Horse Show Anxieties

I am just going to take this time to blab on a little on our Anxiety issues. Yes, both Tofino and I suffer from it unfortunately.

This week, Tofino and I had a really bad show. The worst so far. Normally we have an okayish round then come back strong in the second round.

This time however, both rounds were horrible! Included refusals, crashes and elimination.

I myself have been diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder and do get treated for it. So come show day, I always make sure I am up to date with my medication and feeling calm.

Tofino however, only has anxiety at shows. Even though I do put him on SoZen by Cavalor

SoZen is a calming supplement that is useful for horses that are constantly battling tension and nervousness in their daily lives. Cavalor SoZen that works to control cortisol levels in horses. When horses are constantly stressed the body creates an abundance of adrenaline and typically not enough cortisol to balance out the hormone levels in the horse.  SoZen is very useful for competition horses that have a hard time focusing on their work.


We do really well at home, from jumping, to flatwork, to hacking with not many issues to be honest. Come show day, he knows, he feels it, and sometimes even backs away from the trailer.

Many people along the way said it is because of me, because I am nervous, I am scared, I transfer it to him, but I promise you my medication works miracles on myself.

That being said, I never take it at home when we are jumping and we do just fine. He does have vision issues, finding it harder to jump in flood lights but that hasn’t held us back drastically.

This type of anxiety that he has is definitely related to shows as he always holds himself back once reaching the show gate.

Generally horses have 7 types of fear according to EquiSearch:

1. Objects. The objects that horses most commonly find terrifying include: rocks, farm equipment, cars, buildings, jumps, garbage cans and pretty much anything they consider out of the ordinary.
2. Situations. Many horses are uncertain about dark or enclosed places (like an indoor arena), and even more are genuinely scared of being alone (they are herd animals). Often this fear will be expressed by being buddy-sour or barn-sour, and sometimes they don’t want to go in a ring, either at home or in a competition.
3. Sounds. Highly strung horses are easily unglued by loud, unexpected noises (a car back-firing, a garbage can falling over). Others can’t stand hissing noises (like from a leaky hose coupling), and others don’t like rustling noises (in leaves or under something). Both probably sound like a snake.
4. Clipping or other grooming/handling. Some horses are genuinely afraid of clippers, either the sound or the sensation. Some don’t like to receive shots, and others are anxious about being shod.
5. New places. This can be as obvious as moving to a new home or going to a competition. Or it could just be moving to a new stall or riding in a new trailer. Anxiety could even be caused by more subtle changes around the barn (the jumps were moved in the ring, for instance).
6. Type of work/type of rider. Horses often prefer a certain type of rider. And often horses with a strong desire to please become anxious because they don’t understand what’s being asked of them, either because the exercise isn’t clear to them or the rider’s aids are confusing.
7. Other animals. Horses are often afraid of birds, cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, deer or other wildlife. And some are afraid of other horses.


And 5 Types of Anxieties According to 

1. Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety is caused by moving a horse away from herd mates. Horses who are turned out together may dislike being moved from the pasture into the stable for grooming and saddling. They may try to bolt or return to the horse. Conversely, a horse ridden alone in the riding arena may attempt to bolt and return to the relative safety of the barn, where he knows there are other horses.

2. Performance anxiety: Horses, like people, can become anxious before events. Sometimes, they simply pick up on our nonverbal anxiety cues, like feeling their riders tense or hang onto the reins a little tootightly. Other horses learn to associate the sights, smells and sounds of a competition with anxiety.Thoroughbreds that are used to giving their all at the racetrack may transfer this performance anxiety to their new lives, even though the stakes are much lower. They are unable to distinguish between the noises of the track and the noise of the country fair, where their new owners take them to an unrated show. To them, it is still time to perform, and they tense up in anticipation of the event.

3. Situational anxiety: Situational anxiety occurs when horses associate a particular situation with something bad happening. A horse that may have been in a trailer accident as a youngster may associate stepping into the trailer with the pain and fear of the accident, even though years have passed between now and the time of the accident. Such anxiety can be difficult to diagnose if you have a new horse or don’t know your horse’s history. You may know when he gets anxious, but aren’t sure why.

4. Boredom: Although you may not think that boredom and anxiety are synonymous, horses who are bored may also be anxious. These are generally the stall walkers and weavers. They don’t have enough to do, and this makes them anxious.

5. Change anxiety: Lastly, change anxiety occurs when a horse’s living conditions are abruptly changed. Moving a horse from a big, open pasture into a confined stable and a heavy training schedule without any transition can be stressful for him. Some horses dislike having different riders each day and aren’t well-suited to being lesson or rented-trail horses. These horses react poorly to change and exhibit the telltale signs of anxiety, such as eye-rolling, avoidance and backing, spooking and bolting.


Five Tips For Anxious Moments according to EquiSearch

1. Don’t look at the object or area of fear. Focus your eyes on a spot in the distance and ride to it. This prevents you from acknowledging the object as something fearful and keeps your eyes, head and balance up and forward.
2. If you have a horse who’s perpetually spooky, try riding with a breastplate, racing yolk or grab strap. This will give you something to grab if he wheels or bolts, other than his mouth. Catching nervous horses in the mouth can often send them over the edge.
3. If the horse is contorting its body to look at an object in or near your ring every time you go past it, and thus disrupting your work, instead of fighting to force him not to look at it, force him to look-but keep working. Ride a leg-yield or half-pass (or even a simple outside bend) that puts the horse’s eye on the object, but follow it up with strong leg aids that force him to continue stepping forward and working.
4. If your horse is walking like a tense ball about to explode, pick up the trot and start riding figures like serpentines or figure-eights. Concentrate on the geometry of the figures and the rhythm of the trot. Ignore everything else. Some top riders sing while they’re doing this to force themselves to breathe consistently and release tension, and the rhythm of the song helps them create a consistent rhythm in the trot.
5. Remember, the hardest thing for some horses to do is walk on a loose rein. The loss of contact with the rider can feel like abandonment, and they’re more likely to become anxious or startled. Although being able to walk on a loose rein is a must, be patient with horses and riders who struggle with this concept. Begin by trying brief periods of loose rein between two letters of a standard dressage court, increasing the amount of walk over time.

I think once we check on his eyes again, i’ll  give it another go at the shows. Fingers crossed

Stretch Your Horse App

As important as stretching is for us after exercise, the same goes to horses.
Stretching your horse’s muscles will enhance performance and reduce the possibility of an injury.
I have previously written a post on “Warming Up &  Cooling Down you Horse” in order slowly get your horse moving before and after proper riding. In addition to warm up and cool down, you can also help your horse to better their performance by following multiple stretching techniques. These are carefully written and recorded by an application called Stretch Your Horse which is designed to teach viewers how to safely and effectively stretch their horse’s muscles anytime and anywhere.
Note: Stretching should only be done on warm muscles.  If you warm up your horse in the saddle, this means you should stretch your horse after you ride.


Benefits of Stretching:
  • Enhances sensory nerve endings (for muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints) 
  • Prevent injury (reduce risk of muscle & tendon injury) 
  • Increase suppleness & elasticity
  • Improve circulation
  • Relieve pain, inflammation, muscle spasms
  • Avoid stiff/sore muscles
  • Relieve joint (as you extent contracted muscle to their position it relieves stress off ligament that is attached to joint) 
  • Promote relaxation

[For more information, check out: Stretching your horse benefits and guidelines]


Stretch Your Horse App features the following:
  • No internet connectivity or cell service needed after the initial download  
  • Each video is downloaded separately and resides on smartphone
  • Download on wi-fi to avoid data plan usage and charges (strongly recommended)
  • Cost effective because rider only downloads specific stretch videos their horse needs
  • Great for riders of all experience levels and non-riders too
  • All stretches done from the ground

  


The application is very easy to navigate and has numerous videos on a wide range of sections that cover your horse’s body. The app comes with 3 free videos.  You are able to review each video and give your feedback.  There is a small purchase fee ($1.99 USD) for each video. This is easy on the pocket and enables the rider to customize purchases based on their horse’s specific needs.  Personally, I would rather buy all 22 videos at once for convenience, but not everyone would want to do that.

  


The images and writings are very clear and straight forward, making it accessible for those with no scientific background with regards to horses.  The loading time does depend on your internet speed, but once it is loaded it saves into the app which allows you to access it anytime without having to use data again.

  


You can purchase the app for just $2.99, and get 3 free videos.  Most of the other videos cost only $1.99.  Customize your video purchases.  Buy only the stretches your horse needs.

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Click image to preview
​ App and download to your iPhone.  (You must do this from your phone.)

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Click image to preview App and download to your Android phone.  (You must do this from your phone.)

West Nile Virus [IMPORTANT!]

This virus has come to my attention due to the fact that one of the horses in our stables has the symptoms for West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus (WNV) causes an inflammation of the central nervous system. Both humans and animals can get infected from a mosquito that is carrying the virus. WNV occurs mostly in the late summer or early autumn.


SYMPTOMS

Those infected may show zero signs of illness, however, if the virus reaches the central nervous system, it can cause encephalitis (brain swelling). For horses, the symptoms can take 5-15 days to show, which include the following:

  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • fever
  • weakness of hind limbs
  • paralysis of hind limbs
  • impaired vision
  • ataxia (weakness)
  • head pressing
  • aimless wandering
  • convulsions (seizures)
  • inability to swallow
  • walking in circles
  • hyperexcitability
  • coma

TREATMENT

There is no specific antibody to counter attack the virus, therefore, depending on the affect the virus has on each individual horse, a treatment plan should be developed.

  • Control fever if present.
  • Ensure horse receives sufficient fluids and feed. Oral or intravenous feeding may also be necessary for horses unable to eat.
  • If mobility is compromised, slinging is recommended 2 to 3 times per day to aid in circulation and to try to prevent pressure point sores (bed sores).
  • If horse keeps collapsing, head and leg protection will be necessary.
  • Treating secondary events if noticed. These may include joint and tendon infections, sheath infections, pneumonia, and diarrhea, all due to overall weakness and lack of mobility.

Horses can improve within 5 to 7 days after showing sings of the virus, however, 20-30% can show severe neurological deficits for a few weeks. Moreover, mortality rate is around 33%, whereas full recover is around 50%, and relapse or incomplete recover is around 17%.


PREVENTION

There is a vaccination that requires two doses, given 3-6 weeks apart. That being said, the protection will not develop until around 4-6 weeks after the second dose.
Note: 36 hours rest post vaccination for horses

Try and keep the stables clean and free from mosquito breeding habitats which include tires, wheelbarrows, old buckets, etc.),. Roof and gutters should also be cleaned constantly.

  • Keep horses indoors during active mosquito times (dawn/dusk)
  • Use fans
  • Use flysheets
  • Flyspray
  • Insecticide mist
  • Turn off lights that attract mosquitoes at night, or use fluorescent lights, which do not attract mosquitoes.
  • Keep an eye out for dead birds around the stables

It is very crucial to get your horse vaccinated, of if they are, continue to give them boosters when necessary.

Keep safe! Hope this helps

Riding Gymnastics Exercises

Gymnastics in riding is very helpful when it comes to jumping your horse. It not only helps develop your horses muscles, but also help the rider to better understand and play around with striding.

Benefits of Gymnastics Exercises:

  • Develops confidence in both horse and rider
  • Gain better balance
  • Learning to stay on a consistent rhythm
  • Corrects drifting/improves straightness
  • Helps in understanding/controlling striding
  • Helps in developing equitation

Generally, there are 3 phases, which include trot poles, cross pole, vertical and an oxer. This gives you a variety to work with and better understand the feel over the jumps.

You mostly start with trotting over the trot poles, however, there are some who prefer to just canter straight towards the cross pole. It depends on your riding and training.

Here is a video that helps to explain the 3 parts:

I personally need to work on this a lot! It is a good exercise to do at least once a week, even if it is only poles on the ground.

Hope this helps 🙂

Tips to Buying a Horse

I have been asked a few times what to look for when buying a new horse, or the average cost etc.

Therefore, I decided to write up this post just to summarize some crucial points to keep in mind before purchasing a horse.

Things to think of before considering buying a horse:

  • Determine your level: If you are a beginner, it is best to stick with riding schools or leasing rather than owning a horse until you are a little more experienced
  • Commitment: Are you ready to commit to taking care of a horse and riding it often?
  • Cost: A horse’s price may range, but the cost of livery and other services they need for maintenance is costly with each month
  • Outcome: Why are you looking to buy a horse? what is your goal? Leisure riding? competing? etc.
  • Look around: Do not settle for one breeder/seller, ask around and see what’s out there
  • Ask around: Do not be afraid to ask horse owners about the lifestyle and their experience with their horses
  • Get Help: Do not attempt to go ride a horse on your own. Make sure you have a knowledgable trainer, friend, horse owner etc, with you
  • People are not always honest: Hard truth is that people lie, whether it be about the horse, price, history etc. So keep that in mind.

Things to think of when considering a horse:

  • Pick a discipline: as horses of different breeds are used for different disciplines 
  • Keep options open: Just because you liked an ad for one horse, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at others
  • Take an experienced person with you
  • Watch the horse being lead walking and trotting
  • Observe as being ridden: Ask seller or person with you to ride the horse beforehand if you are not comfortable
  • Ride the horse yourself
  • Check horse’s behaviour: Loading in trailer, stable manners, farrier etc.
  • Temper: are they too temperamental or too lazy?
  • Experience: What have they done in the past? Schoolmaster? green? 
  • Age: Old does not mean experienced and vise versa
  • Horse History: Check the horses medical and training history
  • Price: Are they worth the price asked? Always negotiate 
  • VET CHECK VET CHECK VET CHECK! I cannot stress enough about this, but make sure you do a vet check that is not in the same location as the horse is generally in, as things may be overlooked or gotten used to.

I hope I didn’t forget anything els, if so please comment below 🙂

 

 

Tips to Loading Difficult Horses

Ever since Tofino’s sight has been deteriorating, he has been very difficult to load onto the trailer, even though we never had a problem with loading at all before.

First thing first, NEVER use force. No whips, chains, hitting etc. The reason why a horse won’t load is either because it’s something new and need to get used to it, or it’s because they are genuinely afraid for many reasons.

  1. Be patient
  2. Open the side door of the trailer so the area feels less claustrophobic
  3. Having a horse already inside will help to ease anxiety and doubt
  4. Lead your horse yourself as they probably trust YOU
  5. Allow your horse to walk around the trailer and sniff it out
  6. Reward with each step
  7. Talk to your horse gently
  8. If that fails, simply cover your horses eyes with a jumper or towel and lead them inside (this seems to work most of the time)

Note: Don’t forget your safety travel gear!

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If you have any specific technique you know of, please do not hesitate to share. Personally, I have been using the above steps and ended up having to cover his face once which worked like a charm. Without doing so, it would take me 20 minutes to load otherwise.

Hope this helps

Hock Injections (Arthritis & Bone Spur)

The hocks play a major role for the horses movement. They are the driving mechanism for their hind end. The Hock is the joint between the tarsal bones and tibia.


What happens to the hocks?

When the horses cartilage starts to thin in the middle join spaces, pain is evident as it is the actual bone grinding when moving. Therefore, horses will start to develop bone spurs along the edges which is the starting process of bone fusion. This affects not only the back legs, but also the the hips, croup and hindquarters.

To help relieve pain during the degeneration process, an injection is given to the lower and middle joint spaces until the process of fusion is complete.  Fusion is a good thing in this case as they don’t slide, and therefore they don’t hurt anymore.

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This happens to many athletic horses. The injection consists of corticosteroids, which  are anti-inflammatory agents that according to studies and performance, help with pain relief and inflammation. Some vets combine corticosteroid with hyaluronate (also known as hyalruonic acid, or HA) to help lubricate the joint. Tofino got his hock injected within the first few months of having him. His X-ray showed that he has arthritis between the joints and started to develop bone spurs (see pic below).


Causes:
  • Type of riding
  • Genetics (play a role in arthritic degeneration)
  • Diet
  • Movement, or lack there of (horses in stall, standing still will be a lot stiffer)
Solutions:
  • Joint Supplements: Adequan, Legend, Pentosan, glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM, NSAIDs are some of many suppliments that can aid in joint lubrication and pain.
  • Weight management & Exercise: If your horse is overweight it can put a load of pressure on the hocks. If not then just continue to work them normally, and keep the outside of their box as much as possible.
  • Therapy: To help relieve stiffness and pain.
  • Surgery: Only in extreme cases, surgical drilling of the hock joints or chemical fusion of the hocks may be an option.
  • Injections: Cortisone injections provide somewhat of a long term anti-inflammatory effect and pain relief. Depending on discipline and intensity, the injection may last somewhere between between 6 and 15 months.

Within the 5 years that I have had Tofino, I have only injected him 3 times so far. As soon as I start to notice when he’s in pain in that area, I give our vet a call. I found that the Turmeric treats help SO MUCH with the fluidity of his movements, and his diet, being on Reverdy Feed has given him the right nutrients, without adding supplements, to hold off on the injections, therefore, not needing them as much.

We are not sponsored by Reverdy Feed anymore, but I still stand by the product as I have noticed a great deal of positive change with Tofino’s performance and body.