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Work Sour OTTB?

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    Work Sour OTTB?

    Hi everyone. Hope you're all doing well amid the COVID-19 issue.

    Anyway, a little background before I go into what's going on. I bought my mare just about 2 years ago and I have essentially had the same issue with her since I got her... originally I had thought it was just bit chomping, but I am now noticing that it's just a sour attitude towards being ridden in general. Now, I admit that I have not ridden frequently or regularly, and I suspect that this may be part of my problem. I can throw out all of the excuses, but that's not really the point here. No lecturing please, I'm here for solutions.

    The main issues I'm having are bit chomping, head shaking, and just overall nasty attitude when asked to work. When I say work, I mean "trot around" or "go over there", I don't mean "let's go insane and gallop 2 miles today". The attitude is the worst when asked to walk or trot by the door in the arena that leads into the stall section of the barn, which tells me she is upset that she isn't with her horse boyfriend, or she doesn't want to be in the arena doing any type of work at all. She doesn't want to go and ride outside. She doesn't want to ride inside. She doesn't want to walk, trot, or canter. She doesn't want any contact on the bit. She doesn't want anything to do with anything related to a saddle being near her.

    My best idea so far is to ride at least 4 times per week... I just need some help figuring out what to do while riding that might help her attitude.

    So, what are some tips you guys have so that I can try to change this mindset about riding?

    #2
    Do a tiny bit of work (I'm talking 5 minutes tiny), and then go hack out.

    Comment


      #3
      Have you done a health workup to make sure she isn't have any pain issues anywhere.... feet, legs, back, rump, neck, etc?
      Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; John Gilliespie Magee, Jr

      Comment

        Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by Where'sMyWhite View Post
        Have you done a health workup to make sure she isn't have any pain issues anywhere.... feet, legs, back, rump, neck, etc?
        She gets seen by the chiro and I'm an equine massage therapist.

        Comment


          #5
          Is she food/treat motivated? If so, you could consider centering them in your training (along with copious praise, scritches, and rest rewards).

          I second the question about vet work up. Doing a basic lameness exam, flexions, foot xrays, blood workup, etc. would be my first step if I didn’t have recent data.

          Comment

            Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Redlei44 View Post
            Is she food/treat motivated? If so, you could consider centering them in your training (along with copious praise, scritches, and rest rewards).

            I second the question about vet work up. Doing a basic lameness exam, flexions, foot xrays, blood workup, etc. would be my first step if I didn’t have recent data.
            Yes, she is food motivated, she's a total fatty and loves treats.

            I think calling the vet would be a good idea. I'm also wondering if she may have something going on with her ovaries.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Bcarr510 View Post

              She gets seen by the chiro and I'm an equine massage therapist.
              That's nice and all but I'd do a full vet workup preferably at an equine hospital where they have all the tools readily available. You need to rule out any possible pain first then if nothing is found start over with her - baby steps.
              "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England

              Comment


                #8
                Definitely check out health issues first. Mine had ulcers when he started to act this way. I had to convince vet something was wrong as it was not apparent by the way he was moving or acting; he just didn't want to be ridden. With a mare, I would definitely rule out repro issues first. Good luck!

                Comment


                  #9
                  Once pain is ruled out, I have had good luck using clicker training to improve attitude.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Agree with all of the others on making sure there are no physical issues before delving into this issue.

                    But, assuming she checks out well. Go back to the very beginning. Praise for every little thing you ask and she gives. Keep the sessions super short and easy. Go on lots of loose rein hacks if that is something that she enjoys. Or go for a hand gallop in the field if she enjoys that. Spend some days just doing ground work and playing with her. Basically, she needs to view time working with you as fun and not "work".

                    My OTTB is extremely sensitive. He will work really hard for me, but if I ask for too much in one ride I have to go back to basics for a little while to get him happy in his work again. For him, it's a confidence/anxiety issue. He'll tie himself in knots for me as long as he understands what I'm asking and feels confident about it. Introducing new concepts takes a lot of "play" time between us and one or two strides of the new thing.

                    She sounds like she'll let you know what she prefers to let off steam.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      How are her feet? Your situation is exactly how I started down the road of unraveling hoof issues in my mare.

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by kashmere View Post
                        How are her feet? Your situation is exactly how I started down the road of unraveling hoof issues in my mare.
                        Oh I could go on for days about this topic. We are currently in a decent position with her feet, but that was not an easy task to accomplish. I bought her and she had a severely underrun heel (previous owner didn't trim in who knows how long). I had her trimmed and she went very sore on gravel and concrete because he had taken too much off. I ended up shoeing her for 2 cycles because of that. I moved and had to switch farriers. Despite being on a 6 week cycle, he let her bars overgrow to the point that they folded over about an inch, her heels were uneven and starting to run under again, white line was separating due to flares that weren't being handled, etc etc etc. It was a complete train wreck. I switched over to a barefoot trimmer in November. She is looking pretty good now. Every trim we have progress. Flares are almost gone, toe has been brought back significantly, heel is now even, bars aren't overgrown... she has a toe callus... can you believe that?! This entire process has taken 2 years, and we aren't done. Thankful for my barefoot trimmer. She is great.

                        Here's how she looked 2 weeks post trim... before switching. It was shameful.



                        Here's a photo with both, the most recent photo I have is on the left, the old one on the right. The newer photo is 1 day before a trim, so 6 weeks post trim. The photo on the right is 2 weeks post trim. Big difference, considering.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Oy. I know the journey! I wouldn't be surprised if those feet are a part of the sourness - it's definitely a long haul to rehab them from there but good on you for recognizing the problem! Have you tried riding in padded boots to see how that goes? Or even doing booted turnout and riding depending on her level of comfort in her turnout environment? There's a lot of contraction still in the heel and looks like a pretty thin sole, so guessing she would be happier with some protection and support.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            What you describe sounds like herdbound/gate sour.

                            After getting physical issues ruled out by a vet, I would suggest watching Warwick Schiller's many videos about gate sourness. Look for the principle called, "choose where you work, and choose where you rest." I think a lot of the NH stuff is rubbish, but this particular concept has worked for me.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Bcarr510 View Post
                              Hi everyone. Hope you're all doing well amid the COVID-19 issue.

                              Anyway, a little background before I go into what's going on. I bought my mare just about 2 years ago and I have essentially had the same issue with her since I got her... originally I had thought it was just bit chomping, but I am now noticing that it's just a sour attitude towards being ridden in general. Now, I admit that I have not ridden frequently or regularly, and I suspect that this may be part of my problem. I can throw out all of the excuses, but that's not really the point here. No lecturing please, I'm here for solutions.

                              The main issues I'm having are bit chomping, head shaking, and just overall nasty attitude when asked to work. When I say work, I mean "trot around" or "go over there", I don't mean "let's go insane and gallop 2 miles today". The attitude is the worst when asked to walk or trot by the door in the arena that leads into the stall section of the barn, which tells me she is upset that she isn't with her horse boyfriend, or she doesn't want to be in the arena doing any type of work at all. She doesn't want to go and ride outside. She doesn't want to ride inside. She doesn't want to walk, trot, or canter. She doesn't want any contact on the bit. She doesn't want anything to do with anything related to a saddle being near her.

                              My best idea so far is to ride at least 4 times per week... I just need some help figuring out what to do while riding that might help her attitude.

                              So, what are some tips you guys have so that I can try to change this mindset about riding?
                              Since it hasn't been mentioned I would look at saddle fit.

                              I would stop riding for now and do ground work as if starting a green horse. Longeing, inhand, lateral work from the ground, cowboy groundwork, etc. Get her moving forward on the ground including past the arena gate which can be a sticky place for any horse. Go on handwalk hikes on your trails.

                              Also observe how she acts in pasture or turnout. Does she ever bolt buck and play at liberty? If never, then I'd suspect pain. An OTTB even an old one will run like crazy just for fun every once in a while ( and every day if younger!). If not something is wrong.

                              This will let you see how she moves with no saddle and let you reinstall a forward button. Also do you actually know she was ever fully retrained as a riding horse? As an OTTB she could have been bought off the track by someone who ended up doing nothing with her and she has never learned what is meant by ordinary riding.

                              I would also check: teeth (knew of a mare who had meltdowns from impacted wolf teeth), back and neck (kissing spines, cervical arthritis), feet (she may need boots even in the arena because OTTB) and hock arthritis.

                              Do you know anything about her previous post track performance? The neglected hooves suggest someone gave up on her and tossed her in a field, maybe because she was doing exactly this with them.

                              It's different if you know for sure she had a period of good citizenship in her past that can be verified.

                              And how old is she? Really important question!

                              If she is 8 years old and has lived semi neglected in a field since coming off the track 4 years ago, that's a different scenario than if she is 17, was a good kids two foot six jumper for ten years, got sour and cranky, and was retired into a field.


                              ​​​​​​

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by kashmere View Post
                                How are her feet? Your situation is exactly how I started down the road of unraveling hoof issues in my mare.
                                This. I would check sole thickness and palmer angles.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by gertie06 View Post
                                  Look for the principle called, "choose where you work, and choose where you rest."
                                  This is a classic tool for overcoming sourness and building a work-ethic. It can be very effective.

                                  Gate sour behavior may not always be pain-related, but the head shaking and bit chomping may be her trying to tell you something - do your due diligence in the pain department.

                                  Assuming pain is ruled out, consider boredom.

                                  If she's food motivated, consider advanced longing, over jumps, etc. or long lining lateral movements. Do something fun on the ground that is a) different and unexpected so you have her attention, b) keeps her guessing and (hopefully) motivated to learn, and c) where she can receive a food reward for a solid effort.

                                  I've always found lateral work to be a great great tool for breaking through and getting happy about work.

                                  Then, when you've spent 20 or 30 minutes or so on the ground learning something new, jump up and do it from her back. Create an expectation that riding = engaging fun.

                                  Then go for a hack, after every ride, see the sights, smell the roses, try something daring, like crossing a creek or jumping a hedge, create a mini adventure. Heck even let her pick the pace for a while and have a "weeeeeeeeee" together moment.

                                  Do anything that gets her ears pricked forward, and her expression bright and looking for more.
                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Another hand up for potential ulcers. I have had quite a few OTTBs who struggle, and this can greatly impact their attitude towards working. Of course it's not a cure all, so that's in addition to many of the other ideas above!

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      What does she do if her back is palpated? The bit chomping indicates pain.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        You could have written this about my mare. I have two horses and she played 2nd fiddle for a few years. I leased the other out and she's had to come out of 'retirement' and has expressed her sincere displeasure in a lot of the same ways as your mare.

                                        Mine likes to spook in response to being asked to do something. I went back to the very beginning for a very long time. I started really getting her into reliable work (4x/ wk) in March. I've spent a lot of time working on ignoring her and picking very small specific battles for a very small period of time. Her brain has slowly been getting re-wired that bad behavior won't end the ride. I have started adding in more complex asks and am finding the more I add her gut reaction is to over-react. We can reliably walk/ trot/ canter (which was not possible until June) with little more than the occasional ear prick. Now asking her to switch direction off the leg gets me the same response that trotting a 20m circle got me two months ago.

                                        I have had to work very hard on controlling my emotions and not getting frustrated when we go over the same thing over and over and over again but it's been working and I am finally starting to look forward to riding the horse again.

                                        Good luck!

                                        Comment

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