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Over-sensitive to noise - help!

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  • Over-sensitive to noise - help!

    I am getting to the end of my rope with this horse and would like to hear any and all ideas.

    He is so sensitive to noise that any little thing will set him off. His usual reaction is to run from the noise - jump forward if it's behind him, or violently spin or run backwards if it's beside or in front of him.

    Today I was hand-walking him and the noise of the clothes in the dryer in the indoor was setting him off (no, it wasn't huge horse blanket buckles). After his first violent spin/backing up I tried getting him to stand still and just listen and realize nothing would happen to him - and he was trembling. After that almost every time we went by he was wary and would sometimes do a little "start in place". (I hate this as he has borium tipped shoes and I don't want to get stepped on.)

    Background: he is a TB who raced lightly and was unsuccessful. I've had him 2 years but have been away for 10 months and then he has been lame & on stall/small paddock rest for the past 5+ months. He's still quite green and has always been sensitive to noise.

    I am fairly experienced but this horse has been such a huge challenge that he is the first I have sent away to a cowboy to install "go forward" and "don't buck" buttons. That worked out well, but with 15 months off and now supposed to be doing a gradual return-to-work, I feel like I am WAY behind the 8-ball again. His natural reaction to things when he's upset is to run backwards (e.g. loading, shoeing, scary objects).

    Things I have already tried:
    - ear covers (like show jumpers wear)

    - having another quiet horse (no dice, when that horse hit dirt against the wall, he jumped)

    - punishment for the spinning/running and making him stand (I know this isn't the best and it doesn't work with him)

    - ground-work and busy-work so that he has to pay attention to me (makes things better but he still hears things, and right now he's not allowed to do hard work so I can't push him or "work him down" by lunging or plain old wet saddle blankets)

    - exposing him to situations and just making him muddle through

    - drugs (as he needed them for hand-walk rehab) - he was quieter but I still don't trust him

    I try to use positive reinforcement for doing things like standing still, or spooking in place rather than exploding. But I can't ignore the really bad behaviour either. I would like to get to a place where he knows he can't explode, even if he's worried, and I can trust him to just stand still or to listen to me or to do work without always wondering if he's going to launch me when someone opens the door, or the heater turns on, or I sneeze (seriously).
    Blugal

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

  • #2
    B Vitamins.

    Being reactive is a major symptom of deficiency. If he is not deficient, a supplement won't harm him. (you just won't see any change). Its not terribly expensive and worth a shot. I've used the Finish Line product Thia-Cal in the past as it contains only vitamins and no "calmative" ingredients (valerian, tryptophan, etc).
    Proud Member: Bull-snap Haters Clique, Michigan Clique, and Appaloosa Clique!

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    • #3
      Ear plugs. The soft foam cat balls work well. Combined with some of the other stuff you mentioned.
      The Evil Chem Prof

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      • #4
        Ear plugs with a fly net over them to keep them in place. It works for my over-reactive yearling when I need her to stand in place on the cross ties on a windy day (she loses her mind when it is windy and is convinced everything will eat her)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by HelloAgain View Post
          B Vitamins.

          Being reactive is a major symptom of deficiency. If he is not deficient, a supplement won't harm him. (you just won't see any change). Its not terribly expensive and worth a shot. I've used the Finish Line product Thia-Cal in the past as it contains only vitamins and no "calmative" ingredients (valerian, tryptophan, etc).
          That was my first thought also.
          1.20.2013

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          • #6
            Magnesium is also often dificient in equine diets and as it's often combined with the B vit a supplement containing both might help. But I's also suggest that the both of you go to a decent natural horsemanship type of trainer and return to ground work with an emphasis on desensitising. Think outside of the box.

            chicamuxen

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            • #7
              People are born with sensory integration issues (noise, touch, light) why not animals...Do a little research on sound sensory therapy & help your critter. Keep it simple and don't look for the Purple Zebra.

              Comment


              • #8
                My horse is the exact same way. For him, it's usually noise he cannot "see." Honestly, for us time has been the only thing to get him through the daily stuff. He was a show horse, lived in a bubble and only went out for a few hours a day for the first 8 years of his life. I pulled him out of that situation, threw him out 24/7 and have let him deal with it.

                It has not been an easy road.... but we are getting there.

                I am assuming you have eliminiated anything medical (sorry if I missed it in your post) including eye sight trouble? I know it seems hearing related, but could mean anything.

                I know my guy gets hopped up on straight alfalfa... like jump out of his skin. He can handle small amount of TC Senior that does have some Alfalfa in it.

                Also, if you are not showing right now, you could try Valerian. It will test, but can be used at home to get through training issues. I have had good luck with this bringing my guy down a notch.

                But seriously.... throwing him out and letting him deal made him develop some coping skills!
                Gone gaited....

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                • #9
                  Ear plugs and then turn on the radio to block out any other random noises.
                  Jigga:
                  Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My horse is very sound sensitive as well - ear plugs have worked well, it helps for the majority of sounds, not 100% perfect but much better.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There is a CD you can buy online that is used to train police horses to accept lots of strange loud noises. Here is the website: http://www.spookless.com/productsandservices.html

                      Noises made my current horse crazy too, so I bought the CD and played it outside his stall for hours, gradually increasing the volume until he ignored most sounds.

                      And the quality of the CD is amazing. Very clear and precise sounds. Things like gunshots, trees falling, fireworks, trains, chainsaws, farm animals, crowds, horses galloping, ect.

                      If you do it regularly, your horse won't care about any sounds at all.
                      http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thanks for all the replies so far - please keep them coming!!

                        To answer some questions:

                        - He is on a general vitamin/mineral supplement, and I will definitely try the magnesium/B vit. and look into valerian.

                        - He gets a 1-gallon pail of alfalfa cubes per day, as alfalfa is supposed to help prevent ulcers in horses that may be prone to them. Otherwise, he is on free choice grass/timothy hay.

                        - I haven't tried ear plugs yet, partly because I'm stubborn and hoped we could work through this, but also because they are illegal in my discipline (although at this rate, we won't be at recognized shows for quite some time). Guess it's time to go to the dollar store and pick some up!

                        - I have ridden with the radio on - it does mask some noise, but it's the unusual or sudden noises that get him.

                        - I am surprised that he is still so reactive, given the level of activity at the farm he's living. They have 13 dogs, tractors, gators, a hot-walker, tons of horses and people going everywhere. I hoped that listening to this for 12 hours a day would help desensitize him!!
                        Last edited by Blugal; Dec. 14, 2009, 01:45 PM. Reason: 1 gallon is 4 litres ;-)
                        Blugal

                        You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by lstevenson View Post
                          There is a CD you can buy online that is used to train police horses to accept lots of strange loud noises. Here is the website: http://www.spookless.com/productsandservices.html

                          Noises made my current horse crazy too, so I bought the CD and played it outside his stall for hours, gradually increasing the volume until he ignored most sounds.

                          And the quality of the CD is amazing. Very clear and precise sounds. Things like gunshots, trees falling, fireworks, trains, chainsaws, farm animals, crowds, horses galloping, ect.

                          If you do it regularly, your horse won't care about any sounds at all.
                          I did this too, it was really funny to watch the other horses react in different ways to the sounds. It worked beautifully on the spooky one and helped the others, too.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks! I will try that CD. Did you just have it playing in your barn, or in the horse's stall? Mine is in an outdoor stall/paddock combo, so I might have to get creative to get it going... Should be interesting to see what his super-quiet buddies will do too!
                            Blugal

                            You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I had a gelding just like that-- extremely noise reactive and also came to me with the running backwards evasion. Unfortunately he'd rear as well.

                              I worked really hard on his "go button" and he was reliable 99% of the time, except when he was really freaked. The rearing was conquered but he'd always revert back to the backing when really stressed. He was actually a blast to ride and once we worked through a lot of issues he was reliable with any rider that was quiet and calm, beginners included.

                              What helped him most was lots of sweaty saddle pads! Consistent, tactful riding by one person. Exposure to new things and situations but with careful regard for his state of mind. I know more now than I did then, and if I could do it over I'd have treated him aggressively for ulcers and put him on a low NSC diet.

                              I don't think these types ever really get over the spookiness and reactivity in general. You may end up having to decide if this is a horse you want to continue with. They are not easy personalities and frankly do best in a strict routine.
                              We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by lstevenson View Post
                                There is a CD you can buy online that is used to train police horses to accept lots of strange loud noises. Here is the website: http://www.spookless.com/productsandservices.html

                                Noises made my current horse crazy too, so I bought the CD and played it outside his stall for hours, gradually increasing the volume until he ignored most sounds.

                                And the quality of the CD is amazing. Very clear and precise sounds. Things like gunshots, trees falling, fireworks, trains, chainsaws, farm animals, crowds, horses galloping, ect.

                                If you do it regularly, your horse won't care about any sounds at all.
                                That's cool...but I wonder how that would go over in a busy show barn? Still a good idea, though.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Is he still on stall rest? If so, cut him a little slack. I have had horses who were normally kid safe turn into raging lunatics that I couldn't keep on the ground with a lip chain. One mare was so insane I couldn't walk her even with ace so she just stayed in the stall until she was given the ok for small paddock turnout. Just get through this however you can and hope it will be better when its over and he can get back to being a horse again.
                                  McDowell Racing Stables

                                  Home Away From Home

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Laurierace, I definitely went that route. He has been on very small paddock turn-out for 4 weeks, and moved to a slightly bigger one last week for week 5. He's definitely much happier (and I'm saner). However, this problem was pre-existing - I have sat out a bucking/leaping/running session due to the noise of a squirrel running up a tree nearby but out of sight, and once because someone closed their car door (the sort of thing that he should be used to already!).

                                    Ace doesn't seem to do much, if anything. I had him on Rompun for a while just to get him out and doing things, and he was still quite reactive. Once he got the routine, he acted about the same with drugs as without, so he is without drugs at the moment.
                                    Blugal

                                    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I'd never heard the vit. B deficiency explanation (for reactivity). Sure wish I'd looked into that with my mare years ago. Could have saved me a lot of heartache and some dicey situations

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