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Tense Muscles - Even at Rest
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Bryy
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Joined: Sun Jun 21st, 2015
Location: Guilford, Connecticut USA
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 04:18 am
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Hi all-

There is a horse at the barn who's every muscle is tense, all the time. He is a recent arrival (this fall) and though green under saddle and a little shy was well enough mannered that barn staff could handle him.  Turn in and out, blanketing and the like. He has slowly lost the belief that humans are out to help him and has become increasingly difficult to catch, even halter in his stall, explosive reactive to things such as saddling, blanketing, or even hanging a broom by his stall.  There is "spooky" and then there is "everything in the world is going to get me." As this has happened, his neck muscles (the only thing I'm able to readily palpate) have gone from fluffy and "oh that's a beautiful neck" to hard, all the time.  This seems to be similar along his entire body. He's a 6 or 7 year old quarter horse.

A lyme test has come back medium high and Doxy has been started. I've suggested starting him on MgCl salts.  Are there other suggestions of physical areas to investigate?

Thank you,
Julie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 01:35 pm
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Bryy, is this your horse? Because if it is not, then you should simply leave it alone, because the animal is not broke. I have mentioned this to you before: it's not your job to fix other peoples' horses, and your job at the stable does not require you to go into a stall with any horse that is liable to hurt you. So don't.

At very most, mention to the owner of the horse that they need to get him to a Buck Brannaman or Harry Whitney clinic, or Joe Wolter or Bryan Neubert & Sons: where he will receive the help he requires, which you are not skillful, experienced, or knowledgeable enough to give him.

The solution NEVER lies with supplementation, though magnesium may be of some assistance. But you can feed a fearful, unbroke horse Mg until he dies of diarrhea and never solve the real problem, and never give him any real relief. Supplementation is the first solution posed by people who really don't understand the power that lies with getting the horse well and truly broke, 100% all right on the inside.

So if you want to be real helpful, provide the people that own the horse with the website addresses of the above-mentioned professionals, and then turn the whole thing over to their choices, whatever they may be. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Bryy
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Location: Guilford, Connecticut USA
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 06:21 pm
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Thank you for the reply.  No, the animal is not broke and no, I'm not skillful enough to help. I was simply seeking any possible physical issues that could be a contributing factor, much like the first check for a mouthy horse is "get their teeth looked at."

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jan 26th, 2017 12:04 am
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Bryy, the fact is that the level of physical discomfort and physiological dysfunction that is provoked by the horse not being OK on the inside, is so great that it overwhelms anyone's ability to make a meaningful diagnosis about some particular physical thing being wrong with the horse. When he is not OK literally EVERYTHING is out of kilter, from his energy aura to his cell division and metabolism. Again and again we have said that peoples' attempts to supplement a horse into Okayness (obedience, calmness, compliance, an attitude of willingness or focus) are totally doomed to failure. You cannot get a horse OK by supplementing him.

Supplements can be, as I said, of "some" assistance, as a kind of background, in the same way that dental prophylaxis can reduce discomfort due to bitting, or indeed in the same way and for the same reasons that worming, farriery, or a well-fitting saddle are helpful. In other words, it is stupid to manage a horse badly.

So send the owners to where the major help is, please, and let's get that part taken care of and the horse set right before he hurts himself or somebody else. -- Dr. Deb

MsEithne
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 Posted: Fri Jan 27th, 2017 07:31 am
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Dr Deb, in re-homing dogs older than about 6 months there is often a 'honeymoon' period where the dog's behaviour in the new home is very good in the new owner's opinion. So good that some new owners think the dog must have had extensive training in the past.

After anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months, one day the dog does something it hadn't done before, like chewing the furniture, peeing indoors, snatching food off the table, etc, and the new owner discovers with shock that their formerly 'perfect' dog is not quite as perfect as they thought.

The reason for this honeymoon period is usually that the dog is feeling cautious in a new environment, which has a global repressing effect on all their behaviour. In human terms, they don't want to upset the apple cart, so they tend to make as few moves as possible. Then one day, the dog is comfortable enough to let it all hang out, so to speak, and the honeymoon is over! It's not malicious intent on the part of the dog or a deliberate intent to deceive, it's just a natural reaction as they go from caution to comfort.

Does this sometimes happen with horses as well?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jan 28th, 2017 01:08 pm
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Ms Eithne -- Having considered your question, I have to say that I think not. Of course, all statements about an animal's motivations or reasons are assumptions on our part; there is absolutely no way to tell for sure. I do not deny the validity of "suspicions" about the dog's motivations or reasons for holding back "comfortable" or more daring behavior within his family or "pack", when said suspicions are held by people very familiar with dogs. But however, speaking on an equal ground, as a person very familiar with horses, it does not seem to me that any naughtiness a horse may exhibit stems from relaxation of inhibitions, said inhibitions being the product of being new in a place or new in a situation.

Horses, in my experience, are far more likely to "hold back" due to chronic, low-level abuse -- as inflicted on them by the sort of owner who first puts them on the tie-rack or in cross-ties, and then yells at them for any attempt to try to swing their head to bite a fly, or indeed for moving at all. Or who touches and grooms them with all the same feeling as if they were cleaning a couch. Or who randomly beats them up when under saddle by reefing on them, spurring them, or smacking them. The cumulative effect of this is to cause the horse to shut down, and also to armor up -- they become stoic. When a horse that's learned to be like this goes to a better owner, it may be quite a long time, even several years, before the animal will risk any authentic or spontaneous type of interaction.

Horses that have not been abused in the abovementioned ways are generally open, playful, and very curious. They notice the buttons on your shirt or the pull on your zipper, and if you don't watch them, they'll lip them or even pull them off. They notice when you're wearing a watch and they want to lip that and smell it, I think because they realize it's not part of your body. They will spontaneously pick up and play with sticks, balls, rubber feed buckets, the float in their water tank, a blanket hanging over the top rail, a halter and lead hung on a post, or literally anything else that's not tied down.

The horse being described by Bryy does not, however, even come into your question Ms Eithne, because that horse is not being naughty, nor either being playful; he is not broke, in other words, he's frightened and anxious at all moments, suffers from the need to check and re-check by looking and staring, an is in fight-or-flight mode physiologically -- full of stress. He is not doing this because he is new to the place, although indeed I think she said he was new to the place; and the problem will not abate in a month or a year unless direct steps are taken to assist the horse to realize that nothing in the physical environment is going to hurt him, and that he can be OK with life. More importantly, he must be taught to be OK with himself: to self-comfort, from which comes the ability to shrug off minor boogery things, to be in the habit of always, like a yo-yo, returning to inner OKness even when momentarily knocked out of OKness by a loud noise, unfamiliar object, or whatever else.

Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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