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Work Sour OTTB?

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  • findthedistance
    Originally posted by Bcarr510 View Post

    She gets seen by the chiro and I'm an equine massage therapist.
    What you're describing sounds quite similar to my mare with severe KS/facet arthritis/SI issues. My vet (trained in chiro) got nothing on palpation. A second vet chiro also found nothing exciting when adjusting her. The massage therapist found things to work on, mostly that she was nonspecifically tight, and massage made her ridden behavior MUCH worse. Even at the specialty clinic where she finally got a diagnosis, the exam notes describe her as "mild" response to back palpation. She was so braced against the pain that she seemed within normal limits.

    All that to say, what you're describing screams pain. Might be the back, or the feet, or ulcers, or... But I'd put money on pain somewhere. Horses are generous souls, and OTTBs get work ethic installed early. If they're saying "NO", there's a problem.

    Leave a comment:

  • Dressagelvr
    This horse probably shouldn't be barefoot. Get a decent vet and farrier to collaborate on what she needs. There may also be other physical issues here. Horses have "attitude" when they hurt.

    Leave a comment:

  • Tigers in Texas
    I know her feet have already been discussed and you have mentioned a barefoot trimmer is working to correct her long toes and underrun heels. I second/third/fourth those who have said to try riding her in hoof boots. This does not mean 1-2 rides in hoof boots then if she is the same move on to something else. You will likely have to ride with the boots for a month or more before you may notice a change. Mares in particular remember pain for a long time, so if her feet are hurting, she will anticipate hoof pain for at least a few weeks before she realizes her feet no longer hurt.

    If she improves, I would seriously consider shoes. And based on your description of her feet, possibly something like bar shoes for awhile to give extra heel support. It would help to have a vet and farrier who work together assess your horse's feet, plus or minus x-ray the angles. I don't know a lot of jumping TBs that can go barefoot comfortably. They are out there, sure, but not common.

    Backstory for my recommendation:
    My mare came to me with a "bad attitude" and propensity to flat out refuse to go forward, kick out, back up, pin ears, sometimes even rear. Worse at the start of a ride, and the first time you ask for each gait (ie, fine at the walk, but when you shorten your reins to ask for trot, she would halt, back up, and/or kick out). We did chiro, checked saddle fit, teeth, the whole nine. I have a wonderful farrier and she has great hoof walls but thin soles for her size (17.1h Holsteiner). Started her on a hoof supplement and added rim pads to her feet. Her balkiness was truly at least 90% a behavioral issue and with the help of a wonderful trainer I got her going around great, currently doing the 3'3" jumpers.

    BUT. Still at the start of rides, more often than not she would start off our trot work with a short choppy stride, ears somewhat back, and it would take 10-15 minutes of constant transitions to get her "woken up" and in front of my leg. About 1/2 the time the first canter ask would result in an ear pin or attempt to halt before then cantering right off. I accepted that this was just "her", and it didn't bother me because she didn't do it at shows, only at home, and after those first 10-15 minutes, she was absolutely lovely.

    Well in April she got a little hoof abscess, no big deal, but while working it up my vet noted she was heel sore on both fronts. Likely due to her size and propensity for thin soles. We switched her to bar shoes with rim pads, and about 7-8 weeks later, I realized that those 10-15 minutes of initial sulkiness were gone! Now don't get me wrong this horse is still, and will always be, a kick ride, but now she goes right to work, gets in front of my leg much more easily, and is just so much happier to work. Fixing her heel soreness with those bar shoes has made all the difference in the world.

    Leave a comment:

  • Jealoushe
    The go to check list for OTTB training issues;

    Teeth (dentist with x rays not just your vet float)
    Saddle fit
    Training method

    I have only seen that you have done chiro. What about the others? 99.9% of the time this is pain related and usually its ulcers/teeth/saddle . Saying that however, it could be how you are riding her but we haven't seen that on here yet. How much training did she have off track? How experienced are you? How do you react when she balks etc?

    Teeth chomping is usually a sign of back pain/saddle fit. As a massage therapist what do you think of her back?

    I will tell you a story of my 7 year old OTTB mare that happened over the winter. She was fairly green, always was very willing and easy. She cut her coronet band last summer and needed several months off. Once back into work, she was very unhappy in the mouth, and spooking at everything. Not like her. She had the dentist, teeth done, got her a new (expensive novocontact bit) and anatomical bridle. That helped the mouth issue. The spooking was still there. I honestly didnt think I would be able to event her in the future she was being so spooky.

    After another month or two, she started becoming resistant in the canter. Then one day, not trusting my gut it was pain, I pushed her thinking it was her being nappy. She proceeded to bronc down the long side, then planted her feet and reared straight up in the air and almost flipped over. She's 17.1 so it was terrifying. I managed to stay on and immediately got off. Took her saddle off and pressed into her shoulder/wither and sure enough she had a huge reaction.

    Needless to say, I got her a new saddle that fits. Now, I have my old horse back. The spooking is gone and we have successfully schooled XC twice already and she is brave and willing as ever.

    Moral of the story is, every single time I doubt myself and think the horse is acting up, it turns out to be pain related. 100% of the time. Horses are not jerks for no reason. They are either in pain, do not understand what you are asking or are not physically capable of what you are asking. There is no horse deliberately being bad out there.

    If all the above are investigated and shes pain free, then I suggest looking into some methods like Harmony Horsemanship offers in how to get your horse to want to work for you. Patience and kindness is key.

    Leave a comment:

  • Suspiria
    Scribbler wrote everything I was going to--teeth, saddle fit, ulcers, kissing spine, feet. I guarantee it's at least one of those things, and probably a combo.

    Leave a comment:

  • FreshAir
    I agree with others on check saddle fit - I found that my horse misbehaved after about 20 minutes with a too tight saddle but then when I threw him on the lunge, no attitude or problems at all. Also when you put on a poorly fitting saddle, watch for a negative reaction. When you put on a good saddle, sometimes they lick and chew.

    Leave a comment:

  • merrygoround
    Get out of the arena, off course if you are in the middle of a city, that may prove a bit difficult But a walk through fields and woods does wonders for both dispositions. Hers and yours.

    Leave a comment:

  • The Centaurian
    When I feel like a horse is getting a little ring sour, I take him out for a hack, then go into the ring at the end of the ride to dismount, praise, give cookies, loosen girth, etc. It isn't magic, but with repetition it helps.

    Leave a comment:

  • fatappy
    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!

    Leave a comment:

  • Limerick2017
    What does she do if her back is palpated? The bit chomping indicates pain.

    Leave a comment:

  • ilovetheadd27
    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!

    Leave a comment:

  • buck22
    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.

    Leave a comment:

  • suzyq
    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.

    Leave a comment:

  • Scribbler
    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.


    Leave a comment:

  • gertie06
    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.

    Leave a comment:

  • kashmere
    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.

    Leave a comment:

  • Bcarr510
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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

    Leave a comment:

  • B-burg Dressage
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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

    Leave a comment: