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Any advice much appreciated...

42 replies

Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 16:39

I have a horse on loan, had him since September. During this time he had about three months off due to being lame. When he came back off box rest, he was understandably stir crazy, threw me off more times than I care to remember by fly bucking and bolting. He has been much better recently, but today when I rode, he was like a coiled spring. Spooked at corners, half hearted attempts at bolting etc. I ended up changing schools, walking him around a bit, then doing some very sedate trotting before getting off. I actually got off when walking back to the yard as I felt that he was going to just go, and I didn't fancy coming face to face with the Tarmac from the height of a 16.3. I have been riding for years, but this has completely unsettled me, and it's not just me that he has done this with. Feeling like an absolute failure right now, and not sure what to do, as now when I ride, I am tense and this unsettles him. Any advice, apart from lunging etc etc etc. I need my riding mojo back! Thanks.

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babybobbob · 12/07/2015 16:47

Poor you, this sounds really stressful. I had a similar situation. Can he go out in a small paddock for a bit until he starts to relax? With my horse we couldn't as she was a loon and would have damaged herself so we led her round the block on foot a few times and then led her off another version sensible horse and then when we eventually rode her we sedated her first. She gradually became sensible again. If I were you I would discuss it with your vet and riding instructor. Good luck.

babybobbob · 12/07/2015 16:48

Very, not version!

Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 16:54

He is turned out every evening with a headcollar on as is impossible to catch. Thing is that he has been back in work since April, and is ok most of the time, but then just goes crazy. Taking him up to the field the other day was interesting, today the least, wheeling around, whinnying while the gate was being opened... Then took off at flat out gallop (luckily I had taken the lead rope off so could just let go immediately, otherwise I dread to think what would have happened). I am not pretending to be a good rider but I like to think that I know what I am doing. He really is scaring me at the moment, and I hate that. He is 21 as well, so not like he's a youngster! How can I stay calm, so that he does as well? Thanks for your reply, by the way.

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Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 16:55

To say the least, not today the least!

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Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 16:58

He was also extremely sulky when I put him back in his box this afternoon, ears back, bum towards me, wouldn't even come over for a polo which is most unusual. .. He is physically sound, and there don't seem to be any external problems... I miss my lovely horse!

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Gabilan · 12/07/2015 17:33

First I would get a vet out to do a full MOT, if you haven't already. Talk to the vet about the behavioural changes. "Bolting" and bucking are usually done out of fear and pain. At the very least make sure his back and teeth are OK. Being lame and on box rest it's possible that he made himself sore and uncomfortable so make sure there's no problem with that.

From the sounds of things he is doing this under saddle and when you're on the ground. Is there a particular trigger? Could you just be having a very extreme reaction to flies for example? Review all your stable management. Is he getting enough turnout and in company? Lack of turnout and social isolation will affect a horse's mental health. As horse's age their metabolisms change so he may e.g. not be able to cope with sugar in his diet.

Once you've ruled out any health or management problems you could consider something simple like putting him on a magnesium-based calmer. I would also get an experienced instructor to assess the situation. You need help re-establishing your relationship. He trusts you and takes his cue from you so if you're tense he will be. I suspect you need someone on the ground to help you through this.

He sounds like quite a character, I hope you can both get through this!

Gabilan · 12/07/2015 17:34

Could he be reacting to the flies, not you, obviously

Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 17:43

Thanks for your advice. Vet has been out many many times, he threw my instructor off the other week... He did an impressive rearing display the other day when I was walking him in hand... Just not sure what to do next. And obviously, technically he is not 'my' horse, so it's difficult to get anyone else in. Tack has all been checked, he has had a history of a bad back, and is ridden in a polypad and with a fleece back protector pad. It's like he is suddenly just angry with life in general. He hates other horses as well, but is turned out with others every day. He can be perfectly sweet, willing and perfect one day and then completely and utterly bonkers the next... I know they are unpredictable animals, but this behaviour is really taking the biscuit!

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Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 17:47

He is quite sensitive to flies, so he is fly sprayed before riding and turn out, but that surely shouldn't justify such a change in character? I have been riding him for nearly five years now, and prior to the box rest, he was considered 'bombproof'. To elaborate on the not being my horse thing, can I suggest to the YO that he is fed a calmer? As I said, he is my first loan (apart from when I was a young teenager!) and I don't want to overstep the mark, but it's quite clear that something is wrong (or he just hates me!!)

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Gabilan · 12/07/2015 18:02

I would definitely talk to the owner about this. Apart from anything else, to be blunt, it's dangerous. It also must be horrible for you, when this is meant to be a relaxing hobby, and it sounds like the horse is having a bad time of it.

I'm not sure if flies would cause that much of a change in character. I think there might be several factors at work. Also, I just looked up magnesium calmers, and found this which is very interesting but recommends not just putting the horse on magnesium! Maybe do some online research and find a feed balancer specifically for older horses. If it's not physical pain, something somewhere is causing him stress. If only they could talk Confused

Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 18:26

Tell me about it. Not much fun when I am constantly on edge! Thank you so much for the link, I will definitely look into it and speak to the owners... He wouldn't even look at me earlier, it was like he knew he had acted up. I just want to try and figure out what the heck is going on!

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SaggyAndLucy · 12/07/2015 19:04

Yes to the vet, definitely.
This is why I really hate box rest. its just not good for a horses brain! He's been living the complete antithesis of a natural life and it's making him nuts.
Can you just turn him away for a bit? He obviously isn't happy being ridden, he's telling you so. I would turn him away, give him a month or two to just be a horse, then start with simple handling and work him back into being backed and ridden.
And I know you said that his tack is fine, but if his saddle fits, then a poly pad is like wearing thick socks in your shoes. its not going to help much IMO.
I'm into thinking outside the box and more like a horse. Maybe after giving him a big rest and getting him thoroughly checked over once again, try a treeless saddle? I've always found the horses love them.

Rexyroo12345 · 12/07/2015 20:04

Saddle was fitted with poly pad but I know what you mean. I also know what you mean about him learning to be a horse again, but we've taken it slow, he's turned out every evening, he has his (select few) horse mates, and seems generally ok. I will speak to the YO again tomorrow and see what they suggest. Thank you for your advice. I just looked at some old pics of us doing shows and stuff, I want my boy back!!!

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shufflebum · 12/07/2015 20:11

I know you've had the vet out but have his teeth been looked at as part of that? I'm also thinking that there may be an issue in his poll region, possibly some asymmetry with his atlas particularly if he has been rearing. The pressure from a head collar or bridle would be enough to trigger a reaction if he is sensitive and sore.

tattychicken · 12/07/2015 20:19

What are you feeding him? Maybe cut his hard food right down. I dont know about your turn out but our fields are lush with grass at the mo, sometimes that can go to their heads a bit.
And when my sister's mad mare came back into work after box rest she used Sedalin, a mild sedative tgat you give them in an oral syringe. She wasn't dopey at all, just had the edge taken off her and made her safe.

horseygeorgie · 13/07/2015 12:32

Assuming all the regular checks have been up to date and done, I would cut ALL feed out and turn him out 24/7. What does his work consist of? If he is very sharp I would not be trying to keep him sedate but as soon as you get him off the yard I would be cracking on and getting him moving and engaged. Lots of forward hacking and fairly good distances. Wouldn't recommend lunging as all that will happen is he will get bored and fitter and you will be spending less time in the saddle!
I'll be unpopular for this but if he is bad to turnout then I would be getting myself a chifney and a pair of gloves. He is old enough to know better!
What sort of home did he come from?
Why was he off work?

horseygeorgie · 13/07/2015 12:36

I wouldn't ride a sedated horse personally! Sedaline affects different horses different ways. It may keep them quieter initially but when they do react it with be with a sudden violent burst of adrenaline and can be dangerous. Plus many people think the amount you give is in relation to the depth of sedation (ie: a small amount will just take the edge off and a large amount will put them heavily under) and that isn't true. The amount given is in relation to the length of time it is effective for. The level of sedation stays the same.

Gabilan · 13/07/2015 19:27

I would use a chifney if I were confident that this was just high jinx. However, if it isn't and the reason for his behaviour is pain-related then the whole situation would be worse for him with a chifney.

I have ridden a sedated horse but under very specific circumstances. As I understand it, and as I've experienced it, a low dose gives mild sedation ( ) But I did this with my old horse who I knew very well and trusted, and he was on restricted exercise because of a tendon injury. I knew specifically what he was hyped up about and I knew the effects sedalin had on him. I can't say it was safe, but it was less unsafe than riding him without. Also it helped calm me down. The yard owner would administer it an hour before I was due to ride. Then she reduced the dosage over time. One day I took him out, nice and relaxed thinking he was on a very mild dose. Except she lied, he wasn't on any. I just thought he was, so I was chilled out, so he was chilled out. It was a good way to break a vicious cycle of me being tense and making him more tense!

I wouldn't ride a sedated horse unless I knew the reason for its behaviour - otherwise the sedative might not have the intended effect. Sedative plus adrenalin is not a good mix in horses!

horseygeorgie · 13/07/2015 19:43

I stand corrected. Will have to inform my dippy vet!

Gabilan · 13/07/2015 19:49

I had to check Georgie! Having ridden a sedated horse, which I still don't recommend, I know he was upright and able to walk and trot.

The vet once gave him a heavier sedative to have his teeth done. I rode him carefully in the school hours later. Walk and trot were fine, canter he forgot how many legs he had. We only tried that once.

villainousbroodmare · 13/07/2015 20:02

I would have him very thoroughly examined once more - think 5 stage vetting style plus teeth plus head/ neck/ back.
If nothing is found I would not be too astonished. He sounds like he's behaving like an arse.
I wouldn't ride him sedated btw, acepromazine (Sedalin) is really unsafe. It removes inhibition.
I would not feed him any supplementary anything, I wouldn't bother with magnseium as the grass is full of it, and I would simply concentrate on using forward planning and every trick in the book (Chifney, bit, gloves, stick, martingale, lunging, working in school, plenty of help from experienced rider, consider sending him for a bit of re-schooling) to never let him away with behaving so badly.

Rexyroo12345 · 14/07/2015 20:36

Hi, thanks for all your input. He was off work due to an abscess in his foot which turned nasty. Rode today, eventually. He was like a coiled spring, head shaking, kicking at his tummy, tail swishing, wouldn't stand still to mount for love nor polos. Walked him around for a bit and he seemed calmer, worked for a bit, had a canter on each rein, then I decided that seeing as we both had all our limbs intact then that was a good time to get off. Weirdly back in the stable, he was affectionate as. Did some stretching and bending. Differnt horse to when I came. Tried without the poly pad, as a Pp suggested, not one bit of difference... Perhaps it time to retire?? Again, it's not my decision, but any thoughts??! Thanks all for the advice

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Rexyroo12345 · 14/07/2015 20:37

After all your comments I think maybe he is is just taking the piss????

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Gabilan · 14/07/2015 20:59

IMO, very difficult to say if he's just taking the piss without seeing him and you.

If you rule out pain/ stress as a cause, you're looking at management and handling.

How much ridden work do you do? And what feed is he on? My horse is 16.1 and relatively big with it, as he's an IDx. He's turned out on good grass for about 14 hours overnight, with no rug so he burns a few calories that way. He's in during the day with a small haynet, with small holes so it takes longer to eat. That's more so he doesn't have an empty gut than because he needs the nutrients. Then once a day he has a double handful of unmolassed chaff and a handful of nuts - just enough to disguise the taste of his feed supplement.

He happily works five times a week, anything from a quick 20min lunge before work to 12 miles of hills and moorland at the weekend. But I do work him - he has to be going forward with his brain engaged and he goes where he's told and does what he's told. If we have to help a farmer herd sheep, he does it, regardless of the fact that he thinks sheep are frightening (well he did think that, now he thinks shepherding is fun). I look after him, and he trusts me not to put him in situations he really can't cope with but he knows the deal. Look after your rider, and they will look after you.

villainousbroodmare · 14/07/2015 21:10

I think that an enormous amount of the problems that people have with leisure horses is due to lack of work.
We work 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day, and a generation or two ago, so did horses. My grandfather worked with draught horses and they all put in long days with a break for lunch (where the mares would go to feed their foals). We do trail rides and you can see such a difference in behaviour and manageability in the horses when they work daily as compared to when they get a few days off. There is no way that 20 minutes or even 40 minutes jogging around a sand ring is sufficient energy-draining or mental stimulation or discipline or engagement or whatever you want to call it.
I know that our lives are demanding and that we only have X amount of time but I really think this is the key. A possible alternative to providing longer duration of work for an animal is to make the work more demanding.

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