Wednesday, 25 April 2018

No Whoa Woes

The trajectory of Shiraz's nervousness at the new barn *felt* mostly in a decline towards better rides, but for the last week prior to our clinic there was a bit of a resurgence of a very unhappy horse.

By the end of all these recent rides I had a horse soaked in sweat but still chugging like the energiser bunny and me using endless small circles to slow her down. She seems completely incapable of standing still and no amount of one-rein stop, circles or go-forward-until-you-are-exhausted seems to work because there is no exhausted (at least not after a full hour of hard work).

As long as we kept trotting she was really quite fine, so we trotted...
In my lesson last week with K, she was quick to point out my horse actually looked more nervous than she had the week prior. And... she was right. We went into trot to work on getting her thinking with inside bend, switching to outside bend as well as spiralling in/out on a circle and 15 minutes later Shiraz was still spazzing out with tossing head/tense shortened stride/chomping on the bit and basically acting like the world was ending and why were we all not running for our lives.

K and I both have never seen Shiraz this tense. She asked if she could get on and feel what is going on. Hell yes, please.

My first jump since January!
After playing around with trying to walk, attempting to stop and barely trotting safely (Shiraz needed her feet moving but at the same time was too tense to be in front of the leg, i.e. wanting to rear rather than extend her stride). So canter it was. A lot of canter. I cannot even say how long the canter was, but enough for Shiraz to be covered in sweat and have foamy white dripping off of her. K brought her down to a walk and Shiraz was STILL trying to jig. So more cantering.

Lesson with M went really well. And who knew slightly raised poles could essentially feel just as exciting as 2'6"?! lol!
I got back on at the end and she felt much better, but still like she could go for miles.

So? We have lots of contributing factors that could be causing this. The move on its own is an adjustment, but there may be other things adding fuel to her fire:
1. Hay. This has changed from mostly grass hay to a higher alfalfa content. This alone could be giving her added energy she is not accustomed to feeling.
2. Supplemental feed. Barn owner wanted Shiraz to have more weight and suggested a different supplement which she has now been on for a week. The protein content is not higher than her previous feed and it is designed to add fat without sugars. I really did not want to make another feed change during her adjustment to a new home since she was already getting used to new hay, but I found it hard to say no considering Shiraz had dropped a lot of weight in her first week.
3. Paddock buddy. Her new best friend is a gelding--the first gelding Shiraz has ever been with in such close quarters. There may be a hormonal component adding to the fun.
4. Arena. It is a smaller arena with a lot of outside noises (barn construction) that really grab her attention and set off a lot of increased anxiety.
5. Teeth. I had skipped her teeth rasping during her spring vet appointment because she had a lot of needle pokes all at once and I did not want to add mouth pain to her woes. I have noticed her behaviour is a bit worse under saddle with a contact on the reins so will be getting her teeth checked the next time the vet is at the barn.
6. Every other health issue under the sun that my imagination runs tangents on.

Really when I list everything, of course she is out of sorts. If it was not for the pressure of a clinic in a few days, I might have simply backed off and let her settle and adjust to it all. But, in an attempt to have a horse with intact marbles on the weekend, I brought over some of my own hay to reduce some of the alfalfa in her system and added some magnesium in a (too little, too late?) attempt to settle her.

I also decided a neck strap would be a smart add-on and practised using it in case pony goes up instead of forward.

Finally, I evaluated my goals for the clinic and use all my tools for preventative rather than reactive damage control. This meant planning on riding Shiraz at the boarding barn before heading to the clinic. Then, plan to be early and give her plenty of time to settle with no rushing and show her the new location. Lunge as much as it takes. Be clear to the clinician if I were to become worried. Having this plan outlined really helped me stay calm and positive heading into the morning of clinic day one. Only time would reveal if it would help Shiraz.


  1. oy, poor sensitive mare :( seems like she's got bees all up in her bonnet. looking nice in those pics and clips tho! hopefully your "everything on the table" approach helped her feel her best for the clinic!

  2. I love your approach to figuring this out and being preventative vs. reactive. Hopefully it helped!

  3. Frustrating, but young and inexperienced horses can get overwhelmed about one thing and it carries over into everything. Sounds like you have a pretty comprehensive approach to fix things though, and some quiet easy ground work might also be helpful. Good luck!

  4. Oh dear. For what it's worth, Carmen can't have alfalfa at all- she becomes nutty. The other thing that occurs to me is ulcers from the move.

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