Depressed about lack of progress with "project" horse

wench

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As some may recall, bought an old horse back at the end of January as saw an advert of her looking in poor condition.

All I seem to achieved so far with her is to have got her looking in much better condition. Her ridden work hasn't really improved, still grouchy to tack up, and she's a bit less bolshy to handle, but still isn't where I would like her to be.

Had saddle fitted/sorted, teeth done; is on an extended course of equine touch (similar to Bowen) to help iron out muscle tension.

I do have lessons, although due to unusual circumstances haven't had many of since purchase of horse. i have been trying slightly different feeding regimes, but she's been more or less the same on an "ulcer friendly" diet as on cheapo conditioning cubes which are probably quite high starch.

Ideally we'd be just hacking around getting her settled in, but I generally don't have anyone to hack with, and our hacking facilties are not ideal for her.

I have tried using polework to help with ridden work, I don't know if she's had a bad experience, or just plain stupid but doesn't seem to grasp the concept of them at all, and then ends up in a panic about it all.

The equine touch is helping to sort out muscular problems that I previously knew about, and I'm happy I know the cause of them.

She's had ulcers before, pretty sure she hasn't got them any more. I don't really want to have to get the vet out; the horse cost me a fortune before when I had her, trying in vain to find stuff wrong, when there wasn't really anything wrong. Not really sure what I'd tell a vet either, my horse is a grumpy so and so!

Sorry for the essay, just wanted a good moan, any thoughts and comments welcome
 

be positive

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If you know she had ulcers when you owned her previously and she has since gone through a rough time resulting in poor condition then why do you think she does not have them now when she is showing symptoms.
I have only seen equine touch once and while the horse seemed to enjoy it and was relaxed during treatment it did nothing to address the cause of the tension which responded to treatment by a physio, I would think a couple of sessions with a physio would be more beneficial and cheaper than an extended course of ET on getting the muscle issues sorted.

Did she do poles before, if so then she may have had a bad experience, if not then she may genuinely not yet get them or be finding it difficult at this stage, you sound frustrated, I know the feeling, maybe the best thing would be to have a break for a few weeks if hacking is not an option then take her out on long reins or in hand and work on that, if the plan is to sell her on being able to hack should be a priority as that is the main requirement for most people unless the horse is a high level competition animal which she does not seem to be.
 

wench

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When she had ulcers before she was unrideable. She is ridable now and not displaying any of the symptoms she did previously. I am aware she could have them, but at the minute I'm on the fence about it.

I'm happy with the equine touch, the horse is responding well, and the practitioner has picked up what I know is wrong. ive also used the practitioner on my other horse, and they make a large difference.

Eta with poles, I didn't really do much pole work with her before as she was mainly on schooling livery. She did do some jumping and enjoyed it.
 

Pearlsasinger

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i don't understand why you think that a high starch diet is ulcer friendly. My understanding is that ulcer-prone horses need to trickle feed a high fibre diet. In your position I would feed the horse an appropriate diet with aloe vera juice and monitor behaviour carefully. If there is no improvement, get the vet.
 

wench

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Where did I ever say that high starch is ulcer friendly? What I did say was it makes no difference what she's fed
 

Pearlsasinger

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Where did I ever say that high starch is ulcer friendly? What I did say was it makes no difference what she's fed

How rude! Perhaps you should write more clearly what you mean.

As you only got her back at the end of January, i wouldn't have thought you would have had time to try many different feeds.
 

moosea

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You sound like you've lost your way a little, in the sense that you have no clear goal or plan to achieve your goal.

You should sit down and write a rough plan of what you want to achieve and the steps you need to take to get there.

If you want the horse to hack you need her to listen to you in the school first. Are you able to make basic transitions? if not - work on it until you can. Can you bend her and get basic lateral movements? When hacking having a horse you can move left or right is very handy when doing gates. If you can't do this then work on it in the school and fields until you can.
The same with poles really. You have identified a problem - work on it or live with it. Start with single pole and just walk over it, around it , circle it.

As for the attitude on the ground I would suggest the you get a vet to give her a good examination to rule out physical problems. Then work on making sure you are positive when handling her.

You'll only get what you give - put more in.
 

honetpot

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I always think what is the horse good at and happy with. There is no point in trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, if he is relaxed and happy hacking I would just be happy with that for now. The grumpiness, sometimes they are just grumpy, but her life and treatment have probably made this her personality and I would not expect it to change, I would just work round it.
I used to buy horses that people had bought for one job, failed and thought the horse was of little value. You take it home, you play with it, you see what clicks, allow it to succeed and build on that.
I suppose what I am saying is you and have a achieved a lot, so give yourself a pat, but you may have to adjust your expectations.
 

EQUIDAE

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Where did I ever say that high starch is ulcer friendly? What I did say was it makes no difference what she's fed

If you have only had her with January you haven't given her enough time for an ulcer friendly diet to start to work. Keep switching feeds will make it worse at it will upset the gut bacteria. Put her on a low starch high fibre feed where she is never left with an empty belly and keep it up for 3 months. This will give 4 months to get the gut bacteria sorted and then 2 months to allow any ulcers to heal.

I think expecting progression on a project with known issues is going to take longer than 3 months.

I am a little surprised you haven't had a vet out - only a vet is able to diagnose ulcers and back problems. The pain may not be ulcers, may not be muscular - it may be mechanical. You can bet your bottom dollar a horse who is grumpy is a horse who is in discomfort.
 

JanetGeorge

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I am a little surprised you haven't had a vet out - only a vet is able to diagnose ulcers and back problems. The pain may not be ulcers, may not be muscular - it may be mechanical. You can bet your bottom dollar a horse who is grumpy is a horse who is in discomfort.

I've diagnosed ulcers a couple of times without help from my vet. Bought Nexium off E-bay, started on 7 tablets a day. If there is ANY sign of improvement after 10 days, keep on Nexium for 6 weeks. Obviously diet is important. I use ad lib haylage, Grazon and a handful of Bailey's Conditioning cubes. It's worked - or IS working - with 3 to date.
 

Red-1

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i have been trying slightly different feeding regimes, but she's been more or less the same on an "ulcer friendly" diet as on cheapo conditioning cubes which are probably quite high starch.

She's had ulcers before, pretty sure she hasn't got them any more. I don't really want to have to get the vet out; the horse cost me a fortune before when I had her, trying in vain to find stuff wrong, when there wasn't really anything wrong. Not really sure what I'd tell a vet either, my horse is a grumpy so and so!

This does not sound like an ideal situation all round. When you buy a project horse then they do come with issues, which take time and cash to sort out. I agree with others that you have not had time to really trial different diets, or to allow ulcers to heal, if you are not prepared to involve the vet to diagnose and treat. I too would agree with an above poster to have high fibre diet, ad lib hay, and as little stress as possible.

I do have lessons, although due to unusual circumstances haven't had many of since purchase of horse.
Ideally we'd be just hacking around getting her settled in, but I generally don't have anyone to hack with, and our hacking facilties are not ideal for her.

I thing lessons are good where a good trainer (depending on the trainer) could give a professional view of progress, it is a shame you have not been able to have them with this horse.
The hacking sounds important, I know it is not easy, but, for instance, I have asked a friend to box over to hack with my new boy, and OH did 2 weeks riding a bike! If our hacking facilities were not suitable, or I did not have back up, or the cash to ask the vet's opinion, then I am not sure I would take on a project horse.

I have tried using polework to help with ridden work, I don't know if she's had a bad experience, or just plain stupid but doesn't seem to grasp the concept of them at all, and then ends up in a panic about it all.

See, this is the paragraph where the issues seem to break apart for me. I don't think she is "just plain stupid". If she is panicking then she does not understand, or has bad experiences, and needs understanding to get through it. If she ends up in a panic then she needs to go slower. If you feel impatient, then she will struggle even more.

I would not use poles to help with the ridden work in these circumstances. The ridden work needs to be understood well enough that she has the tools to be helped to understand the pole work.

Not really sure what I'd tell a vet either, my horse is a grumpy so and so!

Yes, you could tell your vet exactly this. A specialist equine vet will recognise this as a symptom of a few possibilities. Ulcers, back issues, ovary issues......

Sorry for the essay, just wanted a good moan, any thoughts and comments welcome

Good luck, hope it all works out.
 

EQUIDAE

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I've diagnosed ulcers a couple of times without help from my vet. Bought Nexium off E-bay, started on 7 tablets a day. If there is ANY sign of improvement after 10 days, keep on Nexium for 6 weeks. Obviously diet is important. I use ad lib haylage, Grazon and a handful of Bailey's Conditioning cubes. It's worked - or IS working - with 3 to date.

Experience is wonderful thing, as is the willingness to put your hand in your pocket - the op seems to be lacking in both fronts though :(
 

ester

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Poor horse, why did you buy her back in bad nick and then be remiss to get the vet to give her a one over?
 

NiceNeverNaughty

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I always think what is the horse good at and happy with. There is no point in trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, if he is relaxed and happy hacking I would just be happy with that for now. The grumpiness, sometimes they are just grumpy, but her life and treatment have probably made this her personality and I would not expect it to change, I would just work round it.
I used to buy horses that people had bought for one job, failed and thought the horse was of little value. You take it home, you play with it, you see what clicks, allow it to succeed and build on that.
I suppose what I am saying is you and have a achieved a lot, so give yourself a pat, but you may have to adjust your expectations.

honeypot speaks sense. Also, if she’s had ulcers before the change in coming to you could easily have made them come back. I also bought a horse in January and as we were moving house she’s unfortunately had to move twice with us.... she’s a bit stressy and had gone more reluctant to go forward and generally more grumpy so I just had her scoped and bingo, now on ulcer treatment. I consider mine only just to be settling in and still getting to know her really. Some take longer than others and if there is a history like yours it would be expecting a lot to have turned her round so soon. Why not just take the pressure off for a few months, allow her to really settle and feel well in herself then start to set more goals. That’s what Im doing with mine anyway, she’s 2 months of ulcer meds, turned out 24/7 with ad lib hay and on happy tummy chaff. It’s hard sometimes when things dont go at the pace you’d like, especially at this time of year when you want to start being out and about. Im blessed to have 2 to ride and that certainly helps.
 

sjp1

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I know it all seems daunting, but really a few months is nothing to turn a horse around that is a 'project horse' I would agree, stick to low starch, low sugar feeds - it is actually quite amazing how many feeds are advertised as being low sugar but have a whopping 15% starch in them - Spillers Fibre Cubes being one (!!) Mine went loopy on those and he isn't a project horse, but probably should be!!

And to me, repetition, repetition, repetition is key for horses that worry. Also that they enjoy what they do, so if schooling/trotting poles are too much, don't do it, do what they enjoy.

I would get someone out to look at the whole muscular side of the horse. My own - despite having saddles 'fitted' actually ended up with massive issues. It was only when he hung himself off the stable bolt by a halter - having been left there for five seconds whilst I turned around to pick up my head torch - that I found an amazing lady chiropracter who found there were MANY issues with loaded shoulders, locked up back - saddle not fitting - the list went on.

But ulcers may have recurred, if they aren't hindgut the vet will pick them up, if they are hindgut, you will need to adjust your feed accordingly, and put it on something like Equishure etc., but thats gut instinct. But it could also be an awful lot of other things.

Its very difficult though when you are by yourself and no-one to ride out with, but I think you are putting a lot of pressure on both of you for a very short time scale of owning the horse.

Am sure you will get through it - there are times we all want to throw the towel in, believe you me!!
 

gnubee

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I do agree that getting a vet to check ulcers are now gone and vet recommended chiro/ physio for the back issues would be a great start to rule out pain as an issue. If you are really confident that this is under control though, it sounds like your ridden issues need breaking down into much smaller manageable steps.
From your post I get the impression you used to ride this horse reasonably happily and are now struggling to get it back up to a similar level. I suspect you were hoping that if you rode like you used to the horse would still understand as in the past and come back fairly quickly, and instead you have ended up with a proper project. Try to revise your mindset from thinking of fixing a horse to backing a horse from scratch. In fact what you have is trickier as you have a horse that has been so badly handled that things it used to understand are now confusing and /or scary, but focussing on starting from scratch and putting the right buttons back on the horse should get you thinking in the right way.
It sounds like hacking is quite some way off due to your set up, so focus on what is happening in the school. Pick maybe 2 or 3 long term goals to focus on and work up to, then understand the stages you need to go through to get to these and think about what exercises may help. In your situation my first goals might be walking happily forward into a gentle contact, trotting happily over a pole and establishing sufficient control over speed and direction that you can enter an online walk and trot dressage test. For the walk I would then think about getting the horse settled and happy by working on a loose rein for at least half of each session so far as possible and making sure all the non rein aids are clearly understood. Get the horse actively forward and overtracking on straight lines on long side and across the school. Do circles and yielding if you are both comfortable with it for lateral suppleness. Forget about doing things that are unnecessary for your goals (like canter and jumping). At the point where you are both ready it should become a goal, (in a specific way like canter a full lap of the school in even pace) but be realistic about setting goals at the right level first. Your instructor should be able to help you identify relevant goals when you get back into lessons.
 
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