What happened -- barn sour, sore mouth, ??? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-10-2010, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast
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Question What happened -- barn sour, sore mouth, ???

Well, I am trying to figure out what went wrong this afternoon. I went out to ride my horse around in the back pasture, and had a sort of rodeo-esque experience.

About me: rode western / bareback as a kid (elementary school) -- sporadic trail rides until a couple of years ago, when I took English riding lessons for about a year -- taught by a "Centered Riding" instructor who was also a competitive dressage rider. My weak area is keeping contact on the bit -- I guess from riding Western and neck reining as a kid. So, a 41 yo female adult beginner. My husband was a non-rider who also took lessons a couple of years ago in English w/ a different instructor overseas, who also happened to be a competitive dressage rider. So, he's also a beginner. My lifelong goal has been to have my own horse, and after much searching, I found...

Levi, a 9 year old draft cross, who for the past 5 years took a young lady from learning to ride through jumping 2'9" fences. She wanted to jump higher, so parents imported giant German sport horse, and I got Levi. The vet who did the vet check for me thought he would be perfect for me, and, if anything, a little on the lazy side, which was fine with me :)

Since Levi first got here about 2 months ago, I have ridden him in a bareback pad and Western saddle. It was recommended that I ride him in a french link dee snaffle, and this one was specifically recommended
Dover Saddlery | Mikmar Cupreon D-Ring Snaffle Bit French Link Roller .
Until I got that bit, I rode him in a stainless steel french link dee ring purchased locally, and he was fine.

Due to dealing w/ a dying family member out of town, we have not ridden Levi much. About a week ago, I was getting him tacked up and he was really fighting me about bridling him -- turns out when I put the new bit into the bridle, I somehow completely screwed it up, and I realized that when he was so resistant, took it off, fixed the issue, got him bridled -- he was somewhat reluctant, but accepted the bit. My husband ended up riding him, and he did alright -- certainly nothing wild, but he wanted to follow our other horse, a 17yo TWH mare, Cotton. My husband was able to get him to go in different directions independently -- so, not fighting or anything, but my husband had to "work" if that makes sense. But, again, no running, head tossing, hopping, running, etc.

Fast forward to today. I groomed Levi including picking hooves, and he was perfectly calm and amicable. However, when I tried to put on the bridle, he was really fighting me over it. I checked it multiple times, finally got it on him, checked some more, and everything seemed fine. He stretched down to munch some grass while I put on his saddle, and again, the bridle seemed fine -- and this was the exact same setup as when my husband rode the week prior. Anyway, he stood to be mounted, while I put the mounting block next to him. He stayed still until I got all situated. Then he walked forward and we turned to go toward the back of the pasture (basically, to make a loop around the 8 acre pasture).

Then, things took a turn... he kept trying to turn to the inside and head back toward the gate. I used my leg and my hands to try to keep him straight. And, as I kept trying to keep him going where I wanted him to, he went nutty -- hopping around and then bolting to the gate. I tried to stop him with whoa, still seat and the reins -- he was completely unresponsive to the bit / reins -- except that I would say that with more pressure, he possibly got nuttier. It's kind of hard to describe exactly what happened, as it was happening pretty quickly, and I was mostly just focused on not falling off. I always ride with a helmet, and my neighbor was there watching, but I am looking for calm and peaceful, not wild and crazy.

He got to the gate and stopped, I got off, examined the bridle, which looked fine, tightened the girth, which had loosened, and he walked peacefully over to the mounting block, stood nicely while I mounted, walked calmly around to about the same point, and we repeated the "show" again. I tried the one rein stop, and he gave me some extra hopping around for that :(

So, having absolutely no idea what to do, but thinking it might not be good to just untack him and reward the behavior, I got the lunge line out. At first he didn't want to go, then he moved into a pretty fast canter and pulled a bit, but not really trying run off, which as a 16h draft cross, he could certainly do. I took the approach of making him keep up the fast pace when he decided he wanted to slow down, then after a while I called for him to trot, which he did immediately, then to walk, which he did immediately, then whoa, which he responded to immediately. Then we did the other direction -- with a controlled canter this time, then responded verbally to trot, walk, whoa.

And, I tried to mount up again in the hopes that we could have a super short but successful "ride" to end on. I don't even think we made it as far at the walk as the first 2 times before the "show" began and culminated with him charging into a hay bale next to the gate versus sliding to a stop at the gate. So, thankful to be alive by that point, I just got off of him.

However, I did put his halter on him and walked him around the entire circumference of the pasture -- that path I planned to ride -- with the saddle on versus just untacking him and turning him loose. I also left him out in that back pasture versus letting him back into the front pasture with Cotton, the mare. I have to feed them separately later, so after they eat I will put him back in with her.

So, now I am trying to analyze what the hell happened and why. We do not yet have a trainer here, however, we are getting our horse trailer this week, and once I learn to pull it with the truck, I will be able to haul Levi to a trainer -- so within 2 weeks.

Here are my thoughts, and I really want feedback as to how to proceed in the short term until I find a trainer / instructor and in the longer term.

#1 -- Teeth - vet is coming out a week from today for a farm visit, and I will have him check Levi's mouth / teeth. They were checked at both the pre-purchase exam and by my vet here when Levi arrived. However, maybe when I had the bit screwed up last week it somehow hurt him during the brief time it was in his mouth -- though it was only in his mouth for a second and I realized the problem before I ever got the bridle over his ears. Or maybe he hurt his mouth on something else.

#2 Grain / Diet / Weather -- It got cold here in Southern Mississippi starting last week, so I increased the horses grain and put out more hay for them at night. They are on pasture 24/7, and I feed them Omalene 200 and Strategy as well as coastal bermuda / bahia hay. So, I can feed Levi strictly Strategy, and get rid of the Omalene grains.

#3 Bit -- Maybe we need to go back to the basic stainless french link dee ring and skip the very fancy (expensive) bit with the roller in the middle. Although, the very fancy bit with the roller was the one recommended by the seller.

#4 Barn / Buddy Sour -- For the first month, Levi was our only horse, and he seemed to fall in love with my neighbor's pregnant mare. He shared a fence line with my neighbor's horses: pregnant quarter horse mare, a mini - gelding, and a mini- stallion. The mini-stallion spent lots of time trying to show Levi what a stud he was, which Levi ignored while mooning over the mare. It got to the point where I was very concerned because Levi seemed to spend most of his time in one spot -- at the gate to my neighbor's pasture. I ended up putting bedding down in that spot, because I was worried he would hurt his feet standing on the hard clay. Anyway, I ended up acquiring Cotton, the 17yo TWH mare, who was kind of a rescue situation that I took on reluctantly, but Levi loves her, and she is very kind and sweet. They took to each other immediately. And about as immediately, Cotton went into season.

As a contrast, I rode Cotton in the back pasture while she was in season. She was reluctant to go toward the back of the pasture -- away from Levi in the front pasture -- but went, and then tried to rush back once we were headed that way. I let her rush and then kept her going right past Levi and back around away from him. So, that was my experience that I would have called barn sour / buddy sour, but I never felt in danger. I felt like she was saying "yippee back to my man, Levi", then, "darn! she's making me go BACK around AGAIN". I had to WORK riding her, and I felt challenged in a way that I was improving my skills versus today with Levi where I felt like I had absolutely ZERO control, which was scary.

#5 Saddle / Back Issues -- we used the same saddle a week ago,and it was fine. And, he had no problem with me mounting, so I think this is least likely. However, I already have someone coming out to help me take measurements and pictures, so that we can get a saddle fitted for both Levi and Cotton.

I welcome any and all feedback on what I did wrong thus far (or what I did right, if anything) and any ideas as to how to proceed until we can get to a trainer.
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-11-2010, 02:43 AM
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sounds like a challenge and I can have some ideas, but no way would I suggest that I could do any better than you did.
First of all, I really doubt that having the bit "screwed up" for a few minutes would create a problem getting him into his bridle . It is remotely possible that the new bit is pinching his tongue. I have heard of a few cases of this happening with the Myler barrel jointed bits (a Billy Allen type bit, if you are more familar with that). But I really think that has little to do with it.
I would say that all these problems are from a change of mind in the horse, versus some physical problem. Of course, checking the teeth is a great idea.

AND I would definitely reduce the grain!!!! That's a do now.

I think it's something to do with your Draft becoming overly fixated on the mare. x Is your property the only place you have to ride?
I dont know how one works with horses that become barn sour or buddy sour. I guess you could try the work 'em hard when they are near the place they want to be, and let them rest at the place you have to work hard to get them TO.

I don't have a lot of advice, only that I think it is a matter of the horse's overall mental state being different than when you first got him. How he is FEELing really affects everything , everything.
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-11-2010, 07:14 AM
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For being a beginner you are doing great! Wonderful ideas on having him rechecked for any medical issues. From there you'll know if its medical or mental. As tinyliny said, for barn/buddy sourness work him where he wants to be and let him rest where he isn't comfortable. It may take some time but it will work. Even if you lunge him for now, until you feel comfortable riding him. Lunge him near his girlfriend and take him away to rest in his uncomfortable zone. Does he need the grain? Or is it just part of his routine? If he doesn't need it and he's a good weight I wouldn't bother with it unless you give him a handful for the purpose of a change. Hay will keep him warm not the grain. Hopefully after the vet and saddle fitting are thru you will figure this out but in the meantime keep up what you are doing and good luck.
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-11-2010, 09:17 AM
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Hmm.. I think you have the right idea in taking away the Omolene. I am not a huge fan of that stuff... but do like Strategy.
I do think it's possible that, depending on how "screwy" you put the bit in, you may have pinched something... but it shouldn't have been that big of a deal. It's great you are going to have his teeth checked.
I definately think it has way more to do with being buddy sour, since he is so attached. Tell me about your place.. do you just have the one pasture they share? Do you have a safe place outside your pasture where you can tie your horse? And also, do you have anywhere to ride outside your pasture?
If you do have at least the space to lunge outside your pasture (and tie) I think I might start bringing Levi out in short increments, tying and/or lunging him away from his pasture/friend. Also work on it with Cotton... bring her out and work on them seperating. Start in short increments and work your way up. You should be able to take either one out and have them stand quietly until you say so. No pawing, no calling out, or generally acting silly over the whole thing.
Also, when you want to ride, I would tie up whichever horse isn't being ridden outside the pasture, if that is the only place you have to ride. That will be safer than riding around a loose horse, and they will learn when it is time to "work". (That is, once you get each accustomed to seperating and tying safely)

A trainer will help you and your horse, but these problems won't go away (if he is indeed buddy sour) until you teach them it's ok to be seperated. One thing I would suggest you have the trainer help you do is maybe teach him a one rein stop. That way, if he throws a fit in the future, you have a tool to use. It is very easy for a big ole horse to lean on both reins pulling back, so if he learns a ORS you have a backup plan :)

Good luck!!!!

Edited to add : I also agree with the above posters... working him hard in the place he wants to be, and resting where you wanted to be.... I just came up with something to do on top of that or to try instead.

Last edited by ImagineThat; 11-11-2010 at 09:20 AM.
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-11-2010, 09:11 PM
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My suggestions would be:
1) The feed could have given him extra energy, and attitude haha
2) Change the bit back to the old one. If he was fine in that one...don't fix what isn't broke.
3. Definitely barn sour. Classic case. I am not sure if you have more than one pasture, but separate them if possible. When horses get to buddy buddy they dont want to leave each other and it causes problems.

Hope that helps!
PS> it sounds like he needs a good school from a trainer :)
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-11-2010, 10:53 PM
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I think it's pretty clear cut case of being buddy sour. I would however recommend that you drop the Omalene 200 from his diet. It is designed for performance horses who have intensive training ever day. It will hype horses that are only rode a couple times aweek up to hot.
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-11-2010, 05:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for the great replies! I apologize for not responding sooner, but it quit e-mailing me @ responses.

Here is some additional, and I think important information. The mare, Cotton, is apparently a 17 year old fertility goddess. She is now in season for the 3rd time -- last time my neighbor, who has a couple of pregnant mares and is familiar w/ the reproductive process said, "I have NEVER seen a mare that wants it that bad!" So, I have Cotton w/ her insatiable Magical Mojo, and we share a fence line w/ my neighbor's horses including a miniature stallion, and we have Levi Buddy Sour.

And, NOW, Levi is mounting Cotton. The vet is coming out Wednesday to check on a sheep recovering from a broken leg, so I will discuss this with him. I am also e-mailing the person I purchased Levi from to see if he has ever mounted mares before that they know of.

Unfortunately, I do not have pastures that do not share fence lines, and I am concerned that if I separate these two that they will get hurt trying to get over the fence. UGH!

So, is there a way to make this mare less ... uh... well, the only word I can think of is horny -- sorry! She's desperate, and apparently she's like Viagra for poor Levi. During her prior two "seasons", Levi mostly looked at her like she was crazy and stood w/ his friend, the pregnant mare over the fence -- both watching Cotton try to entice the mini-stallion over the fence; occasionally, he would try to herd her away from the fence and mini-stallion, and sometimes, when she was focusing all of her winking energy at Levi, he would get annoyed. So, I wasn't really expecting to look out and see him mounting her.

And, I SWORE I was only getting geldings -- that must have been for a reason!
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-11-2010, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast
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"Do you just have the one pasture they share? Do you have a safe place outside your pasture where you can tie your horse? And also, do you have anywhere to ride outside your pasture?"

My current setup is 2 small paddocks / pastures (1.5 acre each) side by side, with the large (7 acre) pasture behind them. When I ride, I leave one horse in the smaller front paddock, and ride the other horse in the larger back pasture. I think my next purchase is going to be a 50' round pen. And, I now have a horse trailer -- well, I have purchased it, but it is at the trailer place getting full fixed up.

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post #9 of 10 Old 12-11-2010, 09:28 PM
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Hmm.. when the vet comes out, definately talk to him about the mare. She may have whacky hormone levels that need some help.
Aww your setup definately makes it harder on you. I agree with you... they may injure themselves if you try to seperate them. What kind of fence do you have? I don't know that it would help much, anyways, since they would probably just hang out on the fence line with each other.
This is a tough situation, since you cannot seperate. Do they each tie well? I still think a good way to handle it would be to tie the other horse while you work/ride one of them. You can't control how the one left behind acts in the field... so if you do what I said in my original reply, they will learn when it's time to work.
If you don't have a post or anything like that, a good solid tree works just fine. I have 2 trees that I screwed those big eye bolts into for tying outside. If you do that, make sure it is about eye level (the horse's) and not too low.
Good luck!!!
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-11-2010, 10:28 PM
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I cant really give anymore advice on the barn sourness then what has already been said, but as for the "horny" mare, you should look into Regu-Mate, its a supplement to make mares less "marey"
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