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Nervous Rescue TWH
his name is Chance, and we bought him last octoberish or so from a lady who was deathly afraid of him and was about to sell him off to the boarders for dog meat. I don't know his height off hand, but he's a pretty big boy and all white. When we first got him, he was very nervous and pawed and moved around quite a bit. We put him to pasture during the winter and are now working with him again [We being the festival that owns him and his trainer].
Chance gets very nervous outside of the pasture, and is more so that way when he's out alone than if we have another horse in the area. As soon as his pasture mate comes out, he calms down and doesn't move as often, but he's still nervous. When tied, he stands like a doll and relaxes, but when moving, he likes to go go go, and also has a tendency to head butt people out of his nervousness. I'm currently doing some ground work with him in between the practices [there are 3 per week] and I'm wanting to work on trying to get him calm on the ground so he's not so anxious to move under saddle. I plan on lounging him before doing any desensitizing, but whenever I do, he's paying more attention outside of the arena than on me. Same goes for under saddle.
The festival is feeding him an alphalfa hay mix, so he's a little bit hot. If we had the ability to, he would not have had any but that was all we could afford from our hay provider.
We know very little about how he was trained, but we assume he was used a lot because under saddle he is very responsive and listens to leg well. It's just when he's not moving, and he will pace back and forth and not really pay attention to the space around him.
he is the first gaited horse I've ridden, and from what I understand, they are very level headed animals, so his nervousness confuses me. Although, there are times when he's surprised me when things I would have thought would spook him, he's not reacted poorly at all.
Any tips or tricks are greatly appreciated!
Sounds like one of mine and his problem came all from alfalfa. Once I stopped giving him any he calmed down. Even worse is he was only being given half a leaf a day, would hate to see what he would of been like on more.
I work try and get some grass hay in his system, not just alfalfa mix. Maybe look at beet pulp or something that he can eat aside from the alfalfa (alfalfa isn't bad, just a lot will make them very hot.)
Also work on desensitizing him so that he calms down and knows that he needs to focus and pay attention to you.
He may need some exercise too. What are you currently doing with him?
Ope, sorry, I guess I should clarify more:
Usually the horses don't get any alphalfa, just grass hay. The last load with the mix was all we could manage from our provider. Everyone gets beat pulp, cob and senior [They get the senior because it has silica[?] that prevents colic. Our horses are messy eaters, and the ground is very sandy].
Right now, he is getting I want to estimate about a half hour's lounging as a warm up to try and burn off some of his steam, and I am working on having him move off my body. he has a tendency to walk faster than I, and cut me off, so we worked that out. he still walks faster than I, sometimes, but he's not running into me. Chance is a very smart horse and pics things up very quickly. We use our horses for games and jousting, so I plan on getting the dolls we use, a crop [it's a substitute for the axes we have], and the spears to try and get him used to that along with other things like tarps and loud clangs. Last I remember, he didn't care for the spears.
In riding, we let the trainer warm him up till he's a bit more calm and managable, and from there myself or the other riders during practice hop on and walk him out, or canter if they feel comfortable. Earlier this week, we practiced weaving with him.
I never bought into the whole "alfalfa makes them hot" thing. Maybe I am wrong, I dunno. But I had purebred Arabs that got alfalfa and now I have a Missouri Fox Trotter that gets pure alfalfa. If they are bouncing off the walls I take it as a sign they are not getting enough exercise.
If he is getting COB (sweet feed) that will make him more hot than the alfalfa. That is what I would try leaving off. He sounds like a nice horse that just needs some exercise and a rider he can trust.
My Fox Trotter was a wired mess when I got her and after a good long year of riding together she is very calm. Calm to the point that I'm feeding her grain in the addition to her straight alfalfa hay. :lol:
If he's responsive and nice under saddle just put some good miles on him. Gaited horses love to go! In my experience as a group they have a hard time standing still.
Oh okay OP, that makes more sense.
I agree with trailhorserider, though.. it sounds like he isn't getting enough exercise and his training has some holes in it. Have you done any groundwork with him at all (lunging doesn't count) and when you do ride, what's your workout like?
Exercise schedule didn't change or anything, but we all know horses aren't all the same.
The unfortunate thing about him is that he's also got a gimp, which makes his running walk a little bouncy. It was an old injury he had, from what looked like him getting caught in some barb wire, and he over compensated by putting weight on his leg. It was checked out and he doesn't seem to be in pain and otherwise moves fine.
A picture of him, Tana and Shooter in the pasture. Not sure if you can see it, but on his left leg, it's swollen looking from the injury that we think may not have gotten proper treatment when he was in a previous owner's care.
And since switching to alfalfa, Shooter, the Bay, has been acting more hot as well, so there is some correlation to our horses acting a bit more energized. Normally he's such a lazy horse. : p
The wife started giving alfalfa to them on a daily basis as a snack that built up from a handful to half a leaf a day. One of my horses started developing behavior issues that were getting worse over time. When I finally connected the dots that his behavioral problems were increasing along with his increased alfalfa intake I had her stop giving him any. All his behavior issue went away like his alfalfa did.
Say what you want but personal experience tells me alfalfa can cause problems in horses.
Alfalfa is high in protein, if I remember correctly. If their work out doesn't increase with the high carb, high protein intake, horses do get a little wiry, depending entirely on how they digest it. So variety is likely, but a trend of increased energy is usual.
Alfalfa can be part of a balanced horse ration. IMO you begin with a good quality grass hay, and then add what you need to help the horse do their job while maintaining condition. A pasture ornament will need little; a lactating brood mare will nee a whole bunch. Other horses will be in between.
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