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Advice on a young TB

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  • Advice on a young TB

    Need some advice on a young TB:
    Her first year showing she moved up from the 2' to 2'6 hunters and was winning at the horse shows and went to National finals. She was in a consistent program with a professional being ridden 5 days a week and showing every other weekend. She has always been very level headed and easy to work with and around.

    She was sold to a younger teenager about a year ago who boards with us and the horse has made a complete 360 in the wrong direction. She can no longer cross tie, she was always a little grouchy when being brushed and girthed but never bad, now she will bite and kick at you and if cross tied she will break them when being brushed and tacked, she can no longer be clipped or have her mane pulled she starts shaking and totally freaks out, you even struggle putting her blanket on -again she starts to shake and freak out. Riding wise she is schooled 1-2x a week by a professional. She gets strong when being ridden by her teenage owner and runs down the lines leaving out a stride sometimes. If you touch her mouth she wants to go up and rear- if you try to put her in a frame she will go up and if you try to lead her out of the ring by her bridle she will stop and throw her head up.

    She has had her teeth done, been tested for lyme which came back negative. We are unsure of what has happened because her care is still the same but she is not -the changes started about 6 months ago and she has had the new owner approximately 12 months.

    She had a PPE done when bought by her owner and the only thing found was slight arthritis in her hocks. She is 5 years old and raced 5 times before being retired from the track.

    We are in works with a vet and professionals to try to figure out why she has totally changed but looking to see if anyone else has dealt with this before?

  • #2
    Saddle fit? Seems kind of classic.. What was the horse in before the young rider purchased her? I'd start there. Ask the old trainer for tips.. Feed changes, lifestyle changes, outfit changes, these can all make them happy, or unhappy.. Sometimes it isn't physical, it's the program/management.
    "i'm a slow learner, it's true."


    • #3
      Given that his horse is still in the same barn with the same day-to-day routine in terms of turn out, my thoughts would be directed towards tack- is saddle fit still okay? Different bridle/bit?
      Also, you take a young horse who was solely maintained 5 days a week by a pro to only being ridden once or twice a week by said pro and is now maintained by a young teen. Now, I don't want to discredit the abilities of this new rider but there could be things that she isn't picking up on in the day to day care of this horse that has spiraled into the hot mess the mare is now.
      Assuming the tack has stayed the same, I would possibly look into her reproductive department...I have heard of mares getting unbearable when things are going on with their ovaries- far worse than just "mareish". Also maybe check out her magnesium levels if you take some blood, mares who are deficient show signs of sensitiveness in the skin, muscle soreness, and may pick up rearing.


      • #4
        You might also have her checked for ulcers. Statistics show a very high percentage of racetrack TBs have ulcers and perhaps hers have become unbearable. Ulcers combined with what the previous poster mentioned about her repro system may be making her this way. I have a filly who is cranky in cross ties and getting groomed and started acting up under saddle. I had her checked and sure enough she has ulcers. We are now treating and she def is better. Not 100% yet, but better.


        • #5
          Originally posted by dynamite0319 View Post
          You might also have her checked for ulcers. Statistics show a very high percentage of racetrack TBs have ulcers and perhaps hers have become unbearable. Ulcers combined with what the previous poster mentioned about her repro system may be making her this way. I have a filly who is cranky in cross ties and getting groomed and started acting up under saddle. I had her checked and sure enough she has ulcers. We are now treating and she def is better. Not 100% yet, but better.
          I don't think this claim is accurate to this particular situation. We do not know when this horse retired from the track? That matters when you are talking about ulcers and ulcer severity. "Statistics show a very high percentage of racetrack TB's have ulcers," Yes, ON the racetrack. While they are racing. They have ulcers because of the high sweet feed fed, the 23/7 stall time, and the demands of their job. It is a very stressful job! Heck, i'd probably get an ulcer or two, too, if I was a high-performing athlete.

          If she was pulled out of the racing program and transitioned to a life that is calmer and less demanding (that's basically anything else), the ulcers are basically on their way to be healing as long as they are not aggravated by extra stressors. If she had ulcers off the track, her symptoms would be synonymous across the board, but this only happened AFTER she was sold to the teenager according to the OP.

          Op, if she's eating well and not losing weight, I wouldn't jump to ulcers. Yes, she probably has some like almost every performance horse out there, but many can live with very small ulcers and not show a single symptom. If things really hurt, horses WILL let you know. They don't lie. They may be stoic, but they don't lie. Also, as a general stereotype THOROUGHBREDS are incredibly sensitive and WILL let you know when something is wrong. I know this because I have one.

          I think this is a case of something happening that terrified her/caused her pain and now she no longer feels safe in her environment. Completely agree with saddle fit. Is the teenager rather aggressive with her, or on the opposite side, not implementing any boundaries or ground rules? Is her back sore? Personal story, but this happened to my horse. Bad saddle fit and bad training/riding caused her to become a terrifying lunatic. She couldn't tie - she'd rear and break free. Couldn't cross tie - would spin out of them. Every time she saw that saddle coming she hid in her stall. She was horrible to ride - could only put up with it so long before either bucking you off or bolting. We found out the saddle was causing her severe pain even though it fit "well enough." Went on the hunt, got a new saddle, things never really went back to the way they were because she associated our surroundings/the ring/the sounds/the people with something bad.

          I just happened to have the opportunity to move to a new barn, and oh my god everything stopped. She became a completely different horse. The bad behavior went away overnight, and all that changed was a new living environment.

          I'm not telling you to move the horse to a new barn, but if you can see the world through her eyes it will help you perhaps understand where she is coming from. Please observe this girl and her horse. Watch how the horse responds. Ultimately, I think my only suggestion is buying this horse back.


          • #6
            Earlier posters gave a lot of good suggestions to consider.

            With sensitivity to being brushed, tacked and girthed I would suspect ulcers as well. Easy enough to find out. Put her on GG for two weeks and if there is some improvement, you're on to something.

            Refusal to have mane pulled, mouth touched, put in a frame, I'd wonder about cervical arthritis.

            Shaking from fear or apprehension I would also wonder if someone has been aggressive toward her. Or she could be associating pain with certain activities.

            Her care may be the same, but the program is different with two different riders and fewer pro rides. Could be she has lost her confidence and would benefit from a program overhaul that will allow her to decompress.

            Would be interesting to know if she has had any chiropractic work done in the last year and if the chiro noted any particular pain points. As OP mentioned, it is time for a vet to get involved so pain-related issues can be ruled out or diagnosed and addressed.


            • #7
              Nobody has mentioned the skill set of the current owner....IME, which is over decades, manners last about 4-6 months without continued, consistent reinforcement. New owner might not tell you she is scared of the horse and lets it push her around and doubt you see every second she spends handling the horse but that’s typically the case with horses doing a 180 with new owners...especially when they stay in the same boarding situation.

              Somebody upthread did mention how much work the mare is getting compared to what she was getting prior to purchase. If the new owner is really in over her head, that would explain much of this. Plus is very, very common.

              Does the current owner handle and ride her under your supervision often or usually on her own? I would seriously look there first.

              Doubt it’s hormone related this time of year other then the fact it is a mare. But mares are smarter and more intuitive then geldings and if they sense the slightest lack of leadership will take advantage in a heartbeat. Bad manners in the crossties is an easy out as it works to discourage the timid and those who are not consistent in their leadership. I’ve had two I got like that, had their former owners numbers. I wasn’t scared of them, didn’t tolerate any misbehavior and ignored the drama and they got over it in a few months. With me anyway, with the mare that could be the most dramatic, had other less experienced riders a few times when I was unable to get to the barn for a few weeks, she had them at her mercy by the time I got back. Nothing harmful, just ear pinning, tail wringing and a snap or two in the crossties. Of course they saw and described it far worse then it was but it worked to get her out of work. She didn’t try it with the grooms, WS or assistant trainers. Just where she saw weakness...

              Saddle fit is a possibility but doubt as the sole cause here if she’s doing it even while being groomed and the owner is not riding often or for very long.

              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


              • #8
                If a horse does a 360, aren't they back where they started?

                Things like brush sensitivity, girthiness are BS answers to ulcers. Many TBs are simply thin skinned. Almost every vet will say that the only way to diagnose ulcers is to scope. It just so happens that they can also make money by selling Ulcerguard etc. instead.

                I am going with things such as saddle fit, hormones, etc. Also, as TBs get better feed, they can get very head strong and opinionated, especially if the rider is hyper controlling. I would also look at how the kids rides the horse. If they are fearful and handsy, they are the cause.

                All I ever had are OTTBs. Love them but they are not for everybody, especially riders who are afraid to let go and trust the horse to do their job. They are not WB type rides, generally and if the kid is only used to that....


                • #9
                  I would agree that it would be best to contact the prior trainer/owners. Ask them exactly what feed and hay she was on. How much turnout time the mare had every day etc.

                  It sounds like she has had a really bad experience somewhere. As someone mentioned above, you can buy the best trained horse and after about 3-6 months depending on the horse those manners and training will go away as the horse is not being kept in line as before.

                  I would check saddle fit, her shoes, her teeth.

                  Does the new young rider take lessons during the week, if so how many, and then how often is she riding alone. Has the mare had to do a lot of jumping?

                  The mare is very young, how long has she been off the track. I would bet that her body has changed since she was purchased. Before she was purchased she was showing every other weekend plus being ridden 6 days a week I think the OP said. So now it is very possible the saddle is not fitting and is pinching her back or shoulders. Especially since she is rearing that's where my brain goes.

                  I hope the best for this mare and her new owners.

                  PS, My OTTB can not handle a high protein grain, it makes his little brain fry and he will literally become so jittery I think he is going to explode.


                  • #10
                    I misread that the horse was in OPs barn prior to new owner getting her. But that means it’s even more likely it’s the horses management, the way she is handled and her riding schedule as well as a much less experienced rider/handler. One who is in a bit over her head. Or flat scared of her.

                    Definitely review feeding and compare to what she was getting at the old place. It's likely new owner needs some help to learn to handle this horse. Far easier to blame things that are easily fixed with some vetwork but aren’t what’s wrong. Much harder to teach the young teen to handle her on the ground and ride better so she’s doesnt get run off with down the lines. Not unusual fir horses lacking leadership to be more nervous, they are scared without specific direction.

                    Might just be too much horse for this teen, her skill set and her budget. It might be fixable but you are looking at considerable Pro input that might be out of the budget.

                    Was this mare turned out regularly at the old barn? Is she turned out regularly at OPs barn? Coukd be as simple as feeding and turnout. You might get lucky.

                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      I'm completely unsurprised that a five year old horse that was thriving on a tightly managed program with a professional is flailing with a young teenage rider. Five years old is very young and very green. I would say that it is a rare five year old warmblood or TB that is ready for a young teen. It's not the feed or the turnout, and unlikely to be ulcers or some other physical problem (at least IMO, for whatever that's worth). It's just a green horse, acting like a green horse, now that it is out of a tightly structured program. FWIW, I think that some young horses actually get more difficult around age 5. As three year olds they are blindly following whoever, no questions asked. At 5, they start noticing, thinking, and questioning a little more, and sometimes need an even more confident "leader" for a rider.

                      While it's true that there may have been aspects to the pro's management (such as feed and turnout) that could have calmed the horse in a natural way, I'll also be very cynical and point out that it is possible that the horse's more calm state may have had something to do with medications, supplements and other prep.


                      • #12
                        "Do what you can't do"


                        • #13
                          I am going to second what BeeHoney said. At 3 or 4 they are like a 10-year-old person. Eager to please and happy to let someone older lead. At 5, they are more like a teenager, and we all know how wonderful teenagers are. (I, of course, was an angel )

                          I think the combination of a teenage owner who probably likes to pamper their best friend (oh isn't cute how she pushes on me because she wuvs me!) and a horse growing up and starting to act questions about who is boss around here is the culprit.


                          • #14
                            I bring a long a reasonable number of green horses (both myself and those that I oversee as part of my business) and have watched many from babyhood through well into their careers. It's a long process with peaks and valleys of all kinds. You don't know who a horse REALLY IS until they are about 6 or 7, and even then many horses need a lot of continued structure and careful development. In particular, mares' personalities tend to change a lot as they mature, though geldings absolutely can change as well. I have certainly had horses out showing quietly at a young age who then went on to develop much hotter personalities. Likewise, I've had a few squirrelly youngsters turn out surprisingly sensibly, with aptitude that shone out once they found their career. Of course, none of that happens overnight, it's a long process.

                            Also, horses of all personality types can vary widely in how forgiving they are of mistakes or detours during their training process, in particular being ridden by less experienced riders. Some young horses might not progress in their training if you put a less experienced rider on them regularly, but they won't fall apart. They might take advantage a little bit or develop some minor, fixable bad habits, but nothing that can't be adjusted or set straight with a better rider. Other horses are much less tolerant and fall apart or learn a fear or a nasty habit that is very difficult to undo.

                            I know that everyone always jumps on feed, turnout, saddle fit, ulcers and physical pain as the source of training issues. But IME, I've only extremely rarely been able to solve a training problem with one of these issues unless it was already extremely obvious--like a horse sent in for training that had an obvious dental problem, or a horse with an obvious saddle fit issue, or a horse that was only turned out by itself and was obviously very lonely. I've never once been able to fix a training problem with a feed change, I know people looove to blame the "feed" but I've never been able to see a difference.

                            IMO (for whatever it is worth) training problems are most often simply training problems. The second most common issue is a suitability problem--a horse that is not mentally or physically well suited to what you are asking it to do, or simply a poor match with the current rider.

                            I would never discourage an owner from double checking that they aren't missing something else--I do a lot of double checking, too. But it is worth considering that you can spend a lot of time and an enormous amount of money trying to go down every path and solve every possible problem, like spending thousands on a new saddle, hundreds of $$ on gastrogard, all kinds of vet bills for tests, x-rays, medications, and injections--all while paying board and training bills and not getting any enjoyment out of the process. Only to find out, at the end of the day, that the horse is simply not a good fit for the rider or the job at hand.

                            It's worth at least putting on the table the possibility that the horse might not be suitable for an inexperienced rider, and should best be put back in training with a pro only and then re-sold to a more suitable situation. There's no one to blame here, young horses are a risky proposition because they do grow and change as they develop.