Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by bkat, Jan 9, 2018.
That's exactly what I meant.
A lot of great advice is floating around this thread in regard to his nutrition, so I'll leave that to those who know better than I.
I did want to comment on the fact that, when he is acting up under saddle, you mentioned that you dismount several times per ride and let him run around the ring. I understand completely where you're coming from, but I want to urge you to avoid that. If you need to arrange for "turnout" in the indoor before you tack him up and ride him, so be it (and so long as it fits into the barn rules and is considerate of other riders).
But, you're essentially teaching him that if he's feeling silly and wants to get out of mindful work under saddle, all he needs to do is act up. Even if you feel unsafe staying in the saddle, I would recommend some groundwork with him, rather than letting him tear around the arena. If you aren't familiar with long-lining, that might be a great option to learn and incorporate.
My vote is training issue , not feed issue. Horse is feeling better and was allowed , and is still being allowed , to cross boundaries.
And DO NOT let a horse tear around , even on the lunge. I have one clear cut rule:
Once a horse is under tack it is to behave. Period. No tearing and bucking on lunge line, it will be immediately stopped.
Tearing around is to be done without any tack in place , in turnout. Or in an arena if must be , but BEFORE you tack up or ride. Once tack is in place the shenanigans are done.
Again, without a video nobody can see what is going on. It could be a rider caused problem. For example you can get a lot of horses on the hotter or more sensitive side of the spectrum to flip relatively easily if you hang in their face.
The change in your horse's attitude is not unexpected. He was docile and quiet when you first got him because he was underfed, and now it sounds as though he's being overfed. For weight building you're better off feeding more lucerne/alfalfa hay and adding oil to his diet. Feed should always be increased gradually over a period of several weeks so it doesn't shock the horse's digestive system. TBs can be very sensitive to grain (as you have discovered) as well as rich pasture with high sugar levels.
If he's an OTTB there is a high possibility that he has ulcers and the grain might be causing these to flare up. Also, exercise on an empty stomach can cause stomach acids to splash up to the sensitive upper part of the stomach. Feeding hay 30-60mins before a ride creates a buffer between the acids and the upper part of the stomach. I always give my horse hay as I'm tacking her up, as well as a supplement to support gut comfort mixed with some chaff.
I would slowly decrease the amount of grain to the recommended level, and increase hay/oil. Hay and oil will help him maintain weight without going loopy. I'm not sure if you have programs like this in the US, but in Aus we have FeedXL which is a software program that helps calculate whether your feed ration is meeting (or exceeding) your horse's dietary needs. Feed management plays a huge role in a horse's health and behaviour. If you pumped a kid full of sugar he'd be a nightmare in the classroom and at home!
Rather than getting off the horse after he's acted up during your ride, I would suggest incorporating 10-15mins of groundwork before you get on. Think of it as a pre-flight check. Make sure he's listening to you; check what mood he's in; get him to walk, trot and canter in both directions; ask him to back up and yield his hindquarters etc. If he is going to be silly it's better for him to do it on the ground. Put some pressure on him and get all that fizzy nonsense out of his system. When he's calm and listening to you on the ground, then you can get on. Also, you don't want him to learn that every time he acts up under saddle you'll dismount. That sends the wrong message to the horse. If he does act up, stick with him until he relaxes and takes a calm step. Only get off him when he's calm. With really nervous horses I will sometimes get off after 5 minutes if they have been calm from the very start of the ride and tried really hard for me. They quickly learn that being calm = less work, and being silly = lots and LOTS of work. If you absolutely have to dismount because the situation is too dangerous, make sure you put him straight to work on the ground so he isn't rewarded for the bad behaviour. Like, as soon as your feet hit the ground assertively back him up the length of the arena or make him yield his hindquarters.
Best of luck!
Backing up the length of the arena, mounted or unmounted, is not recommended because of the strain on the hocks and back. I have seen a fair number of horses ruined by such practices. Please don't.
Instead, back him up only three or four steps, ONLY if he needs to to get his attention and balance back after you dismount, and do not make it punitive. Never use backing up as a punishment. Horses that are punished by reining back soon wind up refusing to back up when asked in competition, probably because it's ruining their hocks and it hurts. Thoroughbreds especially are not built for that kind of thing.
As far as feeding a horse before he's worked, that is not recommended and makes no sense. Because food clears the stomach fairly quickly - fifteen minutes or so, so feeding a horse before work really has zero protective value re preventing ulcers in the stomach. In fact, old timers recommend that feed is withheld before work for at least one hour, to avoid having a lot of stomach contents splashing around in or close to the stomach, and if a horse is going to work hard (whether because you wanted to or because he gets loose and tears all over the place for an hour before you can catch him), having just been fed and then giving the horse a significant amount of work, exercise or whatever, is a great way to have him colic.
Never, ever punish a horse for having energy or being energetic, that is all this horse has done, is have a lot of energy. He hasn't done anything wrong and none of this is his fault. Punishing him for this, taking the attitude that he is 'behaving badly', is wrong, especially since we want horses to go forward eagerly when requested.
Number one - cut his grain. You're giving him too much. It's too much for two horses. That product's feed bag makes that clear. That's why he's doing this. He was ok on the previous program and it should not have been changed. Get weight gain through feeding ordinary hay and giving it time, forget about oil, it's completely misunderstood and over rated. He'll get the same 'spike' in insulin, it will just come a few hours later, and it has the same issues as any calorie source when a horse is getting too many calories - in fact it's extremely calorie dense and he's far better off simply eating hay. He probably doesn't need any grain at all if the hay is adequate and he's gotten to a reasonable weight for his type. And please, find out if he's already at a reasonable weight for his type(he probably is) and if he is, just leave it at that.
Hopefully he gets better as you correct his diet. But he's still likely to have 2-3 weeks before he really can ease on down.
Give him an opportunity to get out some of his excess energy before you ride, but not in a punitive manner. For one, if he's sound, do something with him every day. Every day. Seven days a week. Ride him 2 days in a row, then do something else, then ride him 3 days in a row.
Make sure he has one day a week, every week, to really blow out the pipes. Free jump him in a lane(teach him so he knows what he's supposed to do, if you don't know how, get help)on one day off. On another day off see if you can get someone to ride him who isn't afraid of him, and lets him really bust a move for 10 minutes or so. A trail ride would be fine if the other person can stay stuck on him and he comes back happy and not hurt. Most off the track Thoroughbreds have very little experience in bad footing, deep mud, rocks, etc, so be careful about where he's ridden.
Let him 'trot on' as he pleases on a longe line in a bridle and side reins before you ride (be sure you have them adjusted right and have someone show you how to put them on one at a time, on a horse that's never had them on), but get him focused and make him track up (he's probably less likely to play up on the longe in trot than in a canter),
SOME horses can be longed safely when they feel this way, some cannot and will get hurt - some will get hurt very badly. Don't risk that. If the horse is 'torquing' around, twisting and leaning on the longe line, if he shows any indications of either front or hind feet slipping, stop him and find a different way to deal with it. And like I noted he may trot better on the longe line than canter.
The best way for a horse to relax and tone down is to have a safe place to spend the daylight hours, where he can move about as much as he pleases and as FAST as he pleases*. A large paddock that allows him to stretch his legs and move all day, is ideal. If he gets along with other horses he can possibly go out in a group. It wouldn't be bad if he was out 24/7. SOME horses get worse when turned out, and some will run the fence and get hysterically worked up, so keep an eye on that.
My mare is very hot and on any diet, she's a wild woman. Even with nothing but hay. Now, she can't eat hay, so I have learned to feed her a 'complete feed', she's quite a bit hotter than before and I have had to learn to deal with her as she is.
Whether temporary or longer term, we have to understand and accept our horses as they are. We cannot force them to be something they are not. My mare NEEDS to move. She's not happy being forced to be something she's not. That's her personality and the amount of movement and activity she needs. She has no control over that. She is as honest as the day is long, she will do anything for you, but she just will never be a 'quiet' horse. When we accept that, don't punish them for it, and learn to help them get what they need in so far as activity, stimulation and just plain MOVING, both of us, horse and owner, are a lot happier.
* I went to look at a horse for sale yesterday and a Thb mare was alone in a big paddock and trotting back and forth the length of the paddock. I came out a half hour later, she was still trotting. The poor thing had just been in the barn for a month with no turnout....she was making up for a whole month of confinement...she HAD to move and keep moving.
I do agree about the backing. I had a horse years ago where the trainer backed her up, actually let her back up because the horse felt it was in trouble. Horse was so stiff and sore. I usually back up more like two horse lengths because I want it a bit longer than what they ask in our patterns so my horse is strong backing up the whole length.
I do feed my horse some food before I ride because I tend to ride him just prior to feeding time. He does better if he had some food prior to riding. At shows where I am showing about feeding time I feed him earlier because I am in charge of his feed at the shows. The barn I give him some grain with supplements and a pitchfork work of hay.
slc - studies into ulcer prevention have identified that feeding hay 30-60mins before exercise is beneficial. Feeding forage before a ride is highly recommended for gut health and ulcer prevention because the protein and calcium in the hay, combined with the saliva created by chewing, buffer the stomach acid. Exercise on an empty stomach is a common contributor to stomach ulcers. The old myth of not feeding a horse an hour before exercise is just that - a myth. Feeding grain can cause problems, but feeding forage is beneficial and has no impact on performance.
With the backing up, the purpose isn't to punish the horse, it's to keep the horse working. Dismounting is a release of pressure so you need to do something to counteract that, otherwise the horse will think he's done the right thing by misbehaving. It's damage control and not something you want to be doing very often. Asking the horse do something he's capable of doing but finds difficult isn't a punishment. Otherwise all advanced dressage movements would be a punishment! It's true, there are short-tempered people out there who will aggressively yell and shout at a horse while backing it up. The horse looks terrified and the person usually stops while the horse's eyes are still bugging out of its head. Of course that is going to cause tension. But backing a horse up assertively (not aggressively) until it softens and starts listening to you will not ruin it. And again, only stop when the horse is calm.
If you are concerned about the risk of injury caused by backing up, you can ask the horse to yield his hindquarters away from you instead. Or alternatively back up a few steps, then walk forward a few steps, then yield, then back up a few steps etc etc to keep the horse's mind occupied and make him work. But... the ultimate goal is to get the horse listening to you before you get on so you don't have to dismount partway through your ride. Set yourself up for success by not overfeeding the horse and getting him focused on the ground first. That was you won't have to do damage control after he throws a fit while you're on his back.
Some of this has already been said but as someone who also took an OTTB who was sweet and kind and calm and was surprised to find that when he had his ulcers treated and weight on that he was a different horse. This happens with horses that are malnourished or in otherwise pain. A horse who is in pain is often complacent and "calm" and when they feel better they are a completely different animal.
Grain is also super important so the less concentrate you give the better. Alfalfa is great. Oils are good.
I suggest you get yourself a cheap kitchen scale. Zero it with your container and figure out how many of those you need to meet the manufacturers directions on the bag for his exercise level. Using oils or fats as calories such as cocosoya oil, flax or rice bran oil(great stuff for a lot of hot horses) and something like a 10-14% level nsc feed will help with his craziness. Also magnesium is a natural calming agent (often used just for that) and if they are deficient can be agitated and high energy. Also vitamin E, Selenium should be addressed but be careful with the last of those. Some areas are deficient and so it should be added. Be careful to not add too much, as it can cause harm, but its worth reading up on and speaking to a dietician about. Most feed stores have equine nutrition specialists on staff in my area and I've found they are always very helpful and knowledgeable.
I don't have a TB, I have a butterball air fern appy but I feel like I'm reading our story. When I first got my mare she was really quiet to ride, but there came a point where she started to feel really good and also decided it was time to start challenging me. She became positively unruly and pushed every boundary she could. I responded as you have, by doing the lunging, and free lunging if she's too batty under saddle. If you get off to let him burn off steam, put him on the lunge and make him WORK. make him listen to you with lots of changes of gait and direction. don't just let him run around like a crazy horse, that's what he WANTED to do. You just rewarded him for misbehaving under saddle by getting off and letting him run. Win for him. I like to do a lot of pole work with my mare when she is distracted and hot like this. The poles make her focus and slow down. She can't barge around the ring. I do laterals and changes of gait between sets of poles, at a slow pace. Mostly at walk or jog. If we're behaving, a few laps of lope at the end. We always have a fair trail pattern set up in the arena and it changes constantly which works great for us and her busy little brain.
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