I have had a lot of trouble with Chance this summer. I have not posted about it because I have been trying to find a way to resolve it. I have had a lot of struggles with this horse over the past few years, and I thought we were past much of it. It all began when we finally made it to a horse show after the rainiest spring ever. He developed an in-gate issue… He would be sassy past the gate (half bucks, head tossing, etc.), then run out at the jumps going away from the in-gate. Things just kept spiraling downward at each show we attempted. It didn’t make any sense. Last year we struggled, but we did have a lot of success and his behavior was nowhere near as bad at it was this year. Also, he had been a perfect angel at home, which was even more baffling. I get nervous at shows, sure, but not enough to warrant running out at teeny tiny jumps and acting like the spawn of Satan. He was a completely different horse each time he was off the farm. Thus, my trainer and I began thinking that he might have an ulcer that flairs when he is under stress.
Here we go again…..
The vet suggested that we decided to try ulcer guard paste the week of a horse show, to see if it helped his behavior. But before we had a chance to try that, he began acting sour at the barn. One day a couple of weeks ago, I was not riding well and we both got a little flustered; it was also blazing hot. He started running out at the jump, and then became so sour he would not even walk forward. When I kicked, he would turn around a bite at my foot – a surefire sign of stomach troubles. I was able to get him to somewhat go back to work that day, and I have been able to work through his sourness since then. The plan is to put him on a supplement for a while and if he improves, do a formal treatment.
This horse has had quite the plethora of problems over the past few years. First, it was his hormones. He was likely gelded late, or not properly, so he gets a hormone injection to balance everything out. Then, it was his soft, flaky feet that caused problems. Through shoeing, supplements, and injections we seem to have gotten that under control. Next, I struggled to find a proper fitting saddle, that did not pinch his withers. All of these physical issues caused behavior problems. Resolving them greatly improved his demeanor. So I am hopeful that resolving his tummy troubles will improve his attitude even more.
This journey I have had with Chance over the past few years has helped me to realize that horses are not merely bad or good. There are often physical reasons for poor behavior and training issues. When a horse is not feeling good, he or she is not going to perform well. If his stomach is bothering him, I can completely understand why he is so dull and resistant to my leg. I have suffered from stomach issues for much of my life, and it is not fun! I find it difficult to much of anything during a flareup. Earlier this summer, after a particularly tough horse show, I was so angry and frustrated with Chance’s behavior. Looking back, I feel terrible that I did not think that something could be wrong sooner. I had the same guilt when I did not recognize that his saddle was not fitting properly. I again feel embarrassed that after all my years around horses, I can be clueless to certain problems. I am just thankful I realized before things became worse. Before he completely soured under saddle, or even worse: colicked. I urge all of you to look beyond the surface when your horses exhibit behavior problems. Sometimes it isn’t simply horses being horses; sometimes they are hurting and the bucks and refusals are the only way they can tell us.
Although it is a little frustrating that he appears to have another problem I am going to have to deal with, I am thankful that he is likely not having a mental breakdown! I am hopeful that my vet, trainer, and I will be able to get this under control and get him in the show ring! With horses, it is always something right?!