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Terrified to Ride My Horse (Update on Page 7/8)

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  • Terrified to Ride My Horse (Update on Page 7/8)

    Back story: purchased a what-I-thought-was-lovely slightly green 7 year old OTTB out of a lesson program. I had ridden him weekly for about 2.5 months and fell in love with him. He was a really genuine, eager to please kid who did have a stop and was looky to fences, but would go over if you rode him confidently to the base. Worst things he ever did to me are refuse a jump here and there, spook at a plastic bag, and trip over his own feet.

    Moved him to a new barn where he settled in really well the first few rides; he now has a field with buddies and regular turn out. Then we had some issues. I started him in work on the flat 3-4 times a week with jumping once every other week. Then I left town for a week 3 weeks after his arrival. When I got back, I rode him in his field, and he bucked and reared with me. Then started refusing to go in the arenas, bucking under saddle, and essentially, just developing a rank attitude about work. Had a pro sit on him a few times. Then he bronc'd after crossrails with me, and I realized it was pain. I had the vet look at him who ruled out teeth, ruled in poor saddle fit. Gave him 3 weeks off (partially due to my schedule), sent the saddle off to get adjusted and refitted, and had a chiropractor out to hopefully undo the damage. Started him back into work on the lunge line over poles/in a Pessoa rig/in the saddle.

    I've ridden him twice in the last week at a walk/trot for maybe 5-10 minutes. Rode him in a lesson today (3rd ride, 1st actual ride longer than 15 minutes), and the second he snorted or tossed his head, I panicked to the point that I was in tears and the pro got on. He did hand out a buck or two to the pro.

    I have ridden some moderately sour horses- my heart horse had a nasty buck, a sideways spook, and a dirty stop in him. Last lease horse reared when she didn't get her way. It's not as if I'm incapable of riding antics (sat the bucks, sat the rear in the field), but to be quite honest, the horse has zero respect for me, and I don't trust myself to ride him.

    I've always had anxiety riding, but could push it aside and get the job done. For some reason, the second this guy does anything remotely slightly threatening, I go into a blind panic. What he does is the equivalent of temper tantrums (he doesn't want to work, he can't look at friends, he can't leave the arena so he will scuttle sideways, evade my aids, buck), and I *should* be able to handle them. I have the seat, and the tools, especially in lessons with my trainer on the ground.

    Essentially told the trainer today if we don't see baby step improvements in myself (and him) by the end of the winter, I'm selling him. Riding isn't fun right now.

    A combination of a vent post/advice post/commiseration post.
    Last edited by KandC; Jan. 31, 2018, 01:36 PM.
    About my horses and my riding:

  • #2
    Get a vet out and get him checked for pain issues as well as ulcers. With the changes that have occurred in his life, he is the perfect candidate for ulcers and that might be what he is trying to tell you.
    "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


    • Original Poster

      Haven't scoped him yet (I've started saving). He got a 2 week course of Gastroguard when he moved to the new farm. He's not girthy or sensitive (although if it's hindgut ulcers, who knows). Ulcers are still on my radar.

      Already had the vet out (technically twice, the chiro is also a vet) who only found signs of poor saddle fit/back pain.
      About my horses and my riding:


      • #4
        Are you sure the pain issue is resolved?


        • #5
          Are you in an area with Lyme? Could also be that- might be worth pulling a titre. Good luck, it sounds like you are doing everything you can.


          • Original Poster

            Back seems super comfortable; no sensitivity now. Vet detected a moderate amount, chiro came 2 weeks later and detected a small amount.

            The best way to describe it is that I feel like he is "unlearning" the pain, at least on the lunge. I tend to lunge in a bridle with no accessories (i.e. side reins, etc.; except once a week in a Pessoa), and he is hollow, high headed starting out, but settles into a nice stretchy, light trot after about 5 minutes in either direction. Lovely lift in his back over poles. Did this both with and without the saddle. He does carrot stretches before and after every ride. Currently teaching him to be comfortable with tail stretches and belly lifts. He had a few steps of beautiful self carriage under saddle at the trot (with me!) in our lesson today.

            My gut tells me the pain *may* not be resolved, but he looks so comfortable and sound on the lunge, which is why I can't decide if he is actively hurting or just anticipating pain. Coupled with him completely having my number.

            (Also FWIW if you've seen my previous posts- both my trainer and I are smaller riders. He wears a Thinline half pad. Prestige saddle is now a 34 cm tree; VTO vetted saddle fit for me.)

            I'm in KY, so Lyme is a possibility. I suppose EPM is a potential as well.
            About my horses and my riding:


            • #7
              If your inner voice is saying to be careful, listen to it and be careful.

              Until you find a way around him being rank, why dread riding and put yourself where you really are not comfortable?

              Could you keep putting trainer's rides in him and take lessons in an old proven horse that won't make you nervous?

              With horses, when one acts up, there is real concern things can get out of hand.
              With a horse as you describe, that is not the time to "cowgirl-up", but to be sensible.
              No matter why he is not fitting you now, keep looking for reasons, just don't go where you know you should not and try to ride him when you really should not.

              Best luck finding a way to get back the horse you thought you bought.
              Are you sure it was not their management that kept him sensible?
              If that was it, maybe try to replicate that where you are.


              • Original Poster

                At the place where he was, he was stalled the majority of the time with random turn out/no real turn out schedule, and rarely ridden outside of lessons with me. If he had been in a program, it would make sense to replicate it.
                About my horses and my riding:


                • #9
                  Take care of yourself and listen to your body...take some time off and investigates the pain issues.


                  • #10
                    This might sounds stupid, but a horse can pick up our heart rate/fear, so it stands to reason we might be able to pick up our horse's emotions too. Is it possible the reason you are starting to feel panic when on this horse when he really isn't doing that much, is because your horse is actually somewhat panicked himself and projecting to you?

                    I agree with looking more into pain issues. Perhaps try on Bute or even gabapentin and see if issues resolve? My lovely gelding developed random and severe panic attacks...took years -and MANY vets to discover he had previously broken his neck and as it calcified it was starting to irritate/impinge on his spinal cord.

                    I hope things work out for you!
                    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                    • #11
                      I thinkBluey is right. Take care of yourself first. Don't build up more and more scary experiences that will be impossible to leave behind you. I wish the best for you.


                      • #12
                        Can you send him back where he seemed to be happy?

                        if not, or you are determined to keep him, definitely rule out all possible sources of pain, including kissing spine.
                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                        • Original Poster

                          In an ideal world, I'd love to keep him. He's athletic and a lovely mover, and I got him for a steal. I just wish I had the horse I purchased, not the one I have right now, if that makes sense. Like I said pain-wise, two vets (technically-three if you include me) could get some pain, then minimal discomfort, and now no pain, which makes me wonder if it's anticipatory vs. actual pain.

                          The barn was selling him because they didn't have room for him in the program- sending him back isn't an option.
                          About my horses and my riding:


                          • #14
                            If he went from stall life and a program to life in a herd, while we humans think we've made life better, horse may not have read the book. That's a massive life change. Could be crazy herd dynamics at work. But I definitely agree to check Lyme and bloodwork for any deficiencies. My guy acted like ulcers, but treatment didn't help last year, and found out it was Lyme and low vitamin E. Good luck, but agree to trust your gut and don't be a hero.


                            • Original Poster

                              At what point would we see behavior changes resolve if they were due to poor saddle fit?
                              About my horses and my riding:


                              • #16
                                Did you do a pre-purchase vetting on him? Did you draw blood for drug screening? There are some drugs that can last 2-3 weeks, Prozac is one, I think.

                                Vets here may have something to add on this aspect.
                                "When I look back on my life, the times I have been stingy or unappreciative haunt me. I don't regret one instance of generosity." --PeteyPie


                                • Original Poster

                                  I did do a pre-purchase on him. No blood for drug screening since I had been riding him for 2.5 months. I did briefly consider it, and perhaps I should have done it in retrospect. He is the same level of reactive in regards to being spooky/looky, he's just got my number now. A little sideways shuffle, a buck, or front feet off the ground, Mom panics, and work is over.

                                  He also stayed at the farm as "mine" for a month before moving to my current barn, and behavior changes did not set in until I had had him at the new place for about 3 weeks.

                                  Just some minor back pain on PPE, but the vet did not think it was substantial, and attributed it to being a lesson horse with poor saddle fit. We both thought it would resolve with proper work and proper saddle fit (obviously couldn't rule out kissing spine without rads).

                                  FWIW- I also did not inquire about buying him until after I had left their lesson program, so it's not as though he was being marketed to me. I enjoyed riding him in lessons, asked if he was for sale when I had to move. My current trainer thinks he's a "lovely horse" who just needs to work on his attention span, and learn to work and respect me. My problem is less he's bucking/scuttling/a jerk, and more, every time he even flicks his tail, I start crying and get scared. My anxiety has taken over my life and it's so sad.
                                  About my horses and my riding:


                                  • #18
                                    My guess is there is something about the new place and the new routine that is causing this. Possible he is very herd bound now that he is out with buddies instead of stalled for the majority of his day. He had decided hanging out with this friends is much more fun than actually working. And he's figured out that he can bully you.

                                    I bought a horse last year that seemed super quiet and laid back when we tried him and the first month he was at my trainer's place. Brought him home after at the first month and he promptly got hurt. He and my other gelding HATE each other - learned this the hard way (which is how he got hurt) and even separated there was always this negative energy between them. New horse was off work for 6 weeks and then was difficult to start back to work. I had to longe him before almost every ride and he was horrible. Once he got all the bucks and silliness out of his system on the longe, he was fine. But, he had to be worked consistently to even be manageable. Just wasn't working. I wasn't having any fun and it was just too much work and too much worry about what he was going to do each day I rode. Some days were pretty good and some days not. And it wasn't predictable when he would be bad and when he would be good. My other gelding is Mr. Reliable that is the same every ride and can have a month off and you just hop on and go. In comparison, the new horse was a nightmare.

                                    New horse is back at my trainer's place and is literally like a different horse there. Completely laid back, even if he's had several days off. Has had to be longed ONCE in the 2 months he has been there. Everything about him is totally different there - he's totally chill and easy to deal with. He got MUCH more turnout at my place and was WORSE. I think he loved being out and visiting my mares over the fence line, etc. Saw no need to have to work and basically threw a temper tantrum every time he had to do something other than hang out in his pasture.

                                    At my trainer's place he still gets turned out every night but there is an alley way between his pasture and the pastures on either side. So he can't touch the other horses and be goofy over the fence. And he doesn't have the same neighbor next to him every day in his stall and he isn't even in the same stall every day. So no chance to get super attached to any one horse. I can't really explain it but something about the routine/herd dynamics at my place just did not work for him.


                                    • #19
                                      There;s also the summer horse / winter dragon phenomenon. Until now you've only known the Summer Horse, and he may be the type of horse that gets a lot more fresh and 'up' when there's a cool breeze up their tail. My mare Brio is an on-the-buckle lazy girl in the summer, whereas yesterday she was an absolute freight train for the first 45 min. So I did a couple long trot sessions, like 20min straight, and the whole time it was a huuuuge trot, without me egging her on at all. I left her alone for the most part just kept her between my legs and hands, asked her to honor the bare minimum of correct form: no leaning through turns, stay soft in the bridle, and respond to the occasional half-halt to remind her she had a passenger. Focused on my own breathing and keeping my joints loose, as it's easy to hold your breath and get all blocked and tight when you are riding a fire-breathing dragon. My legs were jelly by the end of the ride. But after a 45min "warmup", for the last 10 minutes I enjoyed a wonderful, responsive thinking horse. Did some lovely serpentines in the open field, a soft, slow sitting trot, and called it a day. Had I tried to do battle with her, given that much energy, she would absolutely have gone UP instead of forward.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        If only it were that, HungarianHippo! I started riding him in March (in KY). Antics started in September (still in KY). He's also not "up" energy-wise; no fire breathing dragon. Just hits a point in the ride where he is *DONE* and starts ignoring aids, bucking, and scuttling sideways. And I just don't have the grit anymore to make him cut-it-out.
                                        About my horses and my riding: