Suddenly spooky, what's going on? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 11-27-2011, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Suddenly spooky, what's going on?

I recently took over Harry from my wife, who's had him since Sept./Oct. Even though he's from off the track we've been amazed at how good natured and calm he is. Even the local pig that most horses get bent out of shape about phased him only the first few times he saw it.

Then, about three weeks ago we rented some pasture space behind the barn and let him spend all day out there. We would bring him in every night, but we noticed that he was starting to act... weird. He would spook at things that normally wouldn't bother him: a wheel barrow simply sitting off to the side, a duck, the cat that hangs out in his stall. He refuses to go into the tie-out rack any more. Also, Harry used to love the round pen. He would even lunge himself if left alone, and was always enthusiastic about going into it. Now he refuses to walk into it unless I back him up and walk him in circles several times.

After a week of him being on pasture we took him off, unsure of what was causing the problem. It's been two weeks, and he still isn't the same. He's still eating and drinking and making manure -the things he does best- but the weird behavior hasn't gone away. I made an appointment for the Vet to come out this week but I can't see how this is a medical problem.

Has anyone had any similar experience?
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post #2 of 11 Old 11-27-2011, 06:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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Horses are often on their best behaviour in new surroundings. It sounds like he's settled in and he's testing you. He may prefer the pasture to his stall. I'd use a knotted halter and give him about 3' of lead. Focus on where you are going and ignore him when he spooks, just keep going and try not to look at him. Don't pet him to soothe him as he takes that as a reward. The knotted halter has some bite to it if he pulls against it and he'll be more respectful of it. Be sure you pass the "spooky" things going and coming so he sees it with each eye. Don't ask him to touch it altho allow him to do so if he wants.
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post #3 of 11 Old 11-27-2011, 10:02 PM
Join Date: May 2011
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you are right to get a vet out... be sure to have his eyes checked. If the horse is having issues with his eyes (blindness, etc.) he might be spooking at things he only sees. If he is healthy then you probably do have to just ignore his spooking and not make any fuss. If it gets to be too much or there is no improvement i would suggest talking to a local trainer, maybe the vet can reccomend one?
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post #4 of 11 Old 11-27-2011, 10:20 PM
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Location: New Zealand
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Just wondering, is it spring or Autumn/Fall where you are? Reason being my horse goes completely bonkers at just a whiff of spring grass and he is also an off the track horse who is normally extrememly quiet.

Needless to say Mitch is now strip fed and on Equilibrium B1 cool mix.

If it's anything to do with the grass(it takes a while to get out of their system) then I would reccomend feeding magnesium, or when the vet is there maybe have Harry's selenium levels tested, because that can be a factor too.

Has he been wormed lately? I know a friend who's pony went mental suddenly and they hadn't wormed her for a while so once she was wormed she was fine.

I hope you get it sorted out, and welcome to the forum :)

R.I.P ~ Bubbles - 25yo tb mare - 13.04.2011 ~ 8:30am ~ passed away naturally and peacefully in my arms
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post #5 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 12:13 AM
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At my house I set up a big desensitizing course of tarps and tires and all that good stuff and work on that for a few days. You should try it!
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post #6 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 01:34 AM
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Location: Ontario, Canada
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Has his diet changed at all recently other the more grass? it could be the grass. Or the change in routine/life, i find horses can change like that in new situations. i agree with getting his eyes checked and that he could aldo just be testing you. My horse does that he'll have a minor spook and then decide hes done and wants to go home and he'll argue with me. to everyone else it looks like hes massiv spooking but when your on his back you can tell hes arguing and not at all scared anymore.You could try doing alot of respect and trust building exersizes?

Beauty is not diminished by those who refuse to see, hear,feel or in any way sense it. If you refuse to see beauty its you who is weakened.
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post #7 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 06:31 AM
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Is it hunting season where you live? If it is daytime can be scarry on pasture for horses and if gunshots were heard by him that fear may be transfered to every outside experience. It can make horses extremely jumpy. It is hunting season in Ontario (deer) which can also put wildlife on the run. That can make horses nervous too.
If its not hunting season consider that it may have been something else out on pasture that has your horse nervous. If you can rule out such things consider he is simply testing you although I believe he would have done that when you rode him the first few times. How did your wife make out riding him? Does he behave better for her, or was there problems and that is why she gave him to you.
I think we need a great deal more information to help you out here.
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post #8 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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Part of it is trust, I'm sure of that. He behaves a little better for her than he does me. And while it is the fall hunting season (deer) here, I seriously doubt that even if he heard distant gunshots they would bother him. His barn is right next to a Naval Air Station, across the road from a helipad, and in the industrial part of town. He hears constructions equipment, booming, helicopters, and low flying fighter jets every day. He was fine with it before, and it doesn't seem to be the noise that's bothering him. I would think that a fighter in full afterburner would bother him a lot more than a distant gunshot. Nobody hunts close, because the barn is within city limits and surrounded by industrial vendors and barge refurbishing companies.

While I'm about to switch his feed soon, he hasn't been eating anything different. Before that week where he was in the pasture all day we still put him out in one of the smaller pastures for about an hour every day and he seemed to enjoy it -still does- but I don't seem him any more or less eager to get at the grass.

There was an old truck and some farm equipment in the pasture he was in that week, but he hasn't been back there since. Would he really still be acting this weird if one of those things had made him nervous?

I will try some more respect and trust building exercises tomorrow. It's something I'm still trying to learn about. I found a few things but I haven't had time after work these past few days to actually try using them.
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post #9 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 05:58 PM
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Location: Minnesota, USA
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You mention you and your wife have had him since September or so, and that he's off the track. Did you get him straight off the track? If so, it seems to me that the timing is right that you might just be seeing a horse who has detoxed from track life and has been fed up, and consequently has a ton of energy without the outlet that he's used to.
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post #10 of 11 Old 11-28-2011, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2011
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He was taken off the track in March if my memory serves me correctly. The person we bought him from got him from a rescue. They were going to use him for jumping but found out he had a bone chip in his knee. (nothing that hurts him, but the vet said jumping and hard running could risk lameness, so they sold him to us).

I hadn't thought about that, but it's been a while since he got off track. He spent four months after being retired neglected on pasture. Perhaps now that he's getting the rest of his groceries back he's feeling spunky?
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