"Light of Refinement" by Kayce
Acrylic on Canvas

This is a blog about my one big passion - horses. Maybe it's your passion too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Horse Problem - Fear

Accident Makes Horse Fearful

My neighbor brought her quarter horse paint, Joker,  to my farm this past week.  I'm in the painful process of planning my old horse's crossing and need a babysitter for Sundance when the time comes. It helps my neighbor out, too, since she has no grass and is also going on vacation.

Horse Develops Fear From Accident
Joker conversing with his new friend.

He's a nice guy.  Much the same "horsenality" type as Sundance, only polite-er.  A little on the scared side as far as putting on fly-masks, but very into you.  He'll come up to you and follow you around like a puppy dog.  Very into people, but respectful.

Even though I'd only met him briefly once, he took to me right away, especially after a peanut treat and he always came over to me at the fence and at feed time.

Feed time was the only time he got  a little pushy. More like crowding me.  I had put up some hot fence to keep him contained and I have to duck under it to get his food to him.  He would come over very close to the wire and that made it difficult for me to get myself under the tape without getting shocked.

The other evening when I was doing my reverse limbo under the tape,  he was right there, getting a little too close.  I reached up to wave him back so I could crawl under and that's when a very unfortunately accident happened.   I was waving my hand up at him as I stooped under the tape and my elbow touched the tape.

Right at that exact same moment, unable to wait another second for his dinner, he reached down with his head for a sniff of my waving hand.  The tape I was now in contact with, being "hot", sent a shock through my arm, down my fingers and  right into his muzzle.

Well, I jumped and he jump - backwards for about 100 yards. Then, whirling around, he ran into the far side of the paddock. As he looked back  at me with shock and dismay, I could see I had turned into the meanest scariest horse-eater this side of a mountain lion.

He ran away from me when I tried to approach him and would not even come over to his food bowl.  Eventually, he ventured a little closer, the food calling to him, but he looked askance at me and took off if I even tried to get near him.  Forget about giving him his peanut treat or rubbing his muzzle.  No, he wasn't letting me get near him.

I felt terrible.  Losing a horse's trust is easy. Removing the fear of hurting him once pain has been inflicted, even though accidentally,  is a very hard thing to do.  No amount of "I'm sorry" was going to convince him.  How could I get back the snugg-ly, sniffy, friendly horse he had been to me?

Next... What I did to overcome this horse's new fear of me .....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Horse Vaccinations and Reactions

Horse Vaccine Reactions - Can they be dangerous?

Vaccine Reaction?

They were over-due, so both horses were vaccinated yesterday.  Last night, I noticed hives on Sundance's back.  He'd never reacted to vaccines before and I was a little alarmed.  I'm always nerveous when doing anything  to either of them because of their metabolic issues.

Taking out my trusty mobile phone, I searched "hives" and "vaccine reactions" online.  I was both relieved and grateful to read hives don't seem to be much to worry about.  I text-ed my Vet anyway, just in case.

Hives Related to Vaccines

I'm not convinced the hives were from the shots.  First of all, he was inoculated around noon and I didn't notice anything until around five at feeding time.  One would think if he were going to react, it would be closer to the time of vaccination.  Secondly, he was acting normally and eating with his usual gusto.

My Vet had some questions:

  • Were the hives on both sides? - Yes, they were
  • Did he have a fever? - No, he did not.
Her advice was to take his temperature, watch him and call her if he showed any signs of getting worse or developed a fever.  She also made a note on his record for future reference.

I used my online research  about vaccine reactions in horses to monitor him. Here is a summary:

  • Horses can become hyper-reactive to vaccines over time.
    The fact he's never reacted before doesn't mean he won't now
  • It's usually the adjuvant and not the disease itself that's causing the horse's reaction.
    The adjuvant is what makes the vaccine effective.  So changing brands next time may solve the problem, since each manufacturer uses they own formulas.
  • Reactions by horses to vaccines usually occurs withing 2 hours after giving the shot.
    Sundance's reaction was hours later.  He may have been reacting to something else entirely.  I hate mysteries!
  • The most common reaction to vaccines horses display is a sore or stiff neck.
    This is the horse's body responding to the inflammation of vaccine and building immunity to the disease.  Not a serious reaction.  Giving Bute after inoculation can help alleviate this reaction.
  • Some horses develop hives.Sundance's hives may have been a reaction to the vaccines.  They were gone this morning.  Not to worry unless there's a fever.
  • Some horses' develop a swollen face or lips.
    This is an allergic reaction and needs attention.
  • Some horses colic after vaccination
    Colic after vaccination is usually anaphylactic shock, is life-threatening,  and is the most serious reaction to vaccines.

Treatments and Remedies For Vaccine Reactions In Horses

The Vet suggested I give both my horses two grams of Bute after their shots to help alleviate any soreness and inflammation.  I'm glad I did since neither of them showed any signs of stiffness.

Here are some of the remedies and treatments for reactions to horse vaccines:
  • Administer antihistamines and Banamine for the allergic reactions stated above.
  • Split the vaccines into at least two sessions, two weeks apart to minimize reactions and isolate somewhat the particular vaccine that may cause the problem.
  • Try another manufacturer next time.
  • As a last resort, if reactions are severe,  stopping vaccines altogether may be considered.
The diseases we vaccinate horses against are deadly and this last suggestion should not be taken lightly. I know  I'll never be complacent again at vaccination time.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Solving Horse Behavior Problems

Correct long toe in horse hooves to prevent problems
Trimming of the long toe.

Start With The Horse's Feet

The first thing the equine veterinary chiropractor acupuncturist looked at was Sundance's hooves.  Her approach is to look at first the feet.  Then the back.  Then the teeth.

Most horse pain issues and therefore behavior problems, stem from a problem in these three areas.  As I mentioned in the previous post about Sundance, he scored negative on all three fronts.

As for his feet, his toes were way too long.  My farrier was addressing this problem, which can't be corrected too quickly without making the horse sore.  The "toe-too-long" issue was something that I had been dealing with from too many farriers in my horse-owning time.  Apparently, there's a dearth of hoof-trimming expertise out there.

An excellent source of correct hoof trimming is Dr. Stephen O'Grady, Equine Podiatrist. Here is an article on correcting hoof angles,  long toes in particular and the resultant "broken-back pastern axis".  If the toe is allowed to grow too long, the heel becomes "under-run" and the angle of the hoof and the angle of the pastern is "broken".

There should be an unbroken imaginary line running down the pastern and the front of the hoof.  A "broken-back pastern axis" puts strain on the coffin joint and navicular bursa, and interferes with circulation of the heel.  Not a good thing.  Many farriers who trim race horses are prone to leave the toe too long because it is, mistakenly, believed that a long toe increases speed.

"No hoof, no horse."

When horses' toes are trimmed too long, cracks in the hoof can form, which can lead to abscesses, which can lead to the disaster that happened to Sunda.  bottom line - address long toes and bad hoof angles IMMEDIATELY.  It is not benign.  No, quite the contrary, it can ruin a horse.  You've heard the phrase: "No hoof, no horse"?  Well, it is absolutely true.

Problems that are caused by bad hoof angles:

  • Navicular syndrome
  • Abscesses
  • Chronic heel pain
  • Bruising
  • Coffin bone inflammation
  • Quarter and heel cracks
  • Interference
  • Lameness
  • Behavior problems

Pain in the feet from these conditions can and will cause behavior problems as the horse is being trained or ridden.  If your horse is acting up, look to pain as the cause first before calling in yet another trainer.

Horse hooves are the first place to look for pain.  I suggest learning as much about proper hoof trimming as possible so that you are better able to evaluate the farrier work your horse is receiving. Find a new one if you feel your farrier is not trimming correctly. Not every farrier understands correct hoof angles and balance.  Research, interview, and seek advice when you choose your farrier. Your horses life depends on it.

The next problem area is the horses back.  Check off this one for Sundance as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When To Put A Horse Down

How To Make A Difficult Decision Easier

I got some good advice this week from my equine dentist.  We were discussing whether my aging Arab mare was up to having her teeth floated, which led to my concerns about knowing when it was time to let her go.

I feel I want to let her live for as long as she's enjoying herself and isn't in too much pain. Given her many ailments and the lameness that will never heal, there is coming a time when I will have to make that most difficult but necessary decision.

The problem is, when a horse has problems but is dealing with them,  that decision becomes a subjective one.  When a horse is writhing on the ground, there's no doubt about what to do.  When there's a steady, gradual decline, is not as cut and dried.

Evaluating A Senior Horse

The dentist, who is a very caring horse-person and offers advice and help well beyond dental, gave me this very helpful tip on assessing an aging horse for making that dreaded decision. An ongoing measurement in black and white may take out the guesswork and provide a little peace of mind.

Still has an interest in life. Today's a 10.  It's not time yet...
Her advice was to get a calender and every day mark it with a number from 1-10 my impression of my senior horse.  One being the worst possible state of lameness and lack of ease. Ten being the best that can be expected from a 34 year old horse.  When I find myself wondering if maybe the time has come, I can look back over the calender and see a beginning trend of more low scores and fewer high scores.

So long as she's eating, enjoying walking the pasture, and correcting the gelding, I want her to have that.  But, I also don't want to wait too long and make her suffer needlessly, hoping that she'll snap out of it and be herself.

There's a fine line between giving her all the quality time possible, yet avoiding a dramatic and painful end needlessly.  A planned ending would be the best possible scenario, maintaining her dignity and limiting suffering as she deserves.  When I see a downward trend,  my decision, though never an easy one, can at least be based on "quality of life" and not on false hope.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pain - The Secret To Bad Horse Behavior?

The good news: Sundance isn't a jerk.  The bad news: Sundance is in pain.

Horse Behavior Problems and Pain

The Role of Pain In Horse Behavior Problems.

Continuing with the saga of Sundance: we weren't getting anywhere with him.  In fact, he was getting worse and worse with each training session.  To the trainer's credit, he recognized that maybe there was another reason Sundance was becoming more and more resistant and not making any progress - pain.

It just didn't make any sense.  He was so compliant and well behaved, willing and calm in the beginning.  He had holes in his training, sure, but there was no drama, no dangerous reactions, no resistance.  In fact, you only had to think about what direction you wanted to go and he went.

But with each session, his manner became became resistant, fearful and explosive.  He would not soften. He resented even the softest touch on the flank.  Don't even think about putting a leg on him - he would buck, run off or both.  The trainer suspected pain in his back was the culprit.

We examined the saddle more closely.  My trainer was using his own saddle and I felt it was too long for  Sundance's very short back (the Arab in him).  He suggested an equine veterinary acupuncture chiropractic specialist he knew.

My trainer had used her for another horse who gave him problems and felt she was good at recognizing physical problems in a horse that produced pain when trained.  She also had expertise in evaluating saddle fit.

The Source Of Most Horse Behavior Problems

I scheduled an appointment right away and it didn't take two seconds for her to spot his many issues. This equine specialist looks for three areas that can cause 99% of all horse behavior problems:

  • Feet
  • Back
  • Teeth
Sundance failed on all three points. Bad saddle fit was the least of our problems.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dealing With Equine Metabolic Syndrome And Other Issues

Before I could move on with my plans for learning Liberty Horse Training methods, I had to deal with yet another horse with Equine Metabolic Syndrome.  Apparently and unfortunately, Sundance has some kind of metabolic disorder.  Not sure if he's fully  insulin resistant or what, but he has some serious issues, and not just metabolic as it turns out.

When he first came here, he was a little chunky in appearance.

Dealing with equine metabolic syndrome
Very willing, but chunky.
Not fat, but square.  I thought it was his build.  He's a Quarab with a beautiful Arab head and more of a quarter horse body.  Well, it didn't take long after getting on my endless fields of grass before he blew up like the proverbial balloon.

I cut back on his feed and put him on a low-carb feed.  He continued to grow fatter.  A cresty neck appeared as well as fatty deposits on either side of his tail-head.  His sheath appeared swollen, there were no indentations.  Just a puffy appearance and larger than normal. His whole body looked puffy, with almost a cellulite appearance under the skin.

Sundance at his fattest.

He was very sweet when he first came, but he become cranky after a short time. I felt afraid to ride him, so I called in a "natural horsemanship" trainer to ride him and check out "where his head was at" before I tried to trail ride him.  At first, he was very compliant with the trainer and he  felt Sundance was just fine. Meaning it was ME.

The next time the trainer came out, he acted up a bit.  So I didn't ride and the trainer agreed to come a few more times to work him through it. Things just went from bad to worse with each session.  I started feeling like something else was going on here and it wasn't just  crazy bad horse behavior.

Poor guy, wish I knew then what I know now.

Next....Learning and solving Sundance's problems, one-by-one...oh yeah, he has more than one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Discovering Liberty Training

Kinder, Gentler Natural Horsemanship

The more I study the Carolyn Resnick and Cynthia Royal methods of horse training, the more excited I get.  It's not surprising that this kinder, gentler, pressure-free approach to horse training comes from women.

The fact that Carolyn Resnick has been espousing her Water Hole Rituals and Liberty Training methods for 40+ years now and I'm only just finding out about it is a testament to where her emphasis lies. It's all about the horse and your relationship with your horse.

In watching the YouTube videos by Carolyn, there's no ego to be found.  It may not have been the best career or monetary choice -  not focusing on the marketing like other natural horsemanship trainers- but it sure looks to be a better way of training  your horse without all the drama of pressure.

I get a sense that her primary focus is the horse and helping you get results without harming the horse (or you!) either physically or emotionally.  I think it's just the ticket for the type of horse Sundance is.

Carolyn Resnick's Water Hole Rituals and Liberty Training Methods For Sundance

He's so sensitive that he'll come to you with just a look.  When I rode him, he would follow your direction with just a thought.  Asking politely and quietly, and retreating when he shows resistance should make the blowups and outbursts unnecessary.

Liberty Horse Training vs. "Natural Horsemanship"

Most training techniques, even the natural horsemanship ones, put too much pressure on a horse.  For highly sensitive horses like Sundance, the results were counter productive.  I know he'll follow you and join up with hardly any effort.  And by asking politely and retreating when you reach resistance, his behavior becomes less confrontational.

I will use this "liberty training" approach to reconnect with him, regain his trust, and hopefully earn his forgiveness.

Please share any experiences you've had with the Water Hole Rituals and Liberty Training in the comment section.