To keep trying or to depart from my best friend

telerimist

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I've had my wonderful mare for the past 7 years, my first horse that I've brought on from scratch since a 6yo and who is my best friend. We've been and done a bit of everything to which she was always very keen and enjoying herself with good results (well for an amateur that we got above 60% or had the unlucky 4 fault but had a safe round!) just ticking along happily. Then the last year or two (she's now 13), her performance dropped, stopping at fences/silly spooking/naughty dropping a shoulder and spinning resulting in elimination rounds and poor results and an upset horse which is genuinely acting like she's had enough, no longer wants to compete. Yet she is more than happy to participate in group lessons in all disciplines (pony club etc), hacking etc but steps in an arena to compete and whole behaviour changes and for my confident, laid back, 'bring it on' attitude horse this is not the her.

We've tried all sorts over the last year. Given her a holiday in a field, a holiday with bonding and no ridden work, a break from competition, just hacking and no schooling, more schooling, training shows to build up confidence, going back to basics, lessons galore and all the usual teeth (x2), back (x4), physio (myself and her!), vet (even had her re-vetted), saddles refitted, new soft bit (which she loves at home!), new yard with a calm atmosphere with more turnout (so she can be more of a 'horse') which is also loves.
So I am at a loss as to what to do/try, is she trying to tell us she's had enough, wants a quieter life maybe? Or am I completely oblivious to something else? It's just such a shame for a talented horse to give up on something it once enjoyed so much, which I want to compete and learn more but horse won't allow that so thinking of moving her on to a hacking/hunting non-competitive home?

If you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. I'm here asking the kind-hearted for advice/thoughts! What to do with my best friend?! I've simply ran out of ideas.
 

Happy Hunter

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Sounds heart wrenching!
I take it you really want to keep competing / going up the scales then??

If it were me - and I didn't want the same as her - I would try to make her happy.
Has she ever been hunting - so you know she would enjoy it?

She might be a fickle so and so and just not like anything but sitting in a field making farts or babies!
 

Holly Hocks

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Well if it were me, I would have to decide whether I loved my horse more than I loved competing. If it was the horse, then I would adapt to a non-competitive lifestyle - as you say, hacking and hunting, but if you really want to compete, then sell her to a quieter home, or maybe loan her from where you are now, which would allow you to get another one to compete?
 

kerrieberry2

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oh bless her! have you tried her with a different rider? is she the same? what is she like when she's just hacking? happier?

what about her feed? have you tried changing that? what does she have?
 

telerimist

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Sounds heart wrenching!
I take it you really want to keep competing / going up the scales then??

If it were me - and I didn't want the same as her - I would try to make her happy.
Has she ever been hunting - so you know she would enjoy it?

She might be a fickle so and so and just not like anything but sitting in a field making farts or babies!
I enjoy competing, especially as my mare made it so fun and enjoyable but I hoped we'd affiliate and do well and it's something I've always wanted to do when the time came. She loves sponsored rides/big group hacks and cantering around with others but isn't upset or startled when another horse gallops past or is having a buck around and she'd happily hack all day so I think she'd enjoy it as she's go the temperament for it.
Oh if I had the money to keep her as my little field ornament I would do but simply not possible! :(
 

telerimist

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Well if it were me, I would have to decide whether I loved my horse more than I loved competing. If it was the horse, then I would adapt to a non-competitive lifestyle - as you say, hacking and hunting, but if you really want to compete, then sell her to a quieter home, or maybe loan her from where you are now, which would allow you to get another one to compete?
I had considered your questions of the horse or competition, but I merely love it so much as she gave me that enjoyment! Just a shame she's changed her mind!

oh bless her! have you tried her with a different rider? is she the same? what is she like when she's just hacking? happier?

what about her feed? have you tried changing that? what does she have?
Yes, very sympathic instructor and my friend a 2* event rider who both say she's just lacking the willing to please and oomph she used to. She's a very good doer, can get a little fizzy on any high energy feeds. She's fed on Allen&Page Calm and Collected and Happy hoof, the same feed she's had for several years now.
 

kerrieberry2

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yes I know fizzy mares well, mine took until the age of 26 before she chilled out enough!

could you put her out on loan and see how she does as a happy hacker then get something else to compete on?
 

ridefast

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I would go with, for some reason she's lost her confidence on her own, is it confidence, or is it pain? Is it that in groups it's more exciting and with raised adrenalin she can forget any discomfort that may be going on? Or are you maybe riding her differently for one reason or another, maybe anticipating the unwanted behaviour? What is she like with someone else riding? Have you gone right back to basics with her? Has the vet done blood tests on her? Has she been treated for ulcers? Sorry if you've already covered this I may have missed it
 

telerimist

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yes I know fizzy mares well, mine took until the age of 26 before she chilled out enough!

could you put her out on loan and see how she does as a happy hacker then get something else to compete on?
Oh wow, felt very well in herself then! :) I'm very lucky to have my pony out to an amazing hacking home but I fear I won't get the same luck twice, I don't think loan may be an option as she would need the fund the purchase of another horse is it came to that.
 

telerimist

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I would go with, for some reason she's lost her confidence on her own, is it confidence, or is it pain? Is it that in groups it's more exciting and with raised adrenalin she can forget any discomfort that may be going on? Or are you maybe riding her differently for one reason or another, maybe anticipating the unwanted behaviour? What is she like with someone else riding? Have you gone right back to basics with her? Has the vet done blood tests on her? Has she been treated for ulcers? Sorry if you've already covered this I may have missed it
No pain as back, physio and teeth seen to numerous times in the last year and bloods taken by vet and passed a vetting. No behavioural changes elsewhere apart from the ring. Shes not a excitable horse, she seems to just enjoy the laid back atmosphere of group lessons with more horses. My instructor suggested it may be the way I'm riding to which we've adapted that and ensured my riding has been nothing but positive and encouraging, obviously I made the odd mistake but I know I do as does everyone. The same with other people and yes gone back to basics, including all basic aids and approaches to her work.
 

ridefast

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Does sound like you've covered everything really, I guess the only other thing to try would be cut out the hard feed and see if there's a difference?
 

telerimist

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Does sound like you've covered everything really, I guess the only other thing to try would be cut out the hard feed and see if there's a difference?
Yep, this is why I'm at a loss of what to do but she needs to be happy and I'm not going to force her to do something she doesn't want to do. What would cutting out her hard feed do? She's only on cool&collected with happy hoof.
 

telerimist

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Do you know what OP? If I was looking for another horse, she sounds just what I would be looking for! A good safe hack!
Awhh! She is fantastic, taught my boyfriend to ride and he enjoys an hour hack (only if he's allowed the expensive dressage saddle, as she's only allowed the best!) I don't think I can sell her on until I'm 100% sure there's no physical issue going on even though I am 99% sure.
 

shergar

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Sorry to read you are having problems,as you say your mare has a drop in performance and is being naughty,have you considered ulcers,you say that you have moved to a calmer yard,and I wonder was you horse stressed at your old yard ,I am sure there has to be a reason for the change in behaviour,if you google ULCERS IN HORSES on that page you will find ULCER DIAGNOSIS BY MARK DE PAOLO am not sure how to do a link,its very interesting. If not ULCERS could you do a trail with Bute to rule out any pain issues.
 

ladyt25

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Hmm, I would still suspect some discomfort somewhere to be perfectly honest as it seems very similar to how my horse went after a while. I'd had him since he was 4 yo and he'd always been fab at everything and I jumped him to Newcomer level before I went to college (he came too and was used on the school for a year).

However, he started refusing fences at one point which was unheard of. It turned out he had a sore back. We had it treated but it had sort of started a vicious circle of lack of confidence - me in him and I guess vice versa. I stopped jumping affiliated as we were just getting nowhere and I could tell he was getting stressed about it as was I as couldn't guarantee I'd ever get round a course whereas prior to this I never even considered knocking a pole, let alone getting refusals!

We actually went on like this for a good few years until I finally actually changed his saddle about 5 or so years ago. Well, what a difference! I sooo wish I'd done it years ago (my horse is 23 now). His confidence came back although I suppose it was a gradual thing but, when I think back I don't think we've really had any serious refusals since then! I stopped doing just showjumping anyway and actually did more XC/ODEs as both of us seem to be much better at this - I think XC builds your confidence.

I would suggest a couple of things - check his saddle and check it again. DON'T just take one saddler's word for it. The most likely cause is it's too narrow and is pinching. Check the fit - look at your horse's wither area and shoulder. Does it dip away anywhere? If so, this suggests muscle wastage, most likely caused by the saddle.

If this is ruled out totally, maybe ask the vet to check the hocks (of not done already). Bone spavin can affect a horse's jumping as is uncomfortable. It doesn't necessarily mean they can't do anything hence why she may be happy doing the other stuff you mention.

My other suggestion would be to do something else! Try XC with her, try some ODEs and do smaller courses and see how she goes. Do it for FUN and don't think about how she goes. Try take the pressure off you (and her).

There will be a reason, it's just a case of finding it but, more often than not it's a simple thing!
 

telerimist

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Hmm, I would still suspect some discomfort somewhere to be perfectly honest as it seems very similar to how my horse went after a while. I'd had him since he was 4 yo and he'd always been fab at everything and I jumped him to Newcomer level before I went to college (he came too and was used on the school for a year).

However, he started refusing fences at one point which was unheard of. It turned out he had a sore back. We had it treated but it had sort of started a vicious circle of lack of confidence - me in him and I guess vice versa. I stopped jumping affiliated as we were just getting nowhere and I could tell he was getting stressed about it as was I as couldn't guarantee I'd ever get round a course whereas prior to this I never even considered knocking a pole, let alone getting refusals!

We actually went on like this for a good few years until I finally actually changed his saddle about 5 or so years ago. Well, what a difference! I sooo wish I'd done it years ago (my horse is 23 now). His confidence came back although I suppose it was a gradual thing but, when I think back I don't think we've really had any serious refusals since then! I stopped doing just showjumping anyway and actually did more XC/ODEs as both of us seem to be much better at this - I think XC builds your confidence.

I would suggest a couple of things - check his saddle and check it again. DON'T just take one saddler's word for it. The most likely cause is it's too narrow and is pinching. Check the fit - look at your horse's wither area and shoulder. Does it dip away anywhere? If so, this suggests muscle wastage, most likely caused by the saddle.

If this is ruled out totally, maybe ask the vet to check the hocks (of not done already). Bone spavin can affect a horse's jumping as is uncomfortable. It doesn't necessarily mean they can't do anything hence why she may be happy doing the other stuff you mention.

My other suggestion would be to do something else! Try XC with her, try some ODEs and do smaller courses and see how she goes. Do it for FUN and don't think about how she goes. Try take the pressure off you (and her).

There will be a reason, it's just a case of finding it but, more often than not it's a simple thing!
Hmm not thought about changing the saddle as she was fine with it before and having it regularly checked altered, my saddler is very thorough and talks me through what she is doing like you've just explained, she's had all the other possible issues you've mentioned already checked. Her back treated and checked 4 times and a physio out several.
We already do cross country and other things separate which is already mentioned but thank you.
 

telerimist

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Sorry to read you are having problems,as you say your mare has a drop in performance and is being naughty,have you considered ulcers,you say that you have moved to a calmer yard,and I wonder was you horse stressed at your old yard ,I am sure there has to be a reason for the change in behaviour,if you google ULCERS IN HORSES on that page you will find ULCER DIAGNOSIS BY MARK DE PAOLO am not sure how to do a link,its very interesting. If not ULCERS could you do a trail with Bute to rule out any pain issues.
I asked my vet about this and he said he wouldn't suspect them but said if I wish to investigate further to get in contact so may be something that I'll do next, thank you.
 

ladyt25

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I really don't want to slate your saddler or indeed physio but sometimes, getting a 2nd opinion on these things get be really helpful! :)

It may be there is nothing wrong but I had my previous saddle on mine for years and had the same checks done and had had it fitted etc. The difference though now is quite remarkable. I was even looking at his shoulders the other day as we were trotting and, even at 23 his shoulders/neck is looking so much better than it did. He is just so much freer and there is filling where it previously dipped.
 

Slightlyconfused

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What about having a thermal image scan of her body? Might pop up an area to look at?


i agree with looking at ulcers, not all horses show it in the same way or drop weight etc.....the calm and condition has alot of starch in it which our ulcer boy cant cope with and the happy hoof has molasses which again he cant cope with as it irritates his tummy.
i would stop all hard feed and just try and high fibre diet and see how that goes. If she is on hayledge put on hay.

xx
 

mhorses

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It really does sound like you have went the extra mile to diagnose what is wrong. I have a mare who competed successfully until she was 12 and after that she was never herself. I tried everything but couldn't find out what was wrong. I had to just set me mind on the thought that it is her way of saying I have done my fair share of competing. She is now 19 and has been a dream to hack out for 7 years and she seems so content. She is a best friend to me and I have to work extra hard to keep her along with a younger horse but I couldn't face letting go of her after how hard she had worked for me during her competitive years. Good luck it's never an easy decision but don't rush into something you might regret later.
 

telerimist

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It really does sound like you have went the extra mile to diagnose what is wrong. I have a mare who competed successfully until she was 12 and after that she was never herself. I tried everything but couldn't find out what was wrong. I had to just set me mind on the thought that it is her way of saying I have done my fair share of competing. She is now 19 and has been a dream to hack out for 7 years and she seems so content. She is a best friend to me and I have to work extra hard to keep her along with a younger horse but I couldn't face letting go of her after how hard she had worked for me during her competitive years. Good luck it's never an easy decision but don't rush into something you might regret later.
This is exactly what I was thinking, also she's been prodded around enough and it's unfair to keep digging for more and more if that's all she's saying is that she's just had enough.
 

putasocinit

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calm and collected has been known to make some horses fizzy. do you think you have overfaced her by doing too much and just made her sour. have you done a complete lameness work up, maybe she is hurting somewhere, maybe an mri scan could detect this before you decide to sell her on.
 

dianchi

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Perhaps try thermal imaging, although its not a diagnosis, its a good indicator of where to look?

To me I would suspect a physical issue somewhere.
 

stilltrying

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I went through something vaguely similar with my horse a few years ago. We were competing low level BE at the time and he briefly went off the boil, before collapsing at a competition. He had all manner of tests, ultimately a bonescan, but the vets couldn't find anything wrong. We changed tack, took shoes off, and for a while started jumping again. But he wasn't the same to jump and started throwing in some dirty stops, I had a couple of tumbles and our confidence evaporated.

I posted an epic thread on here years ago asking 'where to go from here' - with the answers being retire / pts / retire from jumping . I chose to "retire" from jumping, although we have the occasional play XC and instead i affiliated him BD for a while. He is sound, fit and well, and part of me thinks we should try again, but i have a feeling it will end in tears, so I talk myself out of it. He is now 13.

He is my horse of a lifetime though and has given me so much fun that I would never sell him just because he doesn't want to jump anymore. But that is me, and not everyone has that kind of relationship with their horse. He is as much fun on the ground as a pet as is he is to ride. Good luck with whatever you decide : )
 

telerimist

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calm and collected has been known to make some horses fizzy. do you think you have overfaced her by doing too much and just made her sour. have you done a complete lameness work up, maybe she is hurting somewhere, maybe an mri scan could detect this before you decide to sell her on.
she could have navicular and it is hurting when she lands, she could have anything so a complete work up would be required. good luck
I previously said she'd had the same feed for several years, made no change and a full vetting and perfectly sound no issues.
 
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