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Alter: Feeling Oppressed by Horse Stress

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  • Alter: Feeling Oppressed by Horse Stress

    I'm not sure if I am really "oppressed," but I thought it was a rhymey title and went with it. Anyway, posting this as an alter account even thought I am quite sure I am unknown as it is anyway, I wanted the extra layer of anonymity to vent and also, hey, it's the internet so why not. Anyway...

    Lately, as in the last few weeks/months, I've been feeling like I want out of the horse game. But here's the thing, it's not simple. There's a backstory to why I feel this way, which I will go into now:

    I am constantly worried about/fixated upon my horse's soundness. Now, obviously being aware of these things is important for a horse owner, but the thing is it's not entirely cut and dry and there's a history of intermittent issues that make me worried and paranoid. Basically what it boils down to is that my horse has some foot issues: he is a good sized horse with tiny feet, feet that tend on the tender side, and I have struggled mightily to get a good farrier to work on him. Now I realize that a lot of people struggle with soundness issues, and I realize that a lot of people struggle to find good farriers.

    To go back even further, what initially stresses me about the situation is that when I first really began to understand deficiencies with his hooves was when a judge called him as unsound. Now, to be sure, this is an experience that no one enjoys, but what makes me feel especially bad is that I thought maybe he was a little iffy, but he seemed fine warming up so I went ahead into the ring. Could I go back in time, the moment there was doubt in my mind AT ALL I wouldn't have proceeded. Obviously I cannot go back in time, and if I were to put a positive spin on the whole thing it is that the subsequent vet visit and narrowing the issue down to his hoof (a combination of trimming and environment) led me to become significantly more educated about hooves, trimming concepts, hoof balance, etc. However, I still feel like it is a blackmark. Part of what exacerbates that feeling for me is the (totally right) condemnation on these very boards of people working lame horses. While I agree, it is hard for me to get past my own errors in that regard and I feel both hypocritical and abusive.

    This brings me to life since I have become more educated about the issue at hand, and I am now constantly paranoid about my horses's soundness. Riding is almost so stressful that I can't enjoy it because I'm worried about whether or not he's sound, and I think this is part due to previous ignorance and also that there were numerous times in my youth life with horses when someone expressed that a horse was lame and I didn't see it. Even now on these boards sometimes people post videos of horses that I watch to try to educate myself and sometimes I do see it, but sometimes I don't see it. Basically, this makes me feel ignorant and it makes me feel paranoid that I'm treating my own horse poorly. This probably sounds insane, but I swear I could pick up a lameness issue that doesn't exist through my own imagination and miss an actual legitimate one. We have (when I have been in the belief of him being sound) gone to a show or two and it went fine. This isn't even about showing though--I don't NEED to go to shows. I would like to just be able to enjoy my horse a couple times a week.

    An added layer: Knowing the stigma around riding lame horses (which, don't get me wrong, exists for a reason but I am also convinced nothing is so black and white) makes me feel paranoid when others are at the barn when I'm riding. What if my paranoia is correct and they are all seeing something, then at that point I am just that lady riding the lame horse. This makes it sound like it's just about what people think, but really, sometimes reading posts on COTH makes it seem like there are some awful things being thought out there--not saying that it's necessarily unwarranted, or that in some cases it wouldn't be entirely called for; it's maybe even more concern that I'm perceived as ignorant, abusive, or both. The horse community rains down in these situations, and for good reason. However, I try so hard to be in tune with what is going on with him, and although I have struggled to find a good farrier, I have found one that I believe may be it. Already there seems to be a huge difference, and I expect it will only get better as a series of corrections are made every few weeks.

    Anyway, what this all brings me to is that I feel DRAINED. I feel drained from always worrying about this stuff, I feel drained from constantly thinking about it while I'm riding. You know the saying ignorance is bliss? In a way I wish I were just so ignorant that I could just enjoy riding without thinking about these things. That sounds bad, because if there is an issue I WANT to know, but it's almost like the more I know the more I am imagining things going on. It makes me feel sometimes like riding isn't worth it--like I just want out because I'm sick of worrying about this stuff. I wish I had a horse with super feet. I wish I had a horse that is like seemingly everyone else at the barn who gets joyfully ridden without concern for these issues (not that I can read others minds, of course). I wish I could just go riding without a single such worry. Sometimes it really gets to me enough that I just want out of horse ownership, but I have (barring other bad circumstances) probably at least a decade of life with this horse. Maybe that's what is really oppressive about it: imagining feeling this way for a decade. But then, I also don't know what I could do about it. I'm so paranoid about his feet issues and management that I feel like leasing him out would go poorly, and how would I even market/sell him? Even as fine for just light riding, he maybe isn't even your typical putz around kind of horse. He is not good on trails.

    I guess mostly this is just venting, so thanks to everyone who has endured. I feel like if I could just let go of the past and of any paranoia and perceived stigmas, I could enjoy him lightly once or twice a week. It is just so hard, and of course I do not want to put my own interests above his welfare. That's what makes it tricky--I don't want to be ignorant, but maybe I am? Anyway, anyone who wants to commiserate with me, condemn me, or anything else, have at it. I just had to let it out.

  • #2
    I don't know if I have much advice, but I just want to say that I feel something similar sometimes, and it waxes and wanes. There have been times in the last year or so when I ignored a mild misbehavior from my horse and it turned out to be pain on his part (always a different cause). It feels like crap and it makes me feel like I know nothing. And I generally am just not very observant, so I frequently seeing something and don't know whether it's new or normal. And I feel the same way about lameness as you do. I guess all I can say is that for me, I usually feel better once I address the problem and have some positive experiences. I'm hoping your post represents a low point right after a setback. Whether it is or not, I'd recommend working towards some achievable short term goals that will make you feel more positive. It also helps me to work with a trainer I trust (even infrequently) so that I know if there is something wrong, it won't go unnoticed for too long.

    Comment


    • #3
      OP - Those of us who have "been there" can completely understand your feelings. By way of background, I own a WB mare, and over a period of three years she went thru the following: Inflamed stifle. "significant wither trauma", something like broken but not quite. While healing, major colic event, displaced colon, surgery. Then another displaced colon (different direction) and another surgery 9 months later. Then a bout of anterior enteritis maybe a year later.

      I was out a bunch of cash, barely riding - would start back and then the next event. Show goals out the window. Jumped every time the phone rang. Secretly hoped for the "final event". Lost all emotional attachment to the horse. Had little interest in riding her. I was miserable.

      A 1/2 lease opportunity popped up out of nowhere. Took it, fell in love and eventually bought him. Thank god he is solid as a rock.

      Maresy, meanwhile settled down and has had no belly issues in a couple years. I leased her out for a year and upon that return was looking for another lease person. AND THEN...she seemed NQR behind. Thought stifle maybe, but diagnosis was suspensory damage, both hinds, possibly degenerative. This was last August. I retired her on the spot, moved her to a cheaper location w/ someone I trust. She is 16 and while I am committed to caring for her, I am not committed to being neurotic or going to great lengths to fix things. She is not a surgery candidate in any situation.

      SO: There is no easy solution to what goes on in your head. You can, however, take a break. Continue with the farrier now that you've found him, but take some time away from riding. Let him be "semi retired" where he is or move him to somewhere maybe less expensive. You dont have to visit all the time. Revisit the situation in a few months. Maybe then you will want to get back on him. Maybe look around for a lease opportunity for you to ride. Maybe retire him all the way. A retired horse doesn't have to be perfect; just comfortable. And comfortable is different than "sound in work".

      Good luck...

      We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Alternative525 View Post
        I'm not sure if I am really "oppressed," but I thought it was a rhymey title and went with it. Anyway, posting this as an alter account even thought I am quite sure I am unknown as it is anyway, I wanted the extra layer of anonymity to vent and also, hey, it's the internet so why not. Anyway...

        Lately, as in the last few weeks/months, I've been feeling like I want out of the horse game. But here's the thing, it's not simple. There's a backstory to why I feel this way, which I will go into now:

        I am constantly worried about/fixated upon my horse's soundness. Now, obviously being aware of these things is important for a horse owner, but the thing is it's not entirely cut and dry and there's a history of intermittent issues that make me worried and paranoid. Basically what it boils down to is that my horse has some foot issues: he is a good sized horse with tiny feet, feet that tend on the tender side, and I have struggled mightily to get a good farrier to work on him. Now I realize that a lot of people struggle with soundness issues, and I realize that a lot of people struggle to find good farriers.

        To go back even further, what initially stresses me about the situation is that when I first really began to understand deficiencies with his hooves was when a judge called him as unsound. Now, to be sure, this is an experience that no one enjoys, but what makes me feel especially bad is that I thought maybe he was a little iffy, but he seemed fine warming up so I went ahead into the ring. Could I go back in time, the moment there was doubt in my mind AT ALL I wouldn't have proceeded. Obviously I cannot go back in time, and if I were to put a positive spin on the whole thing it is that the subsequent vet visit and narrowing the issue down to his hoof (a combination of trimming and environment) led me to become significantly more educated about hooves, trimming concepts, hoof balance, etc. However, I still feel like it is a blackmark. Part of what exacerbates that feeling for me is the (totally right) condemnation on these very boards of people working lame horses. While I agree, it is hard for me to get past my own errors in that regard and I feel both hypocritical and abusive.

        This brings me to life since I have become more educated about the issue at hand, and I am now constantly paranoid about my horses's soundness. Riding is almost so stressful that I can't enjoy it because I'm worried about whether or not he's sound, and I think this is part due to previous ignorance and also that there were numerous times in my youth life with horses when someone expressed that a horse was lame and I didn't see it. Even now on these boards sometimes people post videos of horses that I watch to try to educate myself and sometimes I do see it, but sometimes I don't see it. Basically, this makes me feel ignorant and it makes me feel paranoid that I'm treating my own horse poorly. This probably sounds insane, but I swear I could pick up a lameness issue that doesn't exist through my own imagination and miss an actual legitimate one. We have (when I have been in the belief of him being sound) gone to a show or two and it went fine. This isn't even about showing though--I don't NEED to go to shows. I would like to just be able to enjoy my horse a couple times a week.

        An added layer: Knowing the stigma around riding lame horses (which, don't get me wrong, exists for a reason but I am also convinced nothing is so black and white) makes me feel paranoid when others are at the barn when I'm riding. What if my paranoia is correct and they are all seeing something, then at that point I am just that lady riding the lame horse. This makes it sound like it's just about what people think, but really, sometimes reading posts on COTH makes it seem like there are some awful things being thought out there--not saying that it's necessarily unwarranted, or that in some cases it wouldn't be entirely called for; it's maybe even more concern that I'm perceived as ignorant, abusive, or both. The horse community rains down in these situations, and for good reason. However, I try so hard to be in tune with what is going on with him, and although I have struggled to find a good farrier, I have found one that I believe may be it. Already there seems to be a huge difference, and I expect it will only get better as a series of corrections are made every few weeks.

        Anyway, what this all brings me to is that I feel DRAINED. I feel drained from always worrying about this stuff, I feel drained from constantly thinking about it while I'm riding. You know the saying ignorance is bliss? In a way I wish I were just so ignorant that I could just enjoy riding without thinking about these things. That sounds bad, because if there is an issue I WANT to know, but it's almost like the more I know the more I am imagining things going on. It makes me feel sometimes like riding isn't worth it--like I just want out because I'm sick of worrying about this stuff. I wish I had a horse with super feet. I wish I had a horse that is like seemingly everyone else at the barn who gets joyfully ridden without concern for these issues (not that I can read others minds, of course). I wish I could just go riding without a single such worry. Sometimes it really gets to me enough that I just want out of horse ownership, but I have (barring other bad circumstances) probably at least a decade of life with this horse. Maybe that's what is really oppressive about it: imagining feeling this way for a decade. But then, I also don't know what I could do about it. I'm so paranoid about his feet issues and management that I feel like leasing him out would go poorly, and how would I even market/sell him? Even as fine for just light riding, he maybe isn't even your typical putz around kind of horse. He is not good on trails.

        I guess mostly this is just venting, so thanks to everyone who has endured. I feel like if I could just let go of the past and of any paranoia and perceived stigmas, I could enjoy him lightly once or twice a week. It is just so hard, and of course I do not want to put my own interests above his welfare. That's what makes it tricky--I don't want to be ignorant, but maybe I am? Anyway, anyone who wants to commiserate with me, condemn me, or anything else, have at it. I just had to let it out.


        Perhaps some counseling is in order since its effecting your whole life.

        Comment


        • #5
          Been there. Done that. Got the bloody T shirt...

          Seriously though I have been through similar sorts of situations. It is tough to get out of your own head sometimes. Especially when you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

          Can I just show you the light for a minute? You've found the problem. You have found the professional who can help you with the problem. You recognize that it is a step at a time process. Yay for you!! No, seriously Pat yourself on the back. You done good.

          Now, as far as the other people at the barn thinking your horse is lame, firstly most people can't see lameness unless it's really obvious. You would notice the irregularity in your horse's movement as you ride - it's easier to feel than see minor lameness. Second a little stiffness that loosens with work is NOT the sort of lameness CoTHers are decrying. How often do you gimp a bit after getting up from bed or just sitting a long time? Third a subtle lameness is highly unlikely to result in career ending injury if you ride a bit before it's obvious enough to pinpoint where the issue is.

          My older horse has EPSM. He stores glycogen in a format that is slower to break down than it should be. If he has too much glycogen stored it makes him stiff and gimpy to the point of making me wonder if he's actually lame. On another horse I would do a very light ride or even give him the day off and see if he's better tomorrow. But I can't do that with him. He needs to burn that stored glycogen, and he's not going to do it himself, so I have learned to be "mean" and make him work anyway. And you know what? Sometimes I have been wrong and he IS lame. But for him it's worse the longer he stands around doing nothing. I have learned through years of practice (more than 11) to feel what too much glycogen feels like, but that just means I pick up on lameness a bit quicker after he burns the glycogen. He doesn't hold a grudge.

          My other horse had many issues during his first years under saddle. I almost gave up. But I realized we had worked through most of his problems and only had one major issue to resolve. It was not an overnight fix, but a work in progress like your guy's feet. And I really enjoy him now. It's been two years since I almost gave up on him. Sure we have regressed a bit here and there, but those have become less and less frequent and I really don't think much of them any more. Time was I wouldn't go to the barn because I just couldn't deal with him that day. Now I let the weather keep me home (more than I should).

          Nobody is perfect. Nobody other than you expects you to be perfect. Your horse certainly doesn't! Be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes sometimes, and then you will deal with it.

          Here is a virtual hug if it will help.
          ((((Alternative525))))

          Ride more. Worry less.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Orangetrout 2tempe RedHorses thank you all for your kind, supportive words. Honestly just venting a bit about it was helpful, as is your encouragement.

            Ladylexie thanks for offering a suggestion, but I should have clarified in my post, but did not mid-rant, that this is not affected my entire life, only the horse portion of it. I could see how reading it might give a different impression, but I was writing very much off the cuff and trying to get stuff off my chest. It is distinctly the horse portion of life that is currently stressful for me, everything else is fine.

            Comment


            • #7
              If you are the poster I think you are, it seems that you have posted before with similar sentiments. It seems like you spend a lot of time worrying about really fairly minor things and a lot about what people think of you. I don’t think it’s totally out of line to suggest you talk to a professional about these feelings.

              I think that all of us, to varying degrees, deal with stress and anxiety relating to our horses. They’re pretty fragile. But it’s really not healthy for this to be all encompassing, in your horse life and especially not moving into your life outside of horses.

              Comment


              • #8
                We have been there too. Gelding with an old knee injury, pretty limited range of movement. Was doing 4-h with kiddo, so friend decided to hop on for the bareback equitation. Judge pulled us aside after and said she couldn;t place her because even though the class was judged on the rider, skip was too lame to be out there.

                we respect that judge immensely, and skip is essentially retired now.
                ~Former Pet Store Manager (10yrs)
                ~Vintage Toy Dealer (rememberswhen.us)
                ~Vet Tech Student
                Mom to : 2 Horses,3 Dogs, 1 Cat

                Comment


                • #9
                  You sound like you need a COTH vacation.

                  Perceived stigmas are just that-- perceived. No one is perfect. Everyone has made mistakes with their horses. Try to be a little kinder to yourself about the situation. Your horse has issues and you are being attentive to his needs; that's all that matters at the end of the day.

                  Like others, I've been there with a lame animal on more than one occasion. I've experienced injuries and illnesses that are all consuming. I've made bad judgement calls that I'd love to do over. It sucks, but they do end and things have a way of returning to normal. However, if your horse's issues are chronic and causing you such anxiety, you may consider retiring or rehoming him, even if that means leasing another horse to ride in the interim. Horses are a luxury, they don't need to make you miserable.


                  Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Dutchmare433 View Post
                    If you are the poster I think you are, it seems that you have posted before with similar sentiments. It seems like you spend a lot of time worrying about really fairly minor things and a lot about what people think of you. I don’t think it’s totally out of line to suggest you talk to a professional about these feelings.

                    I think that all of us, to varying degrees, deal with stress and anxiety relating to our horses. They’re pretty fragile. But it’s really not healthy for this to be all encompassing, in your horse life and especially not moving into your life outside of horses.
                    Hmm, I don't know who you are thinking of and whether or not I am that person, but I don't think I've ever posted about this before? Anyway, thanks for the reply.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Alternative525 View Post

                      Hmm, I don't know who you are thinking of and whether or not I am that person, but I don't think I've ever posted about this before? Anyway, thanks for the reply.
                      Maybe they're thinking it's me

                      I feel your pain 100%. I could have written your post. I don't know what I'm doing about it except trying to appreciate every moment I have with my horse, in whatever context it might be. Also, I know your horse has a diagnosed issue so this might not apply, but I just keep telling myself "all the vets said my horse is not lame and unless he suddenly looks worse or develops a new behavior then i will have to trust their highly qualified judgment". If 4 vets can't see anything, some yahoo at the barn doesn't see anything either. And if they do, they should be less judgmental because we're all just trying to do our best (most of us!).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Nothing wrong with riding a "serviceably sound" horse.

                        I agree that you might be pouring anxiety from the rest of your life into your horse, since that's a "safe" worry.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maybe you could re-frame your worry about lameness into thinking about riding your horse as physical therapy for him.

                          The best physical therapy for a horse, at the beginning, is a walk. The legs and hooves do not get pounded, the back gets to relax, and the horse is often content to respond calmly and not make the "lameness/ouchiness" worse.

                          My riding teacher many years ago pleaded with my to ride an Arab mare in her 20's. The mare was frozen up by arthritic joints and my teacher wanted to get the mare moving but none of her other riders had any interest in just walking for a while.

                          At first the mare was a disaster, she felt like she was swaying under me and she was weak. When my teacher first asked me to trot her I was afraid the mare could collapse under me (I would have been a lot more worried if she was not an Arab.) Every step of the trot caused big head movements, it was super obvious that she was lame.

                          I started her on a decent supplement. I rode her twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. We walked, walked, walked and walked some more. Then, since I could not trot her enough to build her wind, I gaited her (she gave me a fox trot.) Then, when she got stronger, we started doing short trots (limping every time).

                          Two years later she started trotting sound. She developed a good, ground eating walk, full of impulsion and fast enough to keep up with most horses. She no longer bobbed her head at the trot. If I had not had a series of serious MS exacerbations in the last eight years I would have been able to do more with her as long as I worked her up to it gradually.

                          If she was not 32 years old I would be cautiously cantering her now since I finally recovered from my exacerbations. She takes care of me when I am in horrible shape, and even though we just walk and trot this mare has taught me a LOT about how to ride a very sensitive horse.

                          Walking is a way that I can ride a "not quite right" or a definitely not right horse without being consumed by guilt. Listen to your horse when you push further, horses can be quite good at telling their people when they are ready. Yes, ambitions to show or perform will have to hibernate for a while, and it helps to have an understanding riding teacher.

                          And you can be pretty confident that you are not making your horse suffer much pain, and you can be confident that you are not making your horse damage his own body just from you riding him.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Alternative525 View Post
                            Lately, as in the last few weeks/months, I've been feeling like I want out of the horse game. But here's the thing, it's not simple.
                            You and me both, friend.

                            I'm not in your exact position - I retired my "lame" horse last spring, and have now entered into the "old horse not doing well" phase where, instead of going out every day and tilting my head with the "does he look lame today?" scrutiny, I get to go out and tilt my head with the "has he lost more weight?", "does he look listless?", "is he in pain? how much pain is too much?" scrutiny.

                            It IS draining to constantly be on eggshells about a particular problem you can't control, and I wish for relief from it too. Don't feel guilty about that, or about what's happened in the past. You're doing your best, and I don't think it's selfish to allow your needs to be a factor in your decisions about whether to continue riding, owning, or even being involved in the horse world at all. Take care of YOU first.

                            Just this morning I (once again) considered selling my other (younger, green, sound) horse, putting the old guy down, and just being free. And rich. Being an anonymous, once-a-week lessoner with no vet bills, no feed bills, and no worries sounds pretty attractive some days.

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                            • #15
                              Been there, done that and doing it again tomorrow.

                              After almost 6 yrs without a horse. I went and bought another Arabian.

                              Ya, so I find myself once again training a green mare. And it's been very slow going.

                              She came with some condition issues. Was very skinny, worms, horrible neglected feet and did I mention the worms? The vet gave up trying to do a count and just said - Infested!

                              5 months later, she is a beautiful PITA.

                              I have all the issues taken care of. Although her feet still need trimming every 4 weeks.

                              She is not an "easy" horse. I thought we would be out on the trails by now. Instead we are just walking in the arena with a few steps of trot. But there are moments (glimpses) of greatness that give me faith, lol.

                              The worry never stops.

                              Sitting here typing, I am worried because I switched blankets and she only has a rainsheet on tonight.

                              Sometimes it's hard to tell when a horse is unsound.

                              Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see it.

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                              • #16
                                It’s really ok to take a break. Sounds like it would be good for you and the horse, too

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