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Hey guys, I'm new to the forum and desperately hoping someone can point me in the right direction.


My mare is a turd. She is a 13 year old mustang. My trainer knows her previous two owners, the first of which had her giving trail rides and lessons to kids, basically, behaving herself. The lady who then bought her started taking her to training seminars, clinics, shows, etc and began experiencing some behavioral issues, got fed up, and sold her to me last year.


The entire year I've had her has had it's ups and downs. I got thrown off the first time I rode her at my place because she spooked at a twig and lost her **** mind. Another time she spooked at a rock and spun circles until I decided my safest option was an emergency dismount. Some rides, however, are perfect. She is a really well trained horse and knows her job when you can get her to focus, but most days she is tense, nervous, girthy, cold backed, and God forbid you touch her ears. When any of this bad behavior happens, my butt gets back in that saddle and makes her work so she is not "getting away with it". Desensitizing training doesn't stick, I'll have her wearing a tarp one day and the next day it's new and terrifying to her.


Then, about 2 months ago, she started kicking out when I pick her back feet, but it didn't seem like she was trying to kick me, it was more of an "ow don't touch that". She had also recently become increasingly sensitive in her back, she will quiver and twitch if you put pressure on either side of her spine. The vet was coming out later that week anyway for shots so we asked him about all this, he felt around her back, she acted uncomfortable, and he diagnosed her with anaplasmosis, a tick-borne illness that can cause extreme muscle discomfort and neurological symptoms. It's also been very common in our area this year so he didn't recommend testing for it, 2 weeks of doxy and I should have a new horse. Great!


I did ground work with her for those 2 weeks; I didn't want her to sit around but I also didn't want her uncomfortable. Once she finished up her doxy, I saddled up and put my foot in the stirrup...she started bucking. I called my trainer and she said we should work her hard for 7 days straight to get rid of that attitude. She came over the next day but while grooming my horse, she couldn't stand the curry comb. Any pressure anywhere on her withers, back, hip areas was intolerable and she was sinking her back, twitching and moving away. My trainer would not work that horse, she said this is a pain issue not a behavioral issue, so I called the vet back out...


He examined her and recommended another 2 weeks of doxy, swearing her back seemed better. I have been doing my research, and aside from her eating habits, this sounds to me like hind gut ulcers. There are videos on YouTube by Mark DePaolo DVM that show horses with hindgut ulcers who have the exact reaction to pressure in certain areas as my mare. A very experienced horse friend of mine had also mentioned that she had a horse with lymes who acted how my horse is acting. She's also very marish and could be having discomfort and problems with her cycles, I know she has been on regumate in the past. I brought all this up with the vet and he blew it off as "she's a mustang, she's just crazy." Didn't want to do a blood test, didn't want to test for anything, he prescribed me Zylkene to calm her down.


My question now is, where do I go from here? I will admit that I'm not the most experienced horse person in the world and may need help. I've thought about sending her off with a cowboy for a month who will teach her butt a lesson. Maybe I need to give her the Zylkene and just deal. At the same time, my trainer and I agree that it seems like something is WRONG and I don't want her working if she's in pain. I have an appointment next week with a different vet who is also does chiropractic work and acupuncture, both of which I have had good results from on other animals. I at least want a second opinion from him, but I don't even know what we're looking for. Do I ask for a blood test to check for lymes? Do I ask for a scope? Have you experienced something similar? Money really isn't an issue with this, my only concern is the well being of my horse. I will not give up on her, she has been passed around too many times and is with me until her last day, turd or not. I just wish she was a rideable turd. Sorry this turned into a novel, I just didn't want to leave anything out. Any insight is greatly appreciated!
 

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Since she is already under a vet's care, an easy place to start might be trying a magnesium supplement. Sometimes calms spooky horses, good for mares in heat and IF she is deficient might clear up some of the issues like the sensitivities to grooming you are experiencing. It is inexpensive. IF she is not deficient, you will not see many changes.
 

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Hi & welcome!


That you've put this under health & from what you've said means you recognise that it is quite probably a physical problem. Especially in that case, don't lable her as 'a turd', but even if it's 'just behavioural', someone MADE her like that, so it's up to you to help her learn better.


It's also been very common in our area this year so he didn't recommend testing for it, 2 weeks of doxy and I should have a new horse. Great!

Yeah, can't comment on specifics of testing/treating the disease, but as you mentioned, Lyme disease(are these very similar? I know tick borne...) is another distinct possibility. As are ulcers, but it sounds like more than 'just ulcers'. Could easily be other body issues - she's 'out' somewhere, pinched nerve, something's damaged... so I'd also strongly consider a good bodyworker, such as a chiropractic vet, to check her out.


But as said by Reining, it could be as easy as magnesium deficiency, which is extremely commonly deficient and in extreme can cause 'inexplicable' shying & touchiness, overly 'marish' behaviour(Mg deficiency causes muscle cramps too). It's safe to give this even if not deficient, so I'd go ahead & do this personally.


I called my trainer and she said we should work her hard for 7 days straight to get rid of that attitude. ... My trainer would not work that horse, she said this is a pain issue

Don't agree with her first comment, even if it were 'just behavioural' but absolutely respect her conclusion.

I brought all this up with the vet and he blew it off as "she's a mustang, she's just crazy." Didn't want to do a blood test, didn't want to test for anything, he prescribed me Zylkene to calm her down.
On that note, I'd definitely be looking for a better vet! If that's not an option, I'd tell him, rather than ask to do blood tests. I suppose the med he proscribed is a sedative?

I've thought about sending her off with a cowboy for a month who will teach her butt a lesson.
If it's a physical issue, this will do more harm than good. Rule out/treat physical issues to the fullest before considering working her. Even if it's 'just behavioural', working her with that kind of attitude is likely to do more harm than good - at best get her working better but resenfully.

*Assuming* it's 'behavioural', think about the fact that she WAS well trained & easy to handle, so consider her perspective on what might have changed. She must have had some bad/confusing experiences that have caused her to 'come unglued'. Therefore she needs some *considerate & clear* 'retraining' in order to reassure her that being ridden isn't something to fear & hate.

I have an appointment next week with a different vet who is also does chiropractic work and acupuncture,
Excellent! Wrote above before reading that bit.

Do I ask for a blood test to check for lymes? Do I ask for a scope?
You might want to wait & see what bodyworker vet says, and put her on Mg & wait a couple weeks to see if that has much effect, but yes, I'd want her bloodtested for things like Lymes. Scoping will pick up stomach ulcers but not hind gut. And meds will help treat stomach ulcers but not hind gut. IMO I wouldn't bother scoping, but look into diet/management changes if need be for her gut health, and include some herbal supps such as slippery elm, aloe vera, etc. I also would do this, if you suspect ulcers, before/during considering meds for it too. The chiro vet will likely give you more good info/advice on that, and acupuncture might be able to help that too.
 

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I'd talk to the NEW vet about having a complete blood panel done to see if she's got any hormone issues, vitamin deficiencies and check for the tick born stuff. Ticks are gawd awful this year. I don't disagree with the Magnesium idea, probably won't hurt and it might help. She does sound like she's out somewhere and that was my first impression, that she needed a vet who would do chiro/accupuncture or refer her if needed and would do a thorough work up. She may just have your number and be being a li'l Witchy Poo, but it sounds like more than that. I would not work her under saddle until the new vet has a go at her.
 

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can you tell us a bit more about her diet, and her care situation? alone or with others,? turn out? etc.

please give us a fuller picture of her total lifestyle, ok?

I do think this might be more a physical than behavioral issue, and just sending her out to be 'cowboyed' . . . well, . . wait a bit first. let's hear more about her living circumstances now, and what they were before, ok?
 

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Hi'

The fact that she is sinking with the curry comb etc. is a huge sign she is in pain. The bucking before you are even in the saddle is another clue. So, something is very wrong with her, as in a big pain issue. Why would you want someone to "teach her but a lesson" when she is obviously in pain. You cannot beat an injured or sick horse healthy. She is not a "turd" She is your horse and she is hurt.

I would not ride or work her until you figure out what is going on. I would think that hand walking would be fine. Let the new vet see her and follow their suggestions provided it sounds reasonable.

It sounds like your previous vet was a "VETASAURUS". An old timer vet that should have retired when they got sick of their job and no longer want to continue their education or help any horses.

Try this different Vet. If you don't like them try another. You need someone who will work with you and figure out what is wrong with your horse.
 

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Something else to keep in mind, snapping the hind legs up like that can be a sign of sacroiliac pain/injury. Its quite common for horses to end up sore through there, but it can be difficult to pinpoint if you're not specifically looking for it. I'd look at getting the new vet and maybe checking out her SI in addition to what everyone else has suggested.
 

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I would get a second opinion from a different vet. Perhaps a vet hospital. Scope for ulcers, go down the list of your problems. Run bloodwork. Ultrasound ovaries. Evaluate for lameness/body soreness. Teeth.

Then consider Chiro/bodywork.

Then once all that has been cleared- send to good trainer for boot camp.
 

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I agree with everyone - this sounds like a very serious pain issue rather than a behavioral issue. Magnesium can't hurt (I put my mare on it, and she's calmer, but that's probably due to a lot of things), however, I don't think it's going to fix the problem which sounds far more severe than a magnesium deficiency.

I hope you figure this out! I commend you on your commitment to this mare. The good thing is that if you can fix this, she could be a truly awesome horse!
 

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Everyone is leaning the direction of physical pain from ulcers or being deficient in something....a few thinking body dynamics need adjusting..

Have you checked your tack?
Is your saddle fitting her well or better than just OK?
These problems arrived before you owned her but you are also aware of their arrival so I think you know the mare for some time...

Has she possibly been injured and now over time she has less tolerance to a nagging hurt?
Could she have twisted her back, pinched a nerve that with your riding differently than the previous owner is aggravating it?
In my experience horses are either cold-backed or not...it doesn't appear years later out of the blue that I know of...
Her "behavior" issues started when she started doing clinics to me is a red-flag...
Someplace, somewhere during a clinic experience when being made to do a new way of moving or doing something she "un-tweaked" her anatomy and she is now in pain...
Thankfully you are reading her body language and searching for the root cause of her attitude change.
Spookiness, spinning, bucking, sensitivity to touch,... These are all evasive movements. Everything points to me as pain she has.
Find the pain origination point, work to correct it and I bet you the mare you knew returns...
Best of luck.
:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
 

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I can only comment on the Lyme/Anaplasmosis aspect of it. I have a mare who has had lyme flare ups several times, as well as anaplasmosis. When she was at her worst, her balance was weird, she was extremely grouchy about everything, she laid her ears back at anything touching her, and the last symptom to show up was stiffness. For that, my vet threaded a catheter in her neck, and I gave her IV antibiotics for 10 days, followed up by 2 months of Oral Doxy. After the IV treatment, she was markedly happier and not stiff anymore. Even if it is just lyme, she probably wasn't on the doxy long enough...my vet usually give 30 days of doxy to start, and then another 30 if they are no better.

If it is truly lyme/anaplasmosis, she was not treated long enough to make a difference.

I would find a more progressive vet who will send blood to the lab for titer levels. We deal with lyme a lot here in Pennsylvania.
 

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Find another vet who will do the testing you ask about.

Lyme was my first thought. Two weeks of just doxy will only make the Lyme spirochete laugh. [I have 4 horses and 2 dogs with Lyme as well as several human friends, so I am all too familiar with the disease.] Ulcers wouldn't surprise me either but I personally would start with sending a multiplex to Cornell to see exactly what her Lyme status is.

I would also stop trying to ride her until you get her issue figured out, as "working her through" a pain issue is never the answer. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Thank you SO much for your detailed responses. I mean "turd" in the nicest way possible, I swear. I suppose it's not the nicest descriptive term, but it's my little way of adding humor to this exhausting situation. :) This mare is my life. I know she has an attitude and always will, but I also know that this is NOT her just trying to act out, I really do believe she is telling me something is wrong, I just hope this new vet is as determined as I am to figure I out!

Loosie, she is on Smart Calm, which provides 5,000mg of magnesium per day. I put her on it about 9 months ago and it didn't seem to make a difference, I just didn't want to take her off incase it's doing SOMETHING for her. I asked my current vet very adamantly about blood work and he shot me down both times, which is why we have an appointment on Wednesday with a new vet. If it is behavioral, you are very right about her being "confused", I know in her previous homes she was trained by many different people in different disciplines in a pretty short amount of time, but I'm definitely going to rule out any possible physical issues before going this route.

Tinyliney, she is kept turned out 24/7 with one other mare and a gelding. They have access to pasture whenever they please and I also feed hay morning and evening, it is a orchard grass/timothy blend. This mare is a healthy weight and I don't give her any grain, just her magnesium supplement in the morning. Her teeth have been checked and are fine. Her saddle fits her very well and has been checked by a professional.

Horselovingguy you brought up some very good points. I will admit I am not a perfect rider and it is possible my riding style is aggravating an old injury. I am not aware of any previous injuries, but it is a possibility.

We are not going to be riding until something gets figured out. I actually just got off the phone with ANOTHER vet who has really helped me choose a direction to take with this. He said keep her on the doxy because lymes is a huge possibility, go to the chiro Wednesday and get any physical injuries ruled out then Thursday we are doing a full blood panel to send to Cornell. This should give us a good idea of what we are dealing with, if not a definite. I am really thankful for your responses. I felt wrong in doubting the vet because, well, I am not a vet. But I also feel my horse is trying to tell me something
 

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My gelding developed behavior issues and extreme sensitivity to touch on one side. I suspected Lyme (after many other things). I am in NC and my vet said Lyme isn't as common here as EPM. My horse tested positive for EPM, and it was a total shock to me. After treatment for a month, his behavior and sensitivity has improved tremendously. I feel bad that I had no idea he had such a serious issue and I was treating it as behavioral. I wanted to bring it up in case it is something for you to consider as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you 3Horses2DogsandaCat , that is definitely something I will discuss with the vet. My mare doesn't really show textbook symptoms for it but I know each horse has a different way or responding to pain so I'm keeping an open mind with this. I also feel terrible that for MONTHS we have been treating it as behavioral; in a way I am thankful for this new behavior to lead me in search of a pain issue behind the grumpiness!
 

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CowCow I want to commend you for looking for something physical. Through my years of experience, "misbehavior" comes from either a)pain from something going on with them or b)they are confused or c) the misbehavior is actually a response that the horse is giving to a cue that someone has somehow trained into them..unintentionally or intentionally. Horses don't think "How can I be bad today?" .

Rule out anything physical first. Have you had her scopes for ulcers? If bloodwork comes back normal and chiro/acupuncturist cannot pinpoint anything, I would consider this.

I had a world renowned acupuncturist tell me that if your horse has ulcers, to give 25ml of aloe vero GEL (not liquid) orally before each meal for 3 weeks. Several of the horses at my barn have been treated this way and all but ones issued all resolved entirely.

I would definitely stay off of her until you complete all testing. You don't want her to start equating that being ridden=pain automatically..as well as...well..she is in pain.

Please let us know what if anything the new vet is able to turn up.
 

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Is she a BLM Mustang? If she is, it could be that something happened before she was rounded up. That could be a reason the previous owners know nothing about an injury.
 

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most days she is tense, nervous, girthy, cold backed, and God forbid you touch her ears.

When any of this bad behavior happens, my butt gets back in that saddle and makes her work so she is not "getting away with it".

She had also recently become increasingly sensitive in her back, she will quiver and twitch if you put pressure on either side of her spine.

Once she finished up her doxy, I saddled up and put my foot in the stirrup...she started bucking.

I called my trainer and she said we should work her hard for 7 days straight to get rid of that attitude.

She came over the next day but while grooming my horse, she couldn't stand the curry comb. Any pressure anywhere on her withers, back, hip areas was intolerable and she was sinking her back, twitching and moving away. My trainer would not work that horse, she said this is a pain issue not a behavioral issue, so I called the vet back out...
Well I am glad that you have progressed to determining this is the pain issue, because it's pretty obvious! Seems that her behavior has been escalating because she has been trying to tell you for quite some time that she is in pain, but you just "make her work". She's finally resorted to bucking to get her point across.

I'm also glad your trainer came in-person. I can't imagine if she had only given you the advice over the phone without clearly knowing the details of the situation (where her first advice would have been dead wrong).

I think you are on the right track with a chiro visit, and blood work. And then it should be followed up with a full lameness evaluation with a GOOD vet. And go from there.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Rule out anything physical first. Have you had her scopes for ulcers? If bloodwork comes back normal and chiro/acupuncturist cannot pinpoint anything, I would consider this.
I have not had her scoped yet as this new vet is leaning more towards lymes or hormonal issues, but ulcers are definitely a concern. I took her to the chiro last week and found that her neck and both hips were out, and while he said that was definitely a contributing factor, he didn't seem to think it was the main cause. Unfortunately our bloodwork appt got moved to this Thursday, vet had to go out of town and also said it might be best to wait a few days after seeing the chiro anyways, we don't want to overlap too many treatments/tests too quickly so we can get clear results on what works. I just can't wait to get some test results and have a better look at what's really going on.

Well I am glad that you have progressed to determining this is the pain issue, because it's pretty obvious! Seems that her behavior has been escalating because she has been trying to tell you for quite some time that she is in pain, but you just "make her work". She's finally resorted to bucking to get her point across.
As am I! This horse is known for being difficult and is known for taking advantage of a handler who goes too easy on her. I've asked several experienced horse people about her behavior over the year I've owned her and got told many times that I was "letting her get away with it" and based on her history I thought they were right. She's not the type that you can hop on once a week and expect a calm ride. If there is something very wrong, I am thankful she finally tossed & knocked some sense in me so I can get it figured out. :grin:
 
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