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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think I've figured out what's "wrong" with my horse. He's been a real pest since I moved to the new barn and went from being a laid back dope on a rope to Dennis the menace. In talking to the barn owner, I learned that her gelding, his only turnout buddy, will not play with my gelding, and he wants to play. All. The. Time.

I asked her about turning him out with her other gelding, since she rotates who's buddies with who so nobody gets herd sour. But she said that she has yet to work up the nerve to properly introduce them, since her other horse revels in chasing newcomers around.

But in the meantime, I have a bored horse on my hands! He chews my clothes, licks my hair, knocks over muck buckets, and is always so, so interested in whatever I'm holding.

He gets 24/7 turnout with unlimited hay, no grain, and he's worked 5 or 6 days a week, but his playfulness remains. The ONLY things that have changed are the turnout (he used to live out with 20 something horses) and his workload, which has drastically increased. I used to never need to do a lunge line session before doing real work, but now I have to lunge him every time just to get his brain engaged, and it's driving me nuts!
 

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Hi,

Why not play with him first, before you try to 'get to work' with him. Do some stuff he wants to do, take him for a walk, teach him to play 'chasey' with you, do some obstacles, find toys he's allowed to play with... e.g.

But...
He chews my clothes, licks my hair, knocks over muck buckets, and is always so, so interested in whatever I'm holding.
I would not allow the chewing of clothes or licking of hair. He can inspect what I'm holding all he likes, so long as he is being 'polite' & not 'mugging' or getting in the way.

But it's up to you to teach him to be 'polite' & consistency is huge. If you allow it occasionally, that's what you'll encourage. And if you have never allowed it before, or now, & he has suddenly started trying it, then it could be that someone else is allowing this 'rude' behaviour.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I would not allow the chewing of clothes or licking of hair. He can inspect what I'm holding all he likes, so long as he is being 'polite' & not 'mugging' or getting in the way.

But it's up to you to teach him to be 'polite' & consistency is huge. If you allow it occasionally, that's what you'll encourage. And if you have never allowed it before, or now, & he has suddenly started trying it, then it could be that someone else is allowing this 'rude' behaviour.
Interesting that you mention that... It is a new behaviour that neither I or my trainer allow, but I have been concerned about another boarder without a lot of horse sense who has taken a real liking to my horse, and often pesters me about wanting to do his version of groundwork with him.

I know his old owners let him get away with anything, but I thought I nipped that in the bud.
 

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I mean I run on the treadmill everyday... is it mentally stimulating? Nope. He sounds like a great busy horse - a smart horse! Why not take to doing liberty/trick training? I'm not talking anything radical but you can't go wrong with teaching him how to bow, how to lift each leg independently, how to hold a pose, how to park up for the mounting block. Recently I've been trying to get my mare (off leadrope) to weave between cones backwards with no more than a gesture. It's hilarious for both of us and really builds our relationship. I actually think a lot of horses would benefit being treated a little more like dogs in the fun department. I don't think my mare will ever play fetch but maybe yours might? :p

Obviously long trail rides and different variations of schooling.. I actually have someone jump my mare every now and then coz I can't jump but she LOVES it. Gives her an outlet. Bareback, bitless work, obstacles....

Treat balls you stuff dinner with when stabled can occupy my mare for an hour easily, twice a day. Chopped apples in a water bucket. Or sometimes a water bucket they can get their foot in and splash like a nutcase. Huge hay pile with mixed veggies to nose for. I got a squeaky toy but right now she's a bit afraid of it. Will see where that leads...

Lastly... I play with my mare. I always have a stick or a leadrope but we go out into the empty field and I scream "boo!" and she gallops off. But from the way she comes back, her squealing and play bucking she loves it. We play hide and seek around the trees (she tries to get to me). At old place we had an exercise ball and once she was used to it I'd kick it and she'd chase after it. It goes without saying that you have to be mindful of your space and very clear on boundaries. She isn't allowed close to me until we've done some calming exercise and only once she's listening (halting on verbal cue, walking calmly around me directed) that I will let her in. She only needs about 15minutes play then she just wants to graze up against me while getting belly rubs.

I agree with the not chewing. I don't mind them booping stuff with their nose or mutually grooming me back but if he's anything like some mouthy babies are (or those that never grew out of it!) then nope.

There's a lot you can do. Just be extra safe!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the suggestions. I have taken him for walks in the woods, and he does love it. I should try a trail ride. I also plan on getting him some sort of toy, he loves to chase and toss things. If I toss something, I'm sure he'd chase it! For the days he's turned out alone, I don't think the barn owner would object to me tossing some apple slices in his bucket or hanging a toy in the run in.

I know a lady who trained her horse to pick things up and hand the item to her when she's on his back. I'll have to ask how she did it!
 

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I think I've figured out what's "wrong" with my horse.

went from being a laid back dope on a rope to Dennis the menace.

He gets 24/7 turnout with unlimited hay, no grain, and he's worked 5 or 6 days a week, but his playfulness remains.
So you want the "laid back dope on a rope" back is what I gather?

I guess I personally don't find "playfulness" to be "wrong" for a horse.

You never said.... how old is he?

You say that he's worked, but what does that involve? Riding? Ground work?

He chews my clothes, licks my hair, ...
This first bit, as already mentioned, it not acceptable. Chewing and licking can lead to biting, so it is good that you do not allow him to get away with it.

...knocks over muck buckets, and is always so, so interested in whatever I'm holding.
But I fail to see what's wrong with the second bit? He's curious. He interested. I'd rather have a horse with some personality, than one that doesn't. *shrug*

My Shotgun is like this. I can't leave ANYTHING within his reach, or it is in his mouth or he is playing with it. I even once witnessed him picking up a cat by the scruf of its neck with his teeth (in a nice way; wasn't hurting the cat) ...... I would have never even believe a horse to do this had I not seen it with my own eyes, and the BO saw it with his own eyes right beside me! (We had a good laugh about that, and cat seemed to quite enjoy the attention.)

But my horses always seem to have tons of personality, so I guess I don't mind playfulness at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't think his playfulness is necessarily wrong either, but it's very annoying when I'm trying to do ridden work. He's a very green 11 year old. It's like trying to get a distracted toddler to sit still and do math, when he used to be quite calm and willing.

What used to be the case was I could get him out of the field, tack up and go and have him be very focused on what I was asking. But ever since I moved him, his attention just isn't on me, not until about 10 minutes of riding in where he finally resigns himself to work. Everything else is just so interesting, even with the way increased workload. Spooking isn't really in his vocabulary, but he is hell bent on making sure everything is investigated and manipulated until I can convince him that listening to me is a better idea. We've been going through this every time I work with him.

He usually gets wtc on the lunge line and ground driving, with w/t with riding. If you ever ask for a canter in an open area, he goes bananas. He loves to run, and it's easy enough to bring him back to a trot, but my back doesn't like all out galloping, and I don't want him to start anticipating it. He's green enough where he doesn't quite get the difference between canter and gallop. Some people might suggest lunging to wear him out, but that's a terrible cycle of building fitness to require more and more mindless lunging.

I swear, it feels like he's regressed tenfold since moving. It's terribly depressing. I can't think of anything else to do, and even with him in full training my trainer/BO has been having the same issues with him. I don't think she quite believes me when I say he has completely changed, but she never met him before the move. She even told me that he occasionally pitches a fit when he doesn't want to do something, and even threatened to buck when she was asking him to go somewhere he didn't want to!!

Never has he ever done that before... I have no idea what else could be the cause. It's the only thing that's changed. He hasn't done anything belligerent with me, but it definitely worries me. It also doesn't surprise me if boredom during turnout is causing some rank behaviour. Just because he's on full turnout, doesn't mean he's using it to exercise. The only time he's acted like this before was when he was in a small dry lot with no friends for two weeks when the spring grass was first coming in. The second he was put out with the herd again, he was back to normal.

Before you ask, yes he's been vetted, new, professionally fitted saddle, chiropractic done, test round of gastrogard, great feet, he's had the whole shebang and he's 1000% sound. No ifs ands or buts about it. His behaviour change coincides perfectly with his move about six weeks ago.
 

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If you hadn't done the gastrogard, I'd say in my experience, sudden personality changes right after a move are almost always ulcer related.
Is it possible your trial wasn't long enough or he wasn't weaned off slowly, causing rebound acid/ulcers?

My other thought is that you say his workload has increased drastically. You say he is green...have you actually had him fit before? It could be that this is actually his baseline personality, and the other was his energy level as an unfit horse. I've often seen horses that seemed calm and/or lazy, but once put on a good diet and brought into fitness, were actually super energetic and hot. Although many horses get wild when kept in a stall or underexercised, some actually have the opposite response and shut down and become sluggish. I've known horses that were bought as calm, lazy types but once they were put into work they became super energizer bunnies.

If you don't want him to be excited about cantering, then you need to canter him a lot more. Green horses often are excited about running, but it is very helpful to teach them that they can manage their bodies and listen at that speed. Cantering more helps them stop getting excited about it. It sounds like he is easy to bring back to a trot, so he is responding to the bit and your cues. If he is manageable, then I would say cantering a lot would help bring down his energy level and also his excited responses.

Other thoughts...you don't say what his dramatically increased workload is, but if he was brought into this too quickly he may have muscle soreness. That can make a horse seem peevish or fussy. Adding magnesium and Vitamin E can help with the soreness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If you hadn't done the gastrogard, I'd say in my experience, sudden personality changes right after a move are almost always ulcer related.
Is it possible your trial wasn't long enough or he wasn't weaned off slowly, causing rebound acid/ulcers?

My other thought is that you say his workload has increased drastically. You say he is green...have you actually had him fit before? It could be that this is actually his baseline personality, and the other was his energy level as an unfit horse. I've often seen horses that seemed calm and/or lazy, but once put on a good diet and brought into fitness, were actually super energetic and hot. Although many horses get wild when kept in a stall or underexercised, some actually have the opposite response and shut down and become sluggish. I've known horses that were bought as calm, lazy types but once they were put into work they became super energizer bunnies.

If you don't want him to be excited about cantering, then you need to canter him a lot more. Green horses often are excited about running, but it is very helpful to teach them that they can manage their bodies and listen at that speed. Cantering more helps them stop getting excited about it. It sounds like he is easy to bring back to a trot, so he is responding to the bit and your cues. If he is manageable, then I would say cantering a lot would help bring down his energy level and also his excited responses.

Other thoughts...you don't say what his dramatically increased workload is, but if he was brought into this too quickly he may have muscle soreness. That can make a horse seem peevish or fussy. Adding magnesium and Vitamin E can help with the soreness.
I treated with gastrogard for two weeks after the move since he didn't have any existing ulcers, but I'm absolutely willing to try it again for longer. Supplements are also a good idea, a lot of the muscle and joint supplements aren't very expensive either.

At the old place, he was worked 2-3 times a week, wtc in the round pen or hitched to a cart with occasional riding at wtc. Usually less than 45 minutes. That work has been bumped to 5-6 times week, sometimes twice a day with a LOT of focus on getting him in proper frame. I always check his back after a ride and he never flinches when I poke him, but that also doesn't mean it isn't there.

Seems like I have some good things to try. He will be out of full training in the next few days, and back to a lighter schedule. However before I opted for full training board he was on his usual workload he was still a goof.
 

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When horses are getting fit they go through what I call a 'silly stage' where they are feeling well and think they are fitter than they really are and I suspect this is what is happening to your horse.

Get some real work into him, get him out and give him some long rides, most at a trot and canter. Make him realise that messing around is not an option.
 

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been concerned about another boarder without a lot of horse sense who has taken a real liking to my horse, and often pesters me about wanting to do his version of groundwork with him.
.
Ah, this would be a big "Thanks for thinking of him, but NO THANKS."

Hopefully the BO will see fit to try out another pasture friend or two soon.
 

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Get some real work into him, get him out and give him some long rides, most at a trot and canter. Make him realise that messing around is not an option.
I might add I agree with this fully. As well as more exercise, just like 'manners' with chewing clothes etc,
he needs to learn that there's no messing around when you ask for something. That is not acceptable. As well as giving him the 'playtime' he wants, in acceptable ways.
 

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Give the horse something to do. I've never seen or heard of a horse that works on a ranch and does 10 or so miles a day being bored. Just like people, a little hard work that they enjoy is the cure to many things.

How do you do that if your horse is a spoiled boy who only goes from the stall to the arena and back? That's the first clue imo.
 

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I swear, it feels like he's regressed tenfold since moving. It's terribly depressing. I can't think of anything else to do, and even with him in full training my trainer/BO has been having the same issues with him. I don't think she quite believes me when I say he has completely changed, but she never met him before the move. She even told me that he occasionally pitches a fit when he doesn't want to do something, and even threatened to buck when she was asking him to go somewhere he didn't want to!!

It seems to be normal for a lot of green horses to go through a regression period. I can't say I've ever had issues when I move my horses, and they have gotten moved twice a year every year for the last 6 years. It's never really been a problem at all. Granted, mine almost always have a familiar buddy with them, but not always (been times where I dropped one off at the trainer for 30 days and took the other to my usual boarding place).


Anywho, I honestly wouldn't be real worried. Sounds like you are doing every thing right -- just keep at it. He'll come around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It's infinitely reassuring to hear people saying that they've seen the same with green horses coming into fitness. Neither I nor his previous owner have ever had him this fit before.

To everyone saying to work him on multi hour rides, I'd love it if I had that much time to ride consistently. Not that I never plan on riding him for more than an hour at a time, I just don't think I could do multi hour rides more than once a week. Of course the trainer and I don't think he's spoiled to the point where he needs it, but we're obviously biased.

However, she mentioned there were a lot of downed trees on the trails thanks to a storm. Maybe some logging would keep him busy and add more spice to his otherwise boring life, he's already good about pulling loads and I think he'd look great in a full collar rather than his breastcollar.

I did ride today as well. Instead of trying to go right into work, I threw an old milk jug around with some treats inside for my horse to chase, and that little game seemed to help him focus during our ride! He was very willing, and acted just like his usual self! I really hope the secret is to spend some time playing with him before work.

The trainer also mentioned she was going to try turning my horse out with her very athletic and playful gelding rather than the boring lazy one for the first time this weekend. I'm very excited to see how things go!
 
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