Why I Gotta Trot - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 3240 Old 12-16-2015, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
Valhalla has a lot in common with Mia...
But your advice some years back was very helpful in making Mia a safer horse to ride...maybe because you had ridden Valhalla?
Yes, your descriptions of Mia reminded me very much of Valhalla. I think they are cut from a similar cloth. I don't think I could have managed Halla very well without the ability to take her long distances and let her gallop sometimes. On the mountain trail where I used to board, we would start with a 3/4 mile gallop up a very steep hill after warming up. Many horses we rode with couldn't even make it halfway, so we'd wait for them at the top. Halla wouldn't even get winded, and I'd have to pull her up at the end.

It sounds like you did what was best for Mia rather than just yourself, which is the mark of a true horseman.

Thank you, Knightrider. I've heard the phrase, "A fit horse is a dangerous horse," but I think a key thing is that a person gets fit at the same time as the horse by riding the miles. Getting there together trains the rider to handle the horse.
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post #12 of 3240 Old 12-16-2015, 08:24 PM
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I am really enjoying reading this. You are quite a rider!
I'm enjoying it, too. Just wanted to let you know I am reading :)
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post #13 of 3240 Old 12-17-2015, 01:32 AM Thread Starter
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The Wrong Reins and a Poor Dog

I made my silly name, "Gottatrot" on a whim, a few years back. It stuck because it kept being appropriate. You gottatrot most of the way in order to finish an endurance ride in the time frame allowed. Slow walking horses gottatrot to catch up to the rest of the riders. Spooky horses gottatrot past things that make them nervous. And Valhalla is constantly asking if she can please canter, and I must keep insisting...gottatrot, gottatrot, gottatrot a little longer.

I'm sure without horses in my life I'd be an impatient person. However, there isn't a lot of instant gratification with horses, and progress comes slowly, through a lot of grueling work.
Today it only worked out to have a short ride on Valhalla. By the time I got her saddled up, darkness was closing in fast and I decided to ride around a field to continue working on bending through circles to help her redesign her body to move more straight.

At the walk, she was bending fine. At the trot, Halla found it easier to do a spiral in around the circle instead of going straight through her body around the circle. Her front end was making a slightly smaller circle than her hind end, but I wanted to have both ends going around the same circle. I knew what I needed to do: look ahead to where I'm going, allow the turn of my body to match that angle, and my horses know to follow my seat, weight and drape of my legs around the curve.

When I pushed Halla forward, we'd get a few steps of the circle right, but she found it more difficult at a slower speed. A straight horse wasn't built in a day, and since we could not bend at the trot I did not try to canter on the circle.

As we began to canter on a straight line, I realized I had the wrong reins. Do you ever annoy yourself with how stupid you are? This past summer, I decided absolutely from reading posts on the forum that I needed to buy some rubber reins from Nuttysaddler. Well, it slipped my mind and then I went to visit friends and took one ride on a lovely Quarter Horse and decided I liked the new reins my friends were raving about, which were made from synthetic Beta material.

On my ride on the Quarter Horse, I thought I gave the reins a good test because we went for a long ride with plenty of fast trotting and cantering. But the mare was in a leverage bit, so I rarely contacted her mouth. Now that I've taken the pair of Beta reins I recently purchased out for a few rides, I find that I can't hold onto them, they slip through my fingers and get worse when I wear gloves with nitrile to keep my hands warm. I can't differentiate between the reins and my horse's mane, so today as we cantered off powerfully, I found I had a rein in my left hand and a mane in my right. So when I asked Halla to slow, we circled sharply to the left.

Taking the gloves off, I felt a bit safer, so I rode Halla over past the barn and up a hill to take a loop around the horse pastures. We have a nice riding track there, but as I crested the hill I saw that one of the elk herds had drifted in with the settling dusk. The elk remind me of clouds. When you look at them, you don't notice them moving, but if you look back after a couple of minutes they'll have drifted in one direction or another. It's peaceful, and disconcerting if you're trying to maneuver at a safe distance around a herd.

We only rode down one side of the track and trotted back up, to avoid the elk. The labrador that lives on the property had followed along with us, and he looked a bit melancholy. I felt sad that we'd had such a short ride and disappointed him. Later I heard that was the third horseback ride he'd gone out with that day. What a poor fellow.
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post #14 of 3240 Old 12-18-2015, 07:14 AM Thread Starter
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In another thread, an interesting topic came up about confidence when riding and horses that spook.
I wrote about this in a reply based on some of my experiences;
Quote:
I don't believe the right approach for each horse is just based on how afraid the horse is, or how experienced or confident the rider is.

I've found that horses have a lot of different levels of how sensitive they are to a rider's confidence/demeanor. If I had to rate horses I've ridden on a scale of one to ten, I'd say some horses are a "1," meaning they rely almost entirely on their own self, and some horses are way up there like a "9" or "10," and a rider can either make the horse fail or pull them entirely through a situation on their own confidence and riding.

Horses also vary greatly on the scale of how confident vs fearful/spooky they are in general.
So you can have a horse that is very confident and also relies entirely on a rider. Or you can have a horse that is very spooky and relies entirely on a rider. The most difficult is a horse that is very fearful/spooky and relies entirely on himself.

The same goes for excitability. Some horses are very excitable but rely heavily on the rider or handler's input, so calm down easily. Other horses are very excitable and rely heavily on themselves, so do not calm down until their own internal factors are met.
What I'm talking about here is not training, but the horse's innate personality that comes through when instinct takes over.

I believe that some horses get more confident out in the world because they rely on themselves, and they believe through experience that things are safe out there. I believe that other horses get more confident out in the world because they trust their rider's input and confidence that they are safe. The difference is seen when you put a green rider on either horse. The self-confident horse will ride the same and not spook. The rider-confident horse will suddenly be afraid of everything again.

Obviously there are ranges to this, and more horses fall into an average range than otherwise.
This topic makes me think of some horses I've ridden and how they responded to confidence.
One little Arab gelding named Banner could be absolutely terrified but he relied very heavily on his rider. So we'd be cantering around a corner and you'd feel him start to canter higher because he was afraid to pass something spooky. But one firm push with your seat and he'd canter on by, eyes bugging out of his head but gamely trusting that you'd keep him safe.
I've ridden a few other horses that you could just bluff through anything.

Most of the Mustangs I've ridden are the opposite. In general, they've been more confident types but extremely self-reliant. You could just feel the disdain when they'd stop to look at something possibly threatening. I'd give them the old, "Come on, nothing to see here," cues and I swear their entire body language would be, "Oh really? You think YOU are going to decide if it's safe for ME?" One even turned and gave me a look.

Valhalla is very insensitive to the rider's confidence and depends heavily on herself. You could be totally confident or scared witless and she'd behave the same. She's mid-level when it comes to spooking, and once she learns things are safe, she won't spook about them again. But she is high on the excitability scale and won't calm down until her own internal factors are satisfied.

Amore is super sensitive to rider's confidence. My friend says "Amore knows if your little toe doesn't want to go over the jump." She is a very spooky horse, above mid-range excitable but can calm down quickly if the handler or rider exudes confidence. You can ride her through about anything confidently, but a nervous rider will have a tough time riding her. Amore also picks up the vibes from the other horses on the ride and will behave just like the other horse she is out with. If we go out with an old plug, she'll be an old plug. If we go out with a prancy young thing, she'll be a prancy young thing.
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post #15 of 3240 Old 12-18-2015, 12:54 PM
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I really liked what you posted on the other thread. Unfortunately, there was no "love" button to click.

But your explanation "explains" Mia and Lilly and Cowboy and Trooper and Bandit.

Cowboy is pretty experienced and self-sufficient. He is largely the same horse with a total beginner as with an experienced rider. Cowboy doesn't like arena work, but put him on a trail and he is VERY sensible. He understands the desert (having been born wild) and knows how to handle himself.

Trooper can take a total beginner, but he was named TROOPER because he was always just 'a little trooper' who would do what he was told. In most cases, his natural reaction is to do what his rider says. He was always that way, which is why my rancher friend recommended him to us. You can count on him to do what you ask in the large majority of cases.

Mia wanted to be self-sufficient, but lacked the experience. So she was nervous, but she often forgot about her rider. If she bolted, the most reliable way to slow her was to call her name softly. Once she remembered, she would 'check-in'. She also NEEDED to be part of the decision making process.

Bandit is pretty self-sufficient in the desert, but has no experience riding in human neighborhoods. In a neighborhood, he needs to trust his rider.

IMHO, the problem was that his previous riding experience was "Shut up and color" - so a firm rider would get him to obey, but against his judgment. I've been trying to show him I have good judgment. We are about to a point where his trust in me is similar to his trust in another horse...which means it helps, but he isn't confident walking past something just because another horse just did it, either.

He is enough like Mia to want to be part of the decision-making process, but he also needs a lot of reassurance at times - which can be communicated by a firm seat, firm legs, a reassuring voice, AND a refusal to let him make the decisions on his own. There is a point where, if I time it right, I can defuse tension by "suggesting" we turn left 20 degrees and get an extra 20 feet of room, or by suggesting a trot will leave us better prepared in case that garbage can DOES leap at us. A well timed suggestion will reduce his tension and buy me obedience...but the timing is still something we need to work on.

"Most of the Mustangs I've ridden are the opposite. In general, they've been more confident types but extremely self-reliant. You could just feel the disdain when they'd stop to look at something possibly threatening. I'd give them the old, "Come on, nothing to see here," cues and I swear their entire body language would be, "Oh really? You think YOU are going to decide if it's safe for ME?" One even turned and gave me a look."

That is Cowboy. Including the LOOK. He'll also stop and give Trooper the LOOK when Trooper is lagging behind so Cowboy (the decision-maker) needs to stop and wait for him. Cowboy accepts me as an adviser only. And in the desert, that is usually all he needs.

"Valhalla is very insensitive to the rider's confidence and depends heavily on herself. You could be totally confident or scared witless and she'd behave the same. She's mid-level when it comes to spooking, and once she learns things are safe, she won't spook about them again. But she is high on the excitability scale and won't calm down until her own internal factors are satisfied."

Mia. Very much like Mia.

" My friend says "Amore knows if your little toe doesn't want to go over the jump." She is a very spooky horse, above mid-range excitable but can calm down quickly if the handler or rider exudes confidence."

Bandit. His rider's attitude and confidence are very important to him, IF he believes his rider is trustworthy. He can usually be pressured into doing X, but that does nothing to calm him about X.

So thank you for a couple of great posts! A great rider wrote:
"Because of the widespread preconception that you can only learn, in a sort of intuitive way, by doing, and that reading or even thinking seriously about riding is rather pointless, too many young riders are doomed to groping too long in a forest of problems solved long ago. I can recall my astonishment, when I first began to collect books on the techniques of riding, at finding, in books written two or three centuries ago, minute descriptions of "discoveries" that I had made for myself only after a long period of trial and error...Once we become interested in learning about riding, and are not content to repeat interminably the same errors, there is much that we can learn." - William Steinkraus, Riding and Jumping, 1961.
This has been one of those "Aha!" moments for me.
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post #16 of 3240 Old 12-18-2015, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms View Post
Mia wanted to be self-sufficient, but lacked the experience. So she was nervous, but she often forgot about her rider. If she bolted, the most reliable way to slow her was to call her name softly. Once she remembered, she would 'check-in'. She also NEEDED to be part of the decision making process.

A great rider wrote:
"Because of the widespread preconception that you can only learn, in a sort of intuitive way, by doing, and that reading or even thinking seriously about riding is rather pointless, too many young riders are doomed to groping too long in a forest of problems solved long ago...
Something I never get tired of is hearing about horses' personalities, how they are the same and how they are different. Since Halla is self-sufficient, when she had ulcers last year she was dangerous (I figured out quickly she had ulcers, but not before experiencing what it was like to have her never check in). I was used to her sometimes forgetting about the rider, but she would always check in. Until she was in pain, and then I was the rider and she was the horse, and we were two unrelated entities.

I've learned a lot from reading about your horses and concepts you've learned too, and it is very helpful to share experiences with others.

Another little horse I sometimes ride named Booker is very self-reliant. He is an Anglo-Arab and has the confidence and excitability (about work) of a Thoroughbred with the stamina of an Arab. Great horse. He takes care of everything and is completely trustworthy at any gait from walk to slow canter. If you want to go faster than that, you absolutely must check in with him first. If you remember and say, "Hey, Booker, I'm here and I'm setting the pace," he will be compliant and run at your pace for your distance. If you forget and don't check in, he will run at his pace for his distance and ignore you completely.

I spent many years horseless as a child and teen, while still being obsessed with horses. Many times I heard that the only way I could learn about horses and riding was to be around them and riding them for enough hours. But I could not accept that, since my only chances to be with horses were not on a daily or even weekly basis. So I read and read, and studied concepts about horses, riding and training. Since I understood the concepts, it was much easier for me to learn quickly each time I was able to get the hands on experience.
Many of the things that have helped my riding the most are concepts, such as when I read from George Morris, "Your security is in your lower leg." Or the concept of a fast release.
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post #17 of 3240 Old 12-21-2015, 12:15 AM Thread Starter
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How I Became a Hoof Nerd - Part One

Despite my interest in anything related to horses, there were two large areas of horsemanship that I spent many years avoiding getting deeply into. The first one was horse nutrition. I figured there was a lot to it, it seemed very complicated, and every time I began reading about calcium/phosphorus ratios my head began to swim. So I kept putting off really "buckling down" and studying horse nutrition.

The second area I avoided was hoof care. It seemed enough to know the basic parts on the bottom of the hoof, keep the hooves picked out and have them cared for regularly by a competent farrier.

Around 2004 I began hearing about "barefoot" hoof trimming, and ended up getting a barefoot trimmer for Amore. Prior to this I'd put shoes on her from time to time for no other reason than because we were going to horse shows, and that was what everyone did. The trimmer said her hooves were "good," that one was "a little clubby," and it seemed like she did a good job.

A year later, I moved away and the recommended farrier did not impress me very much. He came to see my horse after six weeks, said there hadn't been much growth, took three rasps off each hoof and charged me $60. The barefoot trimmer had spent at least ten to fifteen minutes on each hoof, rasping the bottom, making a mustang roll and trimming the frogs.

Shortly after this was when I moved again and began riding Amore for many miles out on trails with my new friends. I was beginning to believe that barefoot was better for horses. However, the roads we were riding on were so rocky that Amore hit a rock wrong and put a big split up the middle of one front hoof. My friends had two farriers they used, a more methodical, educated farrier for the horses that behaved well, and another farrier that could put shoes on the one mare the first farrier wouldn't touch. The educated farrier came out, said my mare would need shoes to ride on this tough footing, and put some shoes on Amore. He said he did not have any clients that rode like we did, and showed me how our shoes could not be reset after six weeks because they were so thin he could break them in half with his hands.

These new friends of mine had gone to farrier classes themselves, and also their farrier had been sharing his knowledge with them for several years. More information was coming out on the internet about barefoot trimming, and after a few months I began to get frustrated that even with shoes on and various grooving methods, Amore's crack was not showing any signs of resolving.
My friends had begun teaching me how to use the rasp, nippers and hoof knives. At this point I decided to use some barefoot trimming methods (as I understood them at the time) to see if I could get this hoof crack to grow out.

At this same time, we were working with some new horses that were needing hoof care but that the farriers did not want to handle. We had a Mustang mare that came to us as the most aggressive horse I've ever been around. At first, if you entered the paddock with her you'd have to stand up tall, square your shoulders and have a crop in hand or else she'd come charging right at you, teeth bared. This mare would jerk her hooves away and kick you, quite purposefully and without fear or claustrophobia issues. "If you weren't so pretty..." we'd joke, since it's tough teaching a horse respect that has learned to be that aggressive. But we did end up succeeding quite well with the mare, and she was tremendously smart and brave.

Also around this time we had Valhalla show up. As I mentioned before, she was not used to being handled and was very difficult with her hooves at first. After three months, I wanted shoes put on her since I was still unsure of how to get horses out on these rocky trails barefoot, and her hooves had been neglected for awhile. Since I'd been working with her daily on picking up her hooves and hammering on them, I was confident she would be good for the farrier. However, when the farrier arrived he was concerned about the amount of muscle tension she had, and the "look in her eye." I gave her a dose of ACE to try to help. We waited and waited, the ACE did nothing, and I gave her a second shot. When that did nothing, the farrier suggested a third full dose and I said no.

My two close friends and I had been gradually changing from people who passively watched a farrier trim and shoe, to people who discussed with the farriers exactly what we wanted and had the farrier do the actual work. We decided, why not just do the work ourselves? The good farrier was getting close to retiring, so began doing fewer of the easy horses. We took over trimming and shoeing the others.

It turned out Valhalla could not wear shoes because she interfered when she galloped and I worried about her harming herself. From time to time my friends would use Easyboots on their horses, so I bought some and tried them out. Over time, we ended up keeping a few of the horses barefoot and riding with Easyboots. It became habit to inspect the other riders' horse hooves as we went along, checking to see if any boots had come off. All of us had difficulty keeping boots on hind hooves, and on front hooves when galloping.

This was the beginning of my interest in hooves, born out of necessity. I was starting to learn there was a lot more to hoof care than I'd previously thought.
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post #18 of 3240 Old 12-23-2015, 09:34 AM Thread Starter
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How I Became a Hoof Nerd: Part Two

It became quite noticeable to me that the barefoot horses owned by myself and friends had healthier hooves than the ones that wore shoes all the time.
Even though I hadn't been able to completely get rid of the toe crack on Amore's hoof that had been caused by hitting a rock, after a period of trimming the hoof myself the crack was very tiny.
Although hoof boots did not stay on satisfactorily and were difficult to put on, I was getting used to the inconvenience and they seemed preferable to shoes.

After a few years, family needs meant we had to move away from my good riding friends. My new boarding barn owner was a barefoot trimmer, but she was not currently taking care of hooves and I was on my own. Since I'd been having issues with the Easyboot gaiters rubbing around Valhalla's pasterns, I began looking into a better boot for her.
This was when I stumbled onto the world of information online about hoof care. I began studying with a group of people who followed certain "hoof guru" who was so passionate about hooves it became contagious.

After a time, I realized that although the idea of studying hooves in depth was very important, this hoof teacher I was learning from tended to the extreme and placed too little importance on what actual research had shown about how nutrition affected the hooves. All problems were considered "mechanical" and "trimming issues." Some of the more logical thinkers split off from the main group and did studying on our own, following the studies of those who had helped many horses such as Ovnicek, Ramey, Jackson, Pollit, Redden, and Bowker.

As I studied dissections, thousands of hoof photos, and spent a several years reading in depth studies about hoof anatomy, growth, and going to hoof clinics, along the way I kept running into people with horses who were in need of trimming help. In particular, people had horses that had difficulty with farriers, but that needed their hooves trimmed anyway. Because of the experiences I'd had with the horses we'd trained on my friends' farm, I would offer to help. In this area, for some reason some of the farriers are men with very little experience with horses other than farrier work. They tend to be unable to read body language well, and end up with bad experiences that make them nervous around the horses. Many of them only have one or two tools they use for bad behavior, such as hitting or yanking on the horse.
That being said, there are some very good farriers I've seen as well, that are very confident and skilled at reading horses and staying safe while handling their feet.

Most of the horses I ran into were not ill-tempered. Some of them had painful hooves and couldn't stand for long. Some had tight or weak muscles and couldn't stretch very far. Some just did not know what they were supposed to do, and some were afraid to give up their feet.

All that I learned taught me that Amore's hoof crack was going through a laminar wedge in her toe, caused by a club hoof. Once I grew out the laminar wedge, the crack disappeared, never to return. Valhalla stopped interfering once her toes were not too long. Both horses developed tight hoof capsules, concave soles, and healthy digital cushions. Renegade hoof boots were the answer to our boot retention problems, and stayed on all hooves even when galloping. Over the terrain where I currently ride, my horses don't even need to wear boots.

Each month after I trim my own horses, it usually turns out that I help out another horse or two or three. At the barn where I currently board, there is a very good barefoot trimmer who comes out and trims some of the horses, and it is nice to see such good hooves around.

It is interesting to me that although I do not call myself a natural horsemanship person, and although I can and will discipline horses, people tend to trust and believe that I will be gentle with their horses. I’d like to think that what they and the horses see is fairness. I give the horse a chance to just be scared, inexperienced, and to have excuses for behaviors. If it turns out there is not a real reason for the horse to act up a bit, I will discipline the horse. But I think people can see why I did it, and that the horse understood as well. What many people dislike (and I also dislike) is when a horse slips, and the farrier hits the horse with a file on a bony part of his body, or if a horse raises his head to look at something and the farrier yanks the horse back five steps. I guess my philosophy is to give the horse a chance to fail and not just assume they will. If the horse does fail, then I let them know what they did was wrong. In my experience, this leads quickly to better behavior on the horse’s part.

Something I always try to think about nowadays…Valhalla was tricky with her hind legs for years. It seemed to me she was just a difficult horse since other horses improved so much after patient and persistent handling. Last winter when her symptoms became very bad with hind end weakness, I watched videos of horses with shivers and noticed they did what Valhalla had always done. Their legs would come sharply forward to their bellies, as if involuntarily. I’d always felt that Valhalla tried to be good, but just couldn’t, but attributed it to personality. It was a real eye-opener when I realized what shivers and Vitamin E deficiency have in common is hind end coordination issues and weakness. After dosing Halla up on E and having her return to normal strength, amazingly she stopped pulling her hind legs away from me and held them up nicely. As I suspected, over the years she would have liked to be more helpful.
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post #19 of 3240 Old 12-23-2015, 03:37 PM
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Your posts are so informative and well-written. I really look forward to reading them.

I wish I had known this about vitamin E deficiency many years ago when I had a young mare who wouldn't let us handle her hind feet. I bought this mare from a man who knew nothing about riding and horses and didn't plan on learning anything. He had bought her at auction, knowing nothing about her except that she was a small draft and 4 years old. When he first started riding her, she was great, but it wasn't long before she was bucking, bolting, and attacking people. (We've all heard THIS story plenty, haven't we?)

Since I had grown up with horses, he "allowed" me to come check her out. I saw immediately that this little draft mare had never been handled or trained at all. I set out a nice plan for training her to be ridden, and he completely ignored and pooh-poohed all my suggestions. So, of course, she only got worse. He refused to sell her to me (I didn't need her, I just wanted to get her out of that awful situation and find her a good home), because I was a woman and couldn't possibly know anything.

Finally she had become so vicious and dangerous that people couldn't even go into her stall, and he reluctantly sold her to me. I thought I had a HUGE re-training project ahead of me when I loaded her into my trailer. But from the moment she set foot on my property, she was calm, gentle, and well-behaved. I started her as if she had never been ridden, and she was perfect--except for one thing. No matter what I did, she kicked violently when I tried to pick up her hind feet. She did everything in her power to please me in every other way, and I was convinced it was some sort of pain issue, but nobody could find anything wrong. I decided she had bad stifles, which is hard to diagnose, and stopped punishing her about the back feet.

The rest of her story is long and convoluted, so I won't go on about her. I finally sold her for only $300 to a riding school because she was so quiet and gentle with beginners, with the caveat that she had bad stifles and must never be bred. Sport horses were all the rage in those long ago days, and the riding school sold her for big bucks as a breeding mare to thoroughbreds, and her first foal sold for $3,000. I was furious with the riding school because I thought it was irresponsible breeding. Upon reading your post, wouldn't it be curious if she could have been "cured" with vitamin E? Perhaps those foals were really not irresponsibly bred? We'll never know, but I did very much like reading about what you researched.
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post #20 of 3240 Old 12-23-2015, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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Very interesting. I'm grateful to be living in these times where we can share information so easily with the world, and get expert advice from vets and researchers brought into our homes via the internet.

Being a draft horse, your mare also could have had shivers or PSSM I suppose. Did you ever notice if she held her hind legs up trembling sometimes? Did she have any difficulty backing up? What I learned was that some conditions can mimic shivers, and there are things that can help differentiate.

I could have sworn my mare had shivers until after she recovered, because her hind legs would tremble and shake. But this can be simply from muscle fatigue and weakness (apparently vitamin E deficiency disrupts the nerve/muscle communication so the horse can't use his muscles properly), while shivers actually causes the nerves to get the signals mixed up due to a lesion in the brain. So the nerves fire kind of randomly, as I understand it, and the horse can't control the muscles properly and they contract differently than the horse is trying to signal with her brain. Obviously this is frustrating to the horse, and could be upsetting too. I imagine the horse is trying to pick up the leg and hold it, but the muscles contract differently and the leg snaps forward. https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=U...&v=blfVYwSl4Os
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