Calming Aids..in a conundrum here :)
How do I start this :)? I am feeling guilty at even contemplating the use of a calming aid but I am beginning to think it might be a good idea until my horse gets some more exposure to the show atmosphere and different circumstances under his hooves. While he isn't explosive he does tend to look, a LOT, at things that change. For example, our outdoor arena went from a dressage arena, to a jumper arena, to completely cleared in three weeks time (shows on the grounds) and in all three cases I spent 30 minutes with him dancing and snorting and doing some great upper level dressage moves (not on cue) until he finally settled and actually got to work. I am not taking the easy way out in his training and doing things like only riding inside on windy days; I am putting him into as many different situations as they come up to get him the exposure.
In the first show he was defnitely up but not crazy about it, at least until the chanisaw started up, and even then again it was just some dancing around.
Would it be a good idea, or would they even help, to use a calming aid, I have used Quietex in the past but someone mentioned the B-Kalm paste, just to take off the edge until he gets more time in show situations? A this point we are only working schooling shows but I have my eye on some licensed shows in the fall.
Can you use calmers at the licensed shows? I thought things like Valerian are prohibited (I may be wrong though).
The only calmer that kinda helped me was herb mix with chamomile and vervain (every day one). I don't use anymore BTW, but used for several month (as one of my horses gets nervous in no time). As for quietex, paste, etc. the effect was zero to negative (with some). Unfortunately with all those calmers you don't know until you try: they work (or don't work) very different for each horse.
That is what I meant when I said I had eyes for some licensed shows in the fall..can't use the calmers then. I was thinking about just trying them to take the edge off while we get the exposure at the schooling shows and then hopefully by the time the licensed shows come up he won't be as nervous/energetic/looking so hard :)
Are you sure you're not inadvertently rewarding his behaviour? Do you pet or rub on him to settle him down or do you do serpentines to bring his mind back to you? When my new horse arrived a gal wanted to walk him. He spooked 5 times within a hundred yards. Each time he spooked she rubbed him and spoke in soothing tones. I suggested she do it again this time completlely ignoring his spooks and focus on the distant pole. He spooked once. When it was ignored he didn't repeat it.
No, in this case I keep pushing him forward doing shoulder ins, haunches in, circles etc until he realizes the tree, jump, dressage letters, flowers etc aren't actually going to jump out and bite him. Once he settles down and stops his looking, I'll do some pattern or such for few minutes, figure 8's being the preferred for him right now, and THEN I bring him down and praise him.
Is there anything you can sort of rule out for increasing this behaviour? Like some horses go a bit crazy of clover, or corn or oats.
I also knew a horse who was a complete monster when kept in a large herd, but alone or with one or two horses he was an angel. I know my horse settled down a lot when I had him stabled at night and paddocked during the day, he got out of the "herd mentality" a bit and was much easier to work with.
I'd be hesitant to use these aids, because it doesn't just make the problem go away, just covers it up for now.
Is he confident with you otherwise? Like on the ground? Is this problem only under saddle?
In this case it really is just new experiences. After the initial 30 minutes of checking things out he is fine and doesn't worry anymore. Let me use the dressage arena as a beter example. I had lunged this horse in that particular outdoor arena (around and about the entire arena) but had not as yet ridden him there. Once the dressage panels were set up I rode him there for the first time. He was fine with the panels themselves but was lookikng hard at the letter signs. After about 15 mins or so he settled down and I never had another problem. I rode in that ring, and within the dressage panels, with flowers set up a couple of days before the show, and he never blinked. Now, on the day of the show, he was up but not spooky in the first test but admittedly I was nervous which probably transferred to him as well. Right before our second test, a chainsaw started up and it was that that he was spooking at..not the ring itself.
As for trust, that is probably part of it. On the day of the show I had only had him 8 weeks so new partnership here. He is a, now, 7 yr old TB, off-track but hasn't been raced since 2008.
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