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OCD/Anxiety, Overthinking, and Horse Care

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  • OCD/Anxiety, Overthinking, and Horse Care

    Hesitated to post this for a while but I've seen other sensitive subjects responded to beautifully on this BB so here goes.

    I have severe OCD. I have come a long, long way and only those closest to me would notice outward symptoms, and I have long periods where my obsessions and compulsions are very reduced. But as with most people with the disorder, it finds new and interesting ways to manifest.

    I am wondering if anyone else has experience with, if they feel comfortable sharing, dealing with OCD or other anxiety disorders related to their horse's care and how they've learned to manage it. I AM in regular therapy with a psychologist specializing in OCD and I adore her, but figured talking with fellow horse lovers might help as well.

    Within the last few months I have noticed that I've become very obsessed with and upset by any potential issue with my lease horse's health. She is a 14yo OTTB, mildly arthritic in her right hock and Vitamin E deficient (on liquid supplementation with selenium now) but otherwise sound and sane. She has days where she is stiffer than others, days where she's a little cranky, but otherwise seems to enjoy her work. Her vet does not feel she needs injections, but I cold hose after harder work, use Back On Track hock boots before and after a ride, and she is on daily Equioxx.

    She is almost three weeks in to ulcer treatment. Since beginning Gastroguard she has been a DREAM - working over her back, in front of my leg, tackling a few trot pole patterns from 101 Jumping Exercises with me. I couldn't get to the barn for two days, one of which she was stuck inside since it poured rain (usually has 14 - 16 hours of turnout), hopped on yesterday with the intent of a slower day to warm her back in and it went...poorly LOL. Cowkicking, "stepping in a hole" sensation in back, tripping in the front. Just seemed uncomfortable when she's been a dream for weeks. She was much better today but it's an example of how I can't stop obsessive thoughts when it comes to her because I spent the idea day yesterday worried and thinking of nothing else which is - I know - entirely unproductive and often time wasted.

    I can let bad rides and days go, that's different. But I seem to be obsessed with finding how to "fix" what MIGHT be wrong physically, and then I ride the next day and it's fine.

    I do feel a great amount of responsibility since her owner is not physically able to ride much herself, and I am the one spending most of the time with her. I want to do right by her and her owner, but often feel like I'm being a pain in the neck instead. Her owner is aware I have anxiety issues, and I am very sure not to mention anything until I'm SURE I'm not just being crazy (like signs she had an ulcer), but I'm just desperate to feel like my head isn't going 1000mph and that I'm an annoying leasor.

    If nothing else, thanks for letting me vent. But if anyone has experience with OCD or anxiety and overthinking re: their horse, would love to hear about it.

  • #2
    Originally posted by hybriseris View Post
    Hesitated to post this for a while but I've seen other sensitive subjects responded to beautifully on this BB so here goes.

    I have severe OCD. I have come a long, long way and only those closest to me would notice outward symptoms, and I have long periods where my obsessions and compulsions are very reduced. But as with most people with the disorder, it finds new and interesting ways to manifest.

    I am wondering if anyone else has experience with, if they feel comfortable sharing, dealing with OCD or other anxiety disorders related to their horse's care and how they've learned to manage it. I AM in regular therapy with a psychologist specializing in OCD and I adore her, but figured talking with fellow horse lovers might help as well.

    Within the last few months I have noticed that I've become very obsessed with and upset by any potential issue with my lease horse's health. She is a 14yo OTTB, mildly arthritic in her right hock and Vitamin E deficient (on liquid supplementation with selenium now) but otherwise sound and sane. She has days where she is stiffer than others, days where she's a little cranky, but otherwise seems to enjoy her work. Her vet does not feel she needs injections, but I cold hose after harder work, use Back On Track hock boots before and after a ride, and she is on daily Equioxx.

    She is almost three weeks in to ulcer treatment. Since beginning Gastroguard she has been a DREAM - working over her back, in front of my leg, tackling a few trot pole patterns from 101 Jumping Exercises with me. I couldn't get to the barn for two days, one of which she was stuck inside since it poured rain (usually has 14 - 16 hours of turnout), hopped on yesterday with the intent of a slower day to warm her back in and it went...poorly LOL. Cowkicking, "stepping in a hole" sensation in back, tripping in the front. Just seemed uncomfortable when she's been a dream for weeks. She was much better today but it's an example of how I can't stop obsessive thoughts when it comes to her because I spent the idea day yesterday worried and thinking of nothing else which is - I know - entirely unproductive and often time wasted.

    I can let bad rides and days go, that's different. But I seem to be obsessed with finding how to "fix" what MIGHT be wrong physically, and then I ride the next day and it's fine.

    I do feel a great amount of responsibility since her owner is not physically able to ride much herself, and I am the one spending most of the time with her. I want to do right by her and her owner, but often feel like I'm being a pain in the neck instead. Her owner is aware I have anxiety issues, and I am very sure not to mention anything until I'm SURE I'm not just being crazy (like signs she had an ulcer), but I'm just desperate to feel like my head isn't going 1000mph and that I'm an annoying leasor.

    If nothing else, thanks for letting me vent. But if anyone has experience with OCD or anxiety and overthinking re: their horse, would love to hear about it.
    How old are you? I ask because as I age myself I realize how many days I start out with little aches and stiffness that aren't anything serious and will work themselves out!!

    Obviously now you know that if the horse doesn't get ridden for 2 days she gets stiff. This is absolutely typical of horses with arthritis. So be proactive. If you don't ride every day, longe before you do ride. Use the longe to let her warm up at a medium trot and evaluate how she moves. Do lots of transitions. If she doesn't start to move easily within 5 minutes, don't ride.

    The horse has a progressive degenerative joint condition. She will very slowly get worse over time. You cannot fix her. You can mitigate by keeping her moving.

    It sounds like the owner and vet are giving her good care. Remember that this is not your own horse. Ultimately you follow the owners instructions. If you feel like you can't trust the owners decisions you need to end the lease.





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    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Scribbler Thanks for responding! I'm 28.

      Let me start by saying, I am not trying to step on the owner's toes. I just want to make sure since it is NOT my horse, that I am being as responsible as possible in communicating and observing things.

      And I guess that's why I asked if anyone with this disorder or something like it have experience in this realm because I am completely aware of how DJD's work. I work in healthcare, have lots of patients struggling, etc. The problem is that OCD is not logical. By definition, it's a disorder of magical thinking. I can KNOW how it works, and know what I need to do to keep progression as slow as possible and - like you said - change my strategy so she doesn't have multiple days in a row off. But that doesn't stop me from obsessing, so I'm wondering if anyone has strategies they've adopted to help them cope with that facet!

      Thank you again - regardless, it does help to have it reiterated that nothing screams "abnormal" (besides my brain lol) about her behavior even if that's not necessarily what my problem is.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by hybriseris View Post
        Scribbler Thanks for responding!

        Let me start by saying, I am not trying to step on the owner's toes. I just want to make sure since it is NOT my horse, that I am being as responsible as possible in communicating and observing things.

        And I guess that's why I asked if anyone with this disorder or something like it have experience in this realm because I am completely aware of how DJD's work. I work in healthcare, have lots of patients struggling, etc. The problem is that OCD is not logical. By definition, it's a disorder of magical thinking. I can KNOW how it works, and know what I need to do to keep progression as slow as possible and - like you said - change my strategy so she doesn't have multiple days in a row off. But that doesn't stop me from obsessing, so I'm wondering if anyone has strategies they've adopted to help them cope with that facet!

        Thank you again - regardless, it does help to have it reiterated that nothing screams "abnormal" (besides my brain lol) about her behavior even if that's not necessarily what my problem is.
        Yeah, I'm sure other people who can speak from experience about OCD will be along shortly to chime in! I just wanted to say that the care sounds good and the situation typical of a horse with arthritis.

        Comment


        • #5
          Mild OCD here! We are in the midst of highly anxious times, and I think everyone is having a difficult time not letting their thoughts go down a deep rabbit hole.

          I am used to seeing my horse daily, so the barn being on lockdown has been very hard. Luckily, my trainer is there daily and I trust her 110%. It is still a challenge not to bug her daily with my worries.

          Do you have any horsie friends that you can discuss your worries with before discussing them with the owner? Sometimes having someone whose opinion you respect and who can be totally honest with you can help trememdously. I have a few of these good friends who are ok with telling me when I'm going overboard so I can take a step back and realize that my anxiety is getting the better of me.

          Hope this helps!!
          http://thepitchforkchronicles.com

          Comment


          • #6
            I have anxiety, which sometimes manifests itself in OCDish behavior (during feeding shifts, I will repeatedly double check gates and hoses), as well as lots of anxiety around my horse.

            When I feel myself getting revved up, I pause and assess my thoughts and behaviour. I ask myself if I am being rational or anxious. I label anxious behavior as anxiety. I remind myself that this is my brain malfunctioning. And then I redirect myself to a different activity. That applies whether I am working a shift and need to move on to the next task, or if I am repeatedly reading articles or researching supplements and need to go read a book, take a shower, cook, etc.

            This cognitive approach works well for me. I can't stop my anxious brain, but I can label it and redirect. It helps me to consciously recognise it as a "brain error" because that gives me permission to ignore it.

            Comment


            • #7
              Yes, moderated OCD here and have definitely experienced what you are going through MANY times. Luckily my horse is one of the outlets that truly gets me out of my head and in the present. Thinking and caring for something else, the feel of the horse, grooming and training. There are many days that my mind was cranking with very uncomfortable obsessive thoughts and I just decided to take them along with me while I groomed, walked, trained/rode my horse. I find it very therapeutic. It’s good that you can recognize the thoughts as obsessive, label them, etc. meditation/mindfulness help me a lot, but my dog and horses are lifesavers. Feel free to PM me...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by hybriseris View Post
                I can let bad rides and days go, that's different. But I seem to be obsessed with finding how to "fix" what MIGHT be wrong physically...

                I do feel a great amount of responsibility ... but I'm just desperate to feel like my head isn't going 1000mph
                I can appreciate the worry of looking after an animal that belongs to someone else and is in your care and it is good to have a sense of responsibility!

                However, turn it upside down. Look at this from the point of view of the horse. Rain? Bleah, who cares: eat grass. Mud? Bleah, who cares, really good to roll in it. Human worried about me? Bleah, who cares: eat grass. Hot weather? Bleah, who cares: doze a bit more. Stiff leg? Bleah, who cares: eat grass. Need grooming? Didn't ask for it: see "mud". Need a bath? Didn't ask for it: see "rain" and "mud". Human late with feed? Worry!!!

                Personally, I find horses to be so peaceful they remove all my stresses. Just stand in their company, breath in their calm, relax into their patience, be thankful for their endless kindness. That definitely slows my brain to horse speed.

                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  mkevent Very, very true. Probably not giving myself enough credit for having a flare-up and dealing w/ it despite the state of things. I do have a couple horsey friends, none at the barn I'm currently at BUT, they know the mare enough that I can ask them if I'm overthinking. Thank you!

                  summerfield That's a great way to think of it. I can recognize obsessive thoughts, but sometimes I can't talk to myself in a way that gives me permission to ignore them because...what if they're right!? Lol. But I can see how saying yes, you're having these thoughts but they're a malfunction and therefore don't have to be listened to - I'll be trying that. I think my problem too is that with COVID-19, and me working in dentistry, I'm temporarily laid off for at least the next 5 weeks. It's giving me way too much time to get in to the loop of start thinking of what something might be > seek article > click link to other article > learn of something ELSE > more research.

                  Working in healthcare, I hate Dr. Google. So why do i keep consulting it for horses? Lol. Thank you for your suggestion, will definitely be changing how I talk to myself about it!

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Rainier Yes, I would say most of my life so far the barn is where my obsessive thoughts disappear, which is why this new habit is so frustrating! But you're right, I can concentrate on the smaller moments and eventually tackle this thought loop too and return to the barn being a peaceful place.

                    Willesdon Thank you! Funny enough, first relatively warm day here. Sitting as I type this, watching her graze on the couple bits of green grass, light breeze. Mind is much quieter. Should definitely try to channel her thought process more. Grass good, life good.

                    Comment

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