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Training Issue or Pain/Management Issue?

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  • Training Issue or Pain/Management Issue?

    When a horse starts acting up, do you first assume it is a training issue, or do you start by suspecting pain/management (ie feed problem/turnout, etc) issue?
    Jigga:
    Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

  • #2
    Why would you assume either/or? I'd examine all factors. After all, sometimes it's a combination.
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    • #3
      Sometimes it's hard to tell, especially if the horse is already a little hot-headed. My mare had a problem this summer with the right lead canter. She started swapping leads, bucking and acting up. At first I thought she was just being a witch. But it was her hip, she was uneven behind and the chiropractor came out and adjusted her. Fixed the problem. And I'm learning to really "tune" in to my mare and what's going on with her.
      Connemaras Rock!!!

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by jn4jenny View Post
        Why would you assume either/or? I'd examine all factors. After all, sometimes it's a combination.
        Well, you would need to make a judgement call at the moment of "bad behaviour"... as in, do you continue to work through the problem (maybe you need to do some serious schooling at that moment) or do you stop what you are doing, assuming the horse is in pain and start trying to isolate a health related problem?
        Jigga:
        Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

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        • #5
          I generally assume it's a behavior/training issue. I don't think feed/turnout is an excuse- a "hot" horse still needs to behave, though they do get a bit of leeway for feel-good behavior at the beginning of a ride until they're warmed up.

          Only rarely have I found bad behavior to be a pain issue, and usually I can tell the difference in the type of behavior. I think it's one of those things where you can't define the difference, but you know it when you see it. A horse tossing it's head excessively usually warrants a check of the bridle and/or mouth. If a horse is unusually "humpy" I'll usually get off and double check the saddle, pad and perhaps loosen a girth a notch.

          And then there are the times it's a rider issue. At times I'll ask my trainer what I'm doing wrong and how to fix it and there's also been a few times when I've had other people get on the horse I'm riding to see if it's the horse or just me!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by shakeytails View Post
            I think it's one of those things where you can't define the difference, but you know it when you see it.


            This is where "horse sense" comes into play. Most of the good trainers I've known have had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to matters as such - some people are gifted that way.

            It's this exact reason why it is nearly impossible to comment on threads that ask this sort of question. A poster can go into every minute detail but unless you can see the horse in question..how can one give an educated opinion?
            \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River

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            • #7
              Originally posted by saultgirl View Post
              Well, you would need to make a judgement call at the moment of "bad behaviour"... as in, do you continue to work through the problem (maybe you need to do some serious schooling at that moment) or do you stop what you are doing, assuming the horse is in pain and start trying to isolate a health related problem?
              If I don't know anything else, then I assume the horse is in pain. Because I'd rather err on the side of caution - by "doing some serious schooling at that moment" I could cause or worsen an injury and/or create a behavior problem that's tough to solve because the horse may then associate pain with schooling even if later the cause of the pain is eliminated.

              I own the Lord of the Ringsour because too many of his riders - including myself, at first - assumed he was just being a pill.

              If I'm wrong and it's a behavioral issue, then he's only gotten away with something once or maybe twice. Which isn't as hard to fix, IME.
              I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

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              • #8
                I think it is a matter of knowing your horse and evaluating the situation. I always err on the side of physical problem. If it turns out to be training, I can address that later. But if it turns out to be physical I may have worsened the problem AND created a training issue.
                So if my horse suddenly starts resisting or evading something that wasnt an issue before, I think of physical problems because I know he generally has a good work ethic. (Of course I also check MY actions because it might be something I am doing differently). However, I don't hop off and worry about physical issues every time he resists! I might go back a few step and work towards it again, checking all the while against his previous actions and his state of mind.
                It is a fine line sometimes. I know of a few riders whose horses were always out of work because they were "sore" or "needed adjustment" when actually the rider needed to say "yes, you really have to". OTOH, I have known riders who corrected their horses vigorously for bad behavior only to find out later that the poor animal was in pain.
                Sometimes I am unsure of the situation so I do something easy to have a success, get off, check him over physically, then try again on another day, preferably with another set of eyes on the ground to help decide what is happening if the problem reocurrs.

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Czar View Post


                  This is where "horse sense" comes into play. Most of the good trainers I've known have had an uncanny sixth sense when it came to matters as such - some people are gifted that way.

                  It's this exact reason why it is nearly impossible to comment on threads that ask this sort of question. A poster can go into every minute detail but unless you can see the horse in question..how can one give an educated opinion?
                  I'm not talking about any particular horse. The question came to mind because I read an article recently in Dressage Today, where one of the riders talked about being successful with her horse because she interpreted every disobediance to be a sign of discomfort. I kind of thought, wow, really? It's just a huge difference from my background, where the horse does not automatically get the benefit of the doubt... where it was usually assumed that the horse is saying "I don't wanna" and your response ought to be "you must!".
                  Jigga:
                  Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

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                  • #10
                    I try to rule out as much as I can from tack/saddle fit to feed/turnout. Hitting all dead ends, I get a vet check up looking for soreness/ulcer possibilities and run a Lyme titer. Most of the time around here, it turns out to be Lyme that's causing the acting up.
                    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by saultgirl View Post
                      It's just a huge difference from my background, where the horse does not automatically get the benefit of the doubt... where it was usually assumed that the horse is saying "I don't wanna" and your response ought to be "you must!".
                      Yeah, that was my background, too. But looking back I think it was unfair to assume the horse was just being disobedient without first checking to see if it was a pain issue.
                      I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

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                      • #12
                        Yeah, I'm also from a bit of a "sterner" background, with the caveat that the rider/handler was to pay attention to the situation and use something resembling reasonable judgement.

                        The answer to the question of "pain or training problem" is not at all black-and-white. The wa-hoo buck, the god-damn-that-hurts buck and the pissed-off buck have different feels. Sometimes you just have to make a judgement and run with it. Sometimes it's right; sometimes it's wrong.

                        For my own horses, I'd hope to know them well enough to judge correctly what is going on under the surface. My stoic old lady never says no. She will occasionally protest what she perceives as, say, injudicious use of the whip with a small crowhop and pinned ears or legitimately spook at terrifying things like lurking deer or upside-down buckets (). But if she fails to respond to a request or -- gasp! -- acts out ... she's in pain. Period.

                        My competition horse is likewise as honest and willing as the day is long. She is a typical opinionated mare, but also never says outright no except when she hurts. She recently had some SI trouble ... the first manifestation was in a lesson where she suddenly refused to go forward. Very weird. I asked once more -- just ONCE -- a little stronger, but it was clear to me who knows this horse very well that she was in pain somewhere. (Took for-fruitbatting-ever to find the problem!) Many people, trainers or not, would have seen the lack of lameness and concluded that this was just balking for no good reason, insisting that I work through it however necessary. I'm grateful that MY trainer trusts my judgement, because forcing this particular issue could have resulted in long-standing damage.

                        So even though I do actually roll my eyes a little at that article mentioned, if the writer had horses like these ... yeah, I can see where she's coming from.
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                        • #13
                          I tell my students-if someone says 'my horse ALL OF A SUDDEN' did this-then it is most likely a pain related issue. There are many variables, and you have to know your horse-rider. Is the rider green? Perhaps they are causing the problem, is there a new saddle/bridle/feed that the horse has and is causing problems. Are you asking the horse to do XYZ the same way? Is the horse 'always' a problem?? Does the horse sometimes just enjoy doing something to catch you off guard? I ALWAYS assume there is pain..then go from there. That way, you can rule out all of the above also.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by saultgirl View Post
                            When a horse starts acting up, do you first assume it is a training issue, or do you start by suspecting pain/management (ie feed problem/turnout, etc) issue?
                            I never think it's a feed/turnout issue - if something like that is going on (too much feed/too little turnout, he'll be hot; too little feed, he'll be skinny), it's pretty obvious. Pain is a little harder to differentiate from having one of those butthead days - as long as the horse isn't off in his gaits (which would be pain right there), I'll back off and work on whatever at a slower gait until he either understands what I'm asking for (training) or it becomes clear he's just not able to do what I want (pain).

                            Maybe I'm lucky - if there's a real pain issue (hocks need to be done, etc), it'll show up in his gaits before he's actually lame to the eye.

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                            • #15
                              Reading further into the posts I'll have to say that I was brought up also with the idea that horses always "tried to get away with things" - I learned the hard way on my mare that this was not true, sometimes disobedience was pain and injury.

                              When I ride lesson horses I have a great deal of difficulty deciding when to ride through a lameness (warm up stiffness on the old guys) or not ride - I do fret about riding a horse that has low level issues. I depend on the trainer to make the call as the horse is her responsibility but I don't trust my own judgement.
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