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Is there such thing as prozac for horses?

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  • Is there such thing as prozac for horses?

    This is a very long story, so I will try to condense..

    About a year ago, I was looking at young warmblood hunter/jumper prospects, when I got a tip on a "warmblood liquidation" (for lack of a better term). Basically, local man died, and he owned about 20 warmbloods, which the non-horsey family wanted to dump ASAP.

    I don't think I could possibly describe how horrible the living conditions were. The stalls had not been cleaned in YEARS, the horses had no access to food or water from inside their stalls. I ended up bringing home a 14 yr old Hanoverian, who was supposedly used as a "show jumper" when he was younger. I was not given the opportunity to ride, lunge, tack, groom, or in any way handle the horse. He was so depressed looking, and seemed to take to me. I just couldn't leave him behind. It took over three hours to get him on the trailer.

    When I finally started working with him, he was afraid of everything - bridle, saddle, girth, stirrups, brushes, crossties. It took several months, but eventually my trainer and I were able to break him out and he became somewhat rideable.

    I am a decent rider, and I have trained a pretty substanial amount of green horses. However, I usually work with a trainer a few times per month, or more if I have a difficult issue I would like to work through. I am also in law school and don't have a ton of time, so I like to have another person who I know I can fall back on.

    In the last 6 months, my horse has bucked off three trainers, who all ride better than I do. One of them even broke her leg when he threw her into a wall, and had to have surgery. He is the sweetest horse in the world, when I am alone with him, but he changes whenever other people are around. He is never nasty, and is basically a big teddy bear on the ground.

    Undersaddle, he is very tense and does not trust anyone. I am the only person he hasn't bucked off. When I ride him, I have to sit perfectly still, and stay very balanced or else he panics and bolts/bucks. If I put my lower leg on too tight, he freaks. A herd of deer can run across the pasture behind us, and he doesn't even flinch, but if someone is standing there watching us ride and they move their arm/hands, he freaks.

    He is a very talented and sweet horse, but I can't seem to get him over his fear of being ridden, or his fear of being beaten. The horse is terrified, and prone to explode without any warning whatsoever. It's been a year, and he's made amazing improvements, but now I feel like we are stuck in limbo. I don't regret rescuing him, but I am frustrated.

    My question is this: Has anyone else ever dealt with/rehabbed a horse who was beaten to the point that he is now terrified of humans? Will he ever come around? What can I do to make him more confident or trustful? I do a lot of ground work with him, and it really seems to help, but I am running out of ideas. I would really rather do this without chemistry, but at the same time, I have broken enough bones in the last few years, that I would love an easier fix. Any suggestions or encouragement would be appreciated. Really. Anything. I just want this horse to be happy, and enjoy his life. He deserves it.

  • #2
    Congrats on sticking with a horse who has not been dealt a fair hand in life.

    I am sure that some people will chime in with Natural Horsemanship and gaining a horse's trust. I do not disagree, but it sounds like you have done that, yet have reached a point at which you need additional help.

    Back in the day when I rescued/rehabbed lots of OTTB's, if I had one who had trouble adapting to a less structured environment and could not handle being turned out (would go brain dead, run and get hysterical), I would use either Reserpine or Fluphenazine. These are both long acting drugs (one month for the easy cases, 5 - 10 days for the tough ones). I do not believe you can even buy Fluphenazine anymore. Too bad. I never had a problem with it, but I guess it could cause problems.

    These are both psychotropic drugs, not tranquilizers. I believe the difference is they they work on the brain, not the central nervous system (as does a tranq. like Ace). They don't make a horse sleepy -- You do not notice that the horse is on anything, until you realize what behaviors you are NOT seeing -- panic, fear, etc.

    Talk to someone who is familiar with your situation to see if this class of drugs would benefit your guy in the short term. They are not long term solutions, but to get him over the hump and allow him the *luxury* of letting peole prove their good intentions, that is what I would suggest.
    "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

    Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Lord Helpus View Post
      Congrats on sticking with a horse who has not been dealt a fair hand in life.

      I am sure that some people will chime in with Natural Horsemanship and gaining a horse's trust. I do not disagree, but it sounds like you have done that, yet have reached a point at which you need additional help.

      Back in the day when I rescued/rehabbed lots of OTTB's, if I had one who had trouble adapting to a less structured environment and could not handle being turned out (would go brain dead, run and get hysterical), I would use either Reserpine or Fluphenazine. These are both long acting drugs (one month for the easy cases, 5 - 10 days for the tough ones). I do not believe you can even buy Fluphenazine anymore. Too bad. I never had a problem with it, but I guess it could cause problems.

      These are both psychotropic drugs, not tranquilizers. I believe the difference is they they work on the brain, not the central nervous system (as does a tranq. like Ace). They don't make a horse sleepy -- You do not notice that the horse is on anything, until you realize what behaviors you are NOT seeing -- panic, fear, etc.

      Talk to someone who is familiar with your situation to see if this class of drugs would benefit your guy in the short term. They are not long term solutions, but to get him over the hump and allow him the *luxury* of letting peole prove their good intentions, that is what I would suggest.
      I also used Fluphenazine with success. However, looking back, i think it was more of a trainer's incompetence vs. horse issue, but regardless of whether or not she actually needed it, the shot definately worked. I actually just found 5 viles of it in my jewelry box when i moved into my new house last month! it made me laugh, as im pretty sure it's off the market now and this stuff was from about 7 years ago or so.
      True love is taking their pain away and making it yours
      ~rest in peace momma (7/5/08)~
      ~rest in peace thomas (6/2/11)~

      Comment


      • #4
        My stallion came to me and was very wary of people. He is now an approved stallion and winning with me in the AO jumpers. He is blind in one eye and somewhere along the way was definitely treated harshly.

        When I got him if you took your right hand off the reins (his good eye/side) for any reason he would bolt. You couldn't pat him, rest your hand on your leg, anything of that kind. He dumped me countless times trying to get on him because the sound of the sand on the mounting block would terrify him. I tried left side, right side, everything.

        On the ground he was a total doll. Once I was on him, he was very worried, and wouldn't go anywhere near a person on the ground. He would sidestep and dance around, and turn himself so they were on his blind side. I always thought it would be the other way but it was like "out of sight out of mind" for him I think, not sure. He still gets very worried when people are next to the jumps, or moving fences, or even if another horse knocks a jump down in the warmup near him, but it has gotten much much better.

        I did have a really amazing natural horseman trainer work with him once for a couple hours and he did amazing things in a short time, but he sort of fell back into his old habits (or we both did I guess?).

        I am not sure what to tell you except to tell you that with time and patience, and more time, and more patience, many of these horses can come around.

        I am not sure what made me stick with it, now that I think back, but I honestly loved him from day one and wouldn't even consider the idea of giving up on him, even if it meant he was never going to be a show horse for me.

        Things to consider if you haven't: how much turn out does he get? If you can do 24/7 turnout with friends, that can do a lot for their minds. You can try a supplement like Smart Calm Ultra, or something similar. Succeed made a big difference in getting my stallion to eat better and be more settled somehow. It is expensive, but it has worked for us.

        I wish you the best of luck with him. It is a difficult situation but maybe he is best with just you working with him for a while. I was the only person who rode Contempo for the first 2 years or so, and now he can be ridden by other riders and trainers. Your guy might just need that consistency and be able to develop the trust in one person. If you don't feel that you can do that, maybe you should see if someone else would want to give him a chance, or just pasture board him until you are done with school and work with him when you can?

        I am very grateful someone like you stepped in and took him out of that awful place and have given him a chance. It sounds like he has made great strides in his recovery already. I am sure over time, his scars will continue to heal. Good luck.
        Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan

        http://www.halcyon-hill.com

        Comment


        • #5
          Fluphenazine is still being manufactured and is sold under the trade name Prolixin for psychiatric use in people. I'm not sure how readily available it is for veterinary use, since use probably dropped off when USEF began testing for it. It is not legal for H/J show horses, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be used in a horse that isn't showing. It does have significant adverse effects, so it should be used with careful consideration.

          Comment


          • #6
            Do the all-natural calming supplements work? I have been wanting to try them on my horse who has never been abused but is terrified of EVERYTHING.
            "A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character." - Tesio

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            • #7
              I'm in the same boat, except mine is better under saddle than on the ground. I've only ridden him a few times because he's so bad on the ground that it's difficult to tack him up. I've given in to a frustrated stagnation. Don't know how to get him to trust me.

              Comment


              • #8
                Im sure I'll get burned for this but why not try a little ace? And here is my reasoning and this works: sometimes the brain needs to be in a place where it is not worry about "things happening" in order to know things are not going to happen.

                Anyone here who has ever taken a tranquilizer themselves will know that it turns the brain into indifference mode. It is particularly effective for humans getting over phobias to be tranquilized and then get repeated exposure to their fear in order to know everything is going to be OK.

                I've only seen this done once for an already existing problem but moved before I saw the end result but it did appear to be working.

                I personally use this for young horses when giving them first experiences. If in their mind a scary experience is associated with a relaxing and carefree time, they are more likely to not be afraid of it ever. I always use this for first time clippers and first and second shows(schooling shows, don't worry!). By the next clip, the noise of the clippers doesn't bother them(the sensation sometimes does though, I don't think they can feel it as much when they're "under") and most are very relaxed by their third show. This is a great way to create a brave horse who is outgoing and smart about new experiences in the future, without drugs.

                I hope I did a good job of explaining it. And here's hoping I don't get flamed. I don't think of this as a training crutch, the horse should already be trained enough before you start doing this. IMO a drugged untrained horse is just as much of a danger as a wildly excited trained horse.
                "Using draw reins without spurs is like going to the bar with no underwear on. You're just waiting to get f***ed."

                Comment


                • #9
                  personally I would start with a good solid vet check up. Teeth and face ( bridle fit?), saddle fit

                  diet, make it as basic as possible grass / Timothy hay. No grain, no corn no alfalfa extenders

                  consider one of the calming nutritional suppliments.Chronic vitamin deficinecy may have taken its toll.
                  _\\]
                  -- * > hoopoe
                  Procrastinate NOW
                  Introverted Since 1957

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by callie208 View Post
                    My question is this: Has anyone else ever dealt with/rehabbed a horse who was beaten to the point that he is now terrified of humans? Will he ever come around? What can I do to make him more confident or trustful? I do a lot of ground work with him, and it really seems to help, but I am running out of ideas.
                    Yes. He will come around if your approach is right, but with these types it can take eons of time and patience. It takes even longer for what you are able to do with him to be transferable to others. I do a ton of groundwork and what I've found to especially make a noticeable difference in fearful and abused horses is working with them at liberty (not necessarily round penning them, but doing exercises at liberty that you would do on-line). If there is a good NH trainer near you I would recommend taking him there for some insight to see if they could offer you some new exercises to try - especially at liberty. Working them at liberty seems to make a world of difference because, without the ropes to hold them to you, they tend to feel like they have the choice of working with you or not. Your job is to then set it up so they do choose to work with you when there are no ropes on them, and in doing so they gain better trust in you as you reinforce the response you desire. Having someone else work him in front of you in such a capacity might also present a good experience for him, too.

                    What about taking him to shows where he can just hang out and watch the activity? Being around a number of strangers might help quell his fears - with a lot of repetition. Eventually as you are comfortable, I would also take him out on the trails and even work cattle (is there a local feedlot or arena that holds cattle events?). Giving a horse a job to do and allowing him to experience new things (where he has to place trust in you) does wonders for his confidence level, which will also positively impact his level of trust in you. Working as a team at something specific - where he can see the goal (ie, cutting the cow from the herd and moving her to the opposite end of the arena) forces him to rely on you and work as a partner with you.

                    In the mean time, if others are working him in such a way where he feels the need to buck them off - repeatedly - then I would hold off on having other people ride him. The more times he bucks a person off the more you reinforce that response and the more he learns he is stronger than the person (ie, that that response works because he is bigger, stronger). It's better to make slower - but better - progress than to be backtracking. The more bad experiences he has, the more you have to undo. Just ride him yourself as much as you can and when he's at a higher level, then start incorporating other people into his riding and training program.
                    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Same thing here.

                      Back in September my mom was told about a local farm who was trying to get rid of 4 Hanoverians. We went to look at them one day and they were completely uncatchable. My mom and I spent hours trying to herd them into the barn and separate them into different stalls. They were all TERRIFIED of people and looked awful. Two of them hadn't seen a farrier in 7 years, the other in 15, and the other had never had foot care. All of them were registered, branded, and morbidly obese.

                      I decided to bring home just one (my barn owner took the other 3 as the people who were getting rid of the mares were going to have them shot if they couldn't get rid of them). The one I picked was 12 years old, 17.2hh, and unbroke. I named her Colby. My barn owner took an 11 year old, a 10 year old, and an 8 year old, all unbroke.

                      In October, Colby developed a BAD abscess in her hind left, so until just last week, I've only been treating her foot, grooming her, and working on her stand still for tacking up. She was HORRIBLY head shy when I first got her, now I can almost put a bridle on her normally. She has turned out to be the sweetest horse I have ever met.

                      This is her earlier this week:
                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6M0mdFoaoM

                      So I guess to each horse their own, but for this one it just took 2 months of only grooming and treating a foot. She learned that I wasn't going to kill her after a while.

                      Best of luck with your boy. He will get there
                      Please visit the Donate page!

                      https://justworldeventer.squarespace.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Been there...

                        I bought a severely abused horse from a dealer barn. To start, he had a bad experience when backed and, on top of that, they didn't have the time nor patience to soothe him. For instance, when he was in his stall, he would point at you with his haunches when you opened the door. He would shiver and timidly pick up one foot like saying "I will use it if I have to". So the groom would spook him with the halter to make him turn around, grab his ear when he turned and slip the halter over the neck. After that there was an amount of spinning, cursing and flying shavings until he managed to get him still and halter him. Day in and day out. Getting on him was practically like vaulting: he would prance, the rider would walk next to him and someone would give a quick leg up. The rider was then on his own to settle him as he spun and bolted out of the barn. He had knocked two pros out of the saddle: one shattered his collar bone and another ended hugging a tree.

                        The first time I rode him, I had no idea of all this. They made me get on in the ring after someone had already ridden him (I guess the different surroundings caught him off guard). What I did find suspicious is that they said "Oh, he's a doll. He doesn't need a crop or spurs and I would take the jacket off now...you might get hot later"...hmmmmm. Also, a groom wanted to tighten his fetlock boots and the trainer mumbled "Are you crazy? You wanna get killed??". You couldn't scratch your nose, answer your cell or pat him. What you wore getting on was what you will be wearing when getting off. The premise was SIT STILL.

                        Two years later he is a sensitive puppy dog on and off the saddle. My ally? Sugar. I first got him hooked on it, then I slowly taught him to get some while mounted, before mounting, after getting off, etc. He started to accept different movements around him and started trusting me because I'm the lady with the sweet stuff.. . I had people on foot hand him some, etc. He still is wary about horses getting into his space (from from all angles) which is complicated during warm ups, but I still haven't figured how to make a horse give him sugar yet .
                        I would stand in his stall for hours (when I had the time) and face my back to him, getting him to come closer out of curiosity and not me invading him.
                        Also, to try to ride him yourself for some time, until he understands that it wont hurt. These horses need consistency and familiarity: they crack at surprises.
                        Last tip: as much turnout as you possibly can and spend some time with him in the paddock, too, trying to make him come up to you and follow you.
                        I'm sure calming supplements and a little ace now and then (during new or stressful situations) are handy, too, but I didn't have to use them with mine.

                        I have to admit it takes loads of time and patience (and my horse is younger than yours) but when these types of horses learn to trust you, they are the best. Their loyalty is endearing.

                        Grit your teeth and hold your breath. It will fall into place eventually.
                        Good luck and thank you for giving your sweet guy a chance in life!
                        Over what hill? Where? When? I don\'t remember any hill....

                        www.freewebs.com/caballerizadelviso

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Are you sure he was actually ever broken to ride under tack before you got him? (May be he is not a fomer show jumper.... maybe he was an unbroken 14 year?)

                          (I have to confess --you get a gold medal--if I owned him and he is indeed a fomer showjumper and broke someones leg that badly bucking he would end up being a permanent lawn ornament and I would get a young undamage kind horse that needed a home.)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't disagree with the use of ace in a situation this extreme. Sort of like giving a person valium to get over extreme anxiety. I went that route on an OTTB that I had years ago. Started with a higher dose and gradually tapered off to nothing. He eventually went on to be a kid's first horse; we just had to get through that period where anything and everything sent him into flight mode.

                            Food rewards are another thing I have used very successfully; they are a great way to establish a positive bond.

                            Best of luck; you are doing a wonderful thing by sticking by this guy!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              To answer some of your questions...

                              Yes, I have given up on letting others ride him, for now. It seems to just make things worse, and not better, and for where he is at in his training (mostly flatwork), I can do it myself.

                              I'm glad to hear that others have had this process take a long time, too. I love this horse to death, and even if he does become a lawn ornament, he has a forever home with me. But, I see so much potential in him, and I know that he wants to have a real job. He loves to work, but the fear sometimes gets in the way. I am not the type to give up, but sometimes its difficult being alone in this, and feeling like I am the only one who has faith that there is a good horse in there somewhere.

                              As far as turnout, that has made a big difference. He goes out for at least 6-8 hours per day, and he loves his buddies. He generally seems very happy and confident in and around the barn and the other horses.

                              Lastly, as far as whether or not he was broke before I bought him, that is extremely questionable. After I bought him I learned that he was used as a breeding stallion for several years (he has since been gelded, though I have NO idea when). If you turn him loose in the arena, he will put on a great display on free jumping. It seems that is the only thing he learned in his former life...his past is so mysterious!

                              Thanks everyone for your input, I really appreciate it. Sounds like time and patience are the keys, and luckily I have lots of both of those...I don't care if I can't show him, or if I don't get there til he's 20 years old. As long as we are making progress.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Wow, kudos to you for sticking with him.

                                Is there any way you could increase his turnout? I always like to have mine out as much as possible. Seems to cure all sorts of problems!
                                Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
                                White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

                                Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Don't worry Callie....

                                  ...you know where I was two years ago? Crying in a corner of a hot, dusty ring, exhausted, hands filled with sores and with a stubborn, sweat drenched horse underneath me, asking my self all sorts of existentialism questions: "why do I do this?", "what was I thinking when I bought this horse?", "when will this end?", etc. This weekend we were 4th in the High A/O division at one of the major national shows. It took sweat, blood and tears but it was worth every drop.

                                  So don't give up. As long as there is progress, even if it is slow, he will get there. Horses are very grateful souls and the sensitive ones, even more so.

                                  Remember that even Eric Lamaze considered giving up on Hickstead at times. He was so difficult that they never knew if he would show all his potential. It took him well over two years to bloom into the superstar he was and the bond they had was magical.

                                  Hang in there!
                                  Over what hill? Where? When? I don\'t remember any hill....

                                  www.freewebs.com/caballerizadelviso

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I would suggest trying to put him on depo. HE was gelded late and has explosive tendencies it may take the edge off and be helpful I would start with that and some rescue remedy. Godd Luck and you are an amazing person for doing this! good luck!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with the depo suggestion. My gelding was also gelded late and can be very reactionary. It seems to allow him to take a breath in stressful situations (shows) which he previous didn't do. He is 17'1 and gets a double dose, one followed by a second 2-3 days later. It certainly isn't reserpine but could make a big difference.

                                      Good luck and thank you for saving his guy.

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