad feeling even walking up near him. It was a unsettled feeling really more than anything. A friend who didnt know anything about him looked at a picture of his face and said "somethings wrong with that horse I would never go near it." He would stand up on his hinds and walk after people biting and striking sometimes and like to pin people into the dirt after a ride that went well. Or he would just buck like a bronk and you couldn't ride him. He did the same stare off into space and the snap back and attack anything around him. He also would climb (not jump) out of the round pen that he was turned out in toward the end. He once picked up a big industrial fan with his mouth and flung it across the barn. When he was not crazy he was the sweetest, kindest most in your pocket animal ever. He was the scariest, most freaky thing I have ever seen in my life. We didn't pay for a necropsy but the vet highly suspected a brain tumor even though the blood test never showed cancer or anything. Weird thing, they bred his dam again and both times she crushed the foals to death. He had been weaned very early, I always wondered if the same problem existed there as well.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        They've apparently created autistic mice, so animals certainly can be autistic:

                                        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0906140744.htm

                                        Note the problems are in social interactions- your autistic horse wouldn't do well in a herd setting.

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