Full On Meltdown

Horse blogging is about being honest, right? Even when it’s ugly?

Prepare for ugly.

Nibbles reached a new peak of meltdown last night. When I got there, it was quiet. When I pulled her into the barn to tack up, they started cutting hay across the road. She immediately started worrying. Put the saddle on, she’s watching for the tractors. Before I even attach the girth, she starts dancing and starts weaving away from me. She didn’t bite but kept giving me the hairy eyeball and even bobbed her nose towards me. I guess it’s worth defending the fact that I slowly tighten her girth after lunging her; I never crank it tight from the start. I wish I could clearly articulate how unusual this behavior is for her. I think she’s in heat but at 6 years old, she’s never been more than just a little sensitive when in heat.

When we got to the arena, the BO start up a buzz saw. And it all culminated in a horse I could not get focused on me, not even a little. In fact, I didn’t recognize this horse. Her behavior has become so frantic and uncharacteristic. She’s normally such an easy going horse. This pattern started and has been getting worse since my other mare left for Canada. It’s been a little under a month now and based on the mild colic episode last week and her behavior worsening, I’m starting to suspect the vet was right and she may have ulcers.

Last night was the first time I’ve had to use an emergency dismount in several years. I knew I was in actual danger and she wasn’t just been a greenie. My butt was in the saddle all of 60 seconds when I felt like she was going to flip over on me. At this point, I’m exasperated because I don’t want rides to turn into something that start scaring me and spiral downhill for her.  Up until now, she hasn’t scared me and I haven’t gotten angry with her. But I feel like I’m running out of strategies to help her and myself. The trainer I used to work with hasn’t gotten back in touch with me for a long time now and apparently she’s doing so well that she’s almost always traveling out of state.

Oh, and when I got off, I untacked her and thought maybe letting her free lunge would get the ants out of her pants. She proceeded to trot like the stereotypical Arabian, tail over her back, head jacked way up, snorting like the arena was surrounded by fire breathing monsters. Then she galloped. And when she started skidding herself into the fence, I decided it wasn’t worth her getting hurt and caught her and walked her out. Then hosed her down. I dropped the end of the lead rope and it made, you know, the sound of a lead rope hitting the ground softly. And she jumped out of her skin. What in the world? That is not like Nibbles at all.

So where do I go from here? I think there are two things. The first is having her evaluated by a vet. Because the change in behavior is so dramatic, I want to rule out ulcers or any other health problems/pain. Cue my bank account groaning. Secondly, my search for a new trainer needs to start bearing fruit. I wondered if we’d get to a point where I couldn’t handle what she dishes out and, whatever the cause, we’re there. And I don’t want to make it worse or start allowing bad behaviors, especially if they’re just lack of work ethic.

And that’s my fear. Did I just wait too long by waiting to back her until a late five year old? Have I ruined her somehow? I try to do the best I can with what I have but maybe that’s not enough. Not to sound mellow dramatic and not to sound like I’m giving up but maybe I’ve over-faced myself here and need to do some re-evaluating. I keep going down the list: where did I mess up? Bring her back into work slowly? Check. Make sure tack fits? Check. Be clear and fair with what I ask for? Check. Don’t crank her head in but encourage her moving out? Check. Reward the slightest try? Check. Avoid getting angry, even when she may deserve it in my mind? Check!!

Anyway, I’m deciding which vet I want to have look at her. I’m also debating having a very good friend of mine who is a chiropractor come out to look at and possibly adjust her. She also happens to work closely with a few vets and I trust her eye and general horse wisdom.

I’m all ears if anyone has any experience with behavior/behavior change like this. Obviously, I’m an amateur but I’m not green and I’m actively trying to find a trainer (that I trust). I feel like I’m all out of ideas. Help? Encouragement?

Editing to add I will not be getting back on her until after a full consultation with a vet at minimum.

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5 thoughts on “Full On Meltdown

  1. Karen says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. Very frustrating and scary … and worrisome because we wish horses could talk and just tell us what is wrong! You’re doing what any good horsewoman would do – evaluate for pain/ulcers and analyzing the situation. But don’t over analyze! You did not ruin her. She has been treated fairly and with kindness. My gut says anxiety/ulcers. Was the other mare her leader? You could start with treating for ulders, maybe some mare magic or some supplement your vet recommends and see how that goes. And go back to basics maybe with work – something that is super comfortable and familiar for her. I wish these animals could talk!

    • Rebecca says:

      Nibbles and Sara had an interesting relationship. They’d been pastured together and moved twice together over the last two years. Nibbles was always more dominant and brave than her in their “herd”. But Nibbles took a lot of direction from Sara, if that makes sense? In other words, they were just attached. But totally – if Nibbles spoke English, I’d be sleeping better right now!

  2. Erika says:

    I don’t have any advice to give you, as I think you probably know more than I do. I’ll just say that I can sympathize! Sometimes horses have bad weeks, and those bad weeks can turn into a rut if they don’t get corrected. An outside eye has always been helpful for me, but it sounds like you’re on the right track to finding a solid trainer. Good luck to you and Nibbles!

  3. Tracy says:

    Eep! First, I’m glad you’re both okay. I don’t have experience with young or green horses, but whenever something goes wrong for me, I always fall back on my team of professionals. I think your plan of having a vet out is a good first step, and I hope you can find a trainer that you like; I know mine has been indispensable in my progress!

  4. ridequiet says:

    I’m sorry you’re having a frustrating week – vet definitely sounds like a good idea. Hugs and try not to beat yourself up too much! Everyone is taught that it’s never the horse’s fault and I agree to an extent, but that doesn’t mean it’s always absolutely the rider/trainer’s fault, either. I think it really sounds like something else is going on with her and hopefully the vet can get her feeling right again.

    Would your vet be able to give you any recommendations for trainers in your area? Some will and some won’t, but asking doesn’t hurt. I’ve personally found really helpful advice through the COTH forums by searching for “[discipline] trainer [location/general area]” and also by PMing people who consistently show up on threads about the local riding scene and seem to have a good perspective and are having success with their horse/riding/etc.

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