Problem Horse with No Hope in Sight - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 04-23-2010, 11:59 PM Thread Starter
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Problem Horse with No Hope in Sight

I got an OTTB three months ago that had spent the past six months as a pasture ornament after his owner abandoned him because he couldn't pay the board. The woman who sold him to me was honest and well meaning but I think she greatly over promised this horse's temperament. I also spoke to his previous responsible owner who said he was sweet and willing. She lied. He spent his first six weeks with me working with a professional trainer. We worked him slowly through a long process of desensitizing using natural horsemanship. He is desensatized to stuff (a bag at the end of a stick, etc) but will not let me near him. He is good under saddle. My problem is that he is dangerously opposed to having any contact with me. He cow kicks, won't let me groom him, won't let me pick his hooves, won't let me tack him up, won't let the farrier trim his hooves, won't let me clean his ears, won't stand in the aisle, and spooks at everything if I walk him in the pasture. He also has loose/wet poop every time I try any of the above. He is completely traumatized by life. He does not get along with any of the other horses. He pesters them until they bite him. This happened at his past stable and continues in all of the pastures they rotate him through at his current stable. He runs when he sees me even though the only thing I have done for the past four weeks is walk him, graze him, try and get him to stand in the aisle for ten seconds at a time, or brush him for 3 seconds. He is a 3.5 on a 9 scale of body condition. He is on supplements, high performance Blue Seal feed, and Omegatin (weight gain). I am out of ideas, the trainer said he is out of ideas and that I could not sell him now if I wanted to, and the vet and farrier have no advice. I do not want to sell him, I want to help him. How can I help him?
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post #2 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 12:07 AM
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Have you had the vet do a thorough examination on hi?m? Scoped? Digestive Issues? Eye sight, xrays, chiro etc, etc?

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post #3 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 12:09 AM
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If he was raced it is obvious that he didn't always act like that unless he was one hell of a race horse. You also would have to find a new trainer since the one you have now is all out of options. I don't know where you are at but if you really want to help her then you should find the very best trainer for her or perhaps there is a big name clinician that would take her off your hands as a project.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #4 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 01:47 AM
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I would recommend checking eyes first and foremost (as well as all other health). A lot of times horses become unmanageable, spooky, etc. when they have a vision problem but it goes undiagnosed or seen as a behavior issue. I agree with Kevin- he must have been manageable at some point or he couldn't have raced.

How do you know he is good undersaddle if you can't get near him to tack up? Not being snippy, just honestly wondering how that worked out?!
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post #5 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 02:39 AM
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I was going to ask the same question as can you ride, if he can't be touched???? Just doesn't seem to make sense to me; as a trainer, I wouldn't be riding, if I couldn't DO all of those things that you DO have issues with, to be perfectly honest.

If you and your current trainer are out of ideas, look for someone who has experience with ottb and place him in a proper home.

I would be packing hay, and pasture into him, personally, NOT grain...he doesn't need a high performance grain, as much as he needs free choice hay and grass.

He could be proud cut, if he constantly pesters all the other horses...that could explain that behavior; or he just plain doesn't know how to 'be a horse'. Maybe putting him out to pasture with a couple of 'old hands' for a year, and not doing anything with him aside from feeding, and maybe brushing him, and obviously taking care of all those other health needs, but other wise just letting him figure out how to be a horse again, may help him come around mentally. Then start over fresh, like as if he's never been trained before.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #6 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 11:13 AM
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I completely agree with mom2pride. This horse sounds like he doesn't have a clue how to act like a normal horse. Letting him stay in pasture for a while will allow him to learn though. It sounds like your horse will be a long project but if you truly care for him, keep him.

Have you had previous experiences with OTTBs?

" Horses are a humans wings."
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post #7 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 11:25 AM
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It sounds like he basically needs to be rehabilitated to a very high degree, to the point where he needs to learn herd dynamics again. Letting him be a horse for awhile in the herd is a good idea, he needs to find himself and find his place in the herd. Make sure he has access to free choice hay, food all the time. After awhile you basically need to start all over with him from the ground up. Act as if he knows nothing. It's going to take A LOT of time and patience, but it sounds like you are very dedicated to him.
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post #8 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 11:36 AM
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I get horses like this sometimes in rescue too- just very angry at the world in general. My first step would be to have a very thorough vet exam to rule out vision problems and digestive problems. He most likely has an ulcer which could be causing the loose sloppy stool. The other thing that can cause the loose poop is plain fear. Fear will cause an animal to evacuate their bowels and if it is still in the stage of water being extracted it will come out sloppy.

From your description he sounds like a fearful horse, not an aggressive horse. All the behaviors you describe are telling me he is afraid, lacks confidence, and has no idea how to behave like a horse in a natural setting.

Once the vet clears any problems, I would turn him out onto pasture and pull his grain. Pasture and hay is what will put weight on him. Grain gives fast calories but it expresses itself in increased agitation and energy. When I rehab a starved horse I use pure alfalfa hay, no grain, until they are well on their way to recovery, then they get switched to grass/alfalfa blend. I've rehabbed many starved horses, and it works much better than grain.

If the hay in your area is crummy, you could use Safe Choice pellets or in a pinch, rabbit pellets, to supplement. Either of these will pack on pounds but not attitude.

As for getting bitten- very rarely does a bite do any real damage. Let him harass the other horses until the react, because it is the only way he'll learn to behave himself in a herd.

If this were my horse I would figure on 4-6 months of not doing much with him, let him find his feet so to speak.

Spent a whole hour today laying in a pasture, waiting for a sparkling vampire to show up. Alas, I woke up and looked over, only to find a mound of horse crap. Sigh.
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post #9 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 06:35 PM
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OTTB - I just can't imagine why you took this animal on. For some reason the
poor chap is traumatised. I sat and thought what I might do in your shoes - for what they are worth here are my thoughts:

First I suggest you go out and buy a diary and record every day that you work with this poor animal. One day maybe you'll have the basis for a book.

Undoubtedly you have to go back to square one. You will get nowhere until the horse allows you to fit a head collar and groom him. and by the sound of it, at the moment you can't near him.
So: all domesticated horses need:
food, security, shelter, companionship, freedom from fear & in this case HELP.

I would try to create for him a home pad - say an acre sized field with a field shelter. You might have to divide it up to prevent laminitis for when the grass grows too richly in the Spring. Then find him a companion he will accept maybe a shetland pony or a donkey, perhaps an ageing horse or pony - some creature which can live out with him but which is smaller. Let him choose his companion - experiment. The field shelter is to become his shelter, his feeding centre, his training centre and his safe house. No other horse is to use his paddock or his field shelter, only Your Boy and his companion. The pad is to be 'his' and to hold his smell.

The shelter must be waterproof and wind proof. A very slightly sloping floor is good but cover it with half inch thick rubber matting. Cover the matting with pellets of wood powder. Remove daily all droppings and all saturated wood powder.
The shelter is to be left open but it should be possible to close and secure all gates
so as to make it possible to contain Your Boy from time to time. As routine, let him come and go as he pleases.

Vet. Presumably you have already had the animal vetted? Worm him.
Check his blood, his urine, his faeces. Then check his teeth and his feet.
Whatever you do, do not be present at any 'firm' handling. The tests must somehow be achieved but you personally must not be associated with any aggression. You always appear after the tests with whatever 'treat' you have discovered the animal likes. As he becomes more receptive to 'technicians' then you must always be present when he is examined so as to calm his fears.

Diet. Photo him. Measure him if you can get near enough. Then get in touch with an animal nutritionist at one of the local horse feed suppliers. Your Boy will need vitamins and some minerals ie salt & magnesium. Some vegetable oil and plenty of fresh grass and carefully selected hay. Keep a note of his weight and measurements. Of course water must be fresh and freely available.
Then discover something he loves to eat - apples?carrots?parsnips?pears?sugar?

Wearing the same coat (never to be washed) and the same hat visit him every day - morning and night. Split his daily ration of food into two and personally always give it to him in the same bowl, in the same place and as close as possible, at the same time. Talk to him constantly. Call him by name. Recite to him a story.

Every time you visit, offer him a carrot - or whatever it is you find he likes. Make him addicted to it. First offer the fruit on the ground, then a plate and finally by hand. You'll know when he is addicted, he'll come and nudge you to ask for his 'treat'.

Be advised he recognises humans by smell, voice, body language, walk, touch and finally by sight. He should come to recognise your footfall or the engine of your car. Maybe one day, if you are winning, he will whinnie upon your arrival.

Treat this creature as terrified - panic stricken. You have to get him to trust you to the extent that he will allow you to stroke him and groom him. You do that by making him feel secure and 'loved' through the routine of supplying food and regular constant attention - even if at first you are rejected. At all times you are to be quiet, firm and persistent. You never ever raise your voice, wave your arms about or get angry. So wear boots and pads in case the little devil catches you out.
Try taking a book and a chair into his paddock and just sit there reading.

Until this horse trusts you enough to allow you to touch him freely - then other schooling is wasted. Your aim is for Your Boy, whilst wearing a halter, to come to walk calmly at your side on a loose lead line. If you can get him to trust you that much then you have a chance. Remember one day you'll have to put a bit in his mouth and lift all four feet to clean out the frog.

You will have to commit yourself to a long haul. Are you sure he is worth it?
How much patience have you got?

Barry G
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post #10 of 22 Old 04-24-2010, 07:09 PM
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If your willing to take the time to re-hab him then let it be on his terms, his timing. Dont force thies 'scary' things on him. If you can sit out in his pasture with him grazing maybe 15-30 mins that way you can create a bond in his natural way. Let him come up to you, sniff you, hang out with you, share your territory, if he see's you as another "herd animal" (peacefull creature) instead of a scary "omg! She's going to groom me". The bond and trust will come much faster and stronger then forcing him to trust you.
At least try it for a week sitting out there each day and if you dont see a change then scrap it and try something els. Thats what I would do in your situation.

From east to west a travlin gypsy found her prancing pony for now their hearts run as one...into the north
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