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Emotional baggage
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Debbie Turk
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Joined: Wed May 16th, 2007
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Posts: 18
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 Posted: Sun May 27th, 2007 11:25 pm
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Well Deb, it is 3:30 in the morning in Adelaide South Australia and I have finally stopped lurking on your  forum.  Can’t say, however, that I am about to contribute to the knowledge base as much adding my woes to others in believing that you have finally reached a level of  communication/relationship/trust (whatever way you want to look at what we inflict on horses) only to have it come crashing down around your ears and wonder if it was ever there in the first place.  Bear with me because this won’t be short….

 

Well 3:30 is obviously a pretty down time in my biocycle but having tossed and turned for the last hour, I figure if I am to get any sleep tonight I need to put in writing what is going on in my head, so I may as well share it with others who maybe going through some soul searching of their own.  I find that writing things down seems to either clarify or trivialise things (at best put it into perspective) so I can get on with life.

 

I have a 16.2 hh, 11 year old more or less TB gelding (Archie) who came into my life 2 ½ years ago with some trust/confidence issues (emotional baggage).  Things started well, hit rocky ground when I came off him 3 or 4 times (loss of confidence on both sides), but things were progressing, although a little slower.  I took him to meet Dr Deb last year and things went bounding ahead again.  I taught Archie to go up on a stump and he learnt meditation.  He has a stump in his yard and whilst I have not seen him up on it of his own accord, once I put him up he has never voluntarily come down.  He drops his head (which for a horse we call the giraffe or camel is a huge concession) half closes his eyes and just lets the world go by.   I don’t know if other horses find this type of release in this exercise, but we have one in our riding area and I use it as a reward if he has been going well, or maybe as time out if things are not going so well.

 

Having spent a wonderful summer with him and having many little breakthroughs (and some fairly big ones too) it comes then harder when things take a slide as has happened in the last few weeks.  I would not even try to put this onto any other forum as I don’t think the readers would appreciate my sense of loss when a horse that has been waiting at the gate for me when I walk down with his halter has suddenly withdrawn and is lurking in the back of his yard.  A horse that when I brushed his mane, rubbed his head or his throat would put his head down and close his eyes in enjoyment, now once again doesn’t want me near these areas. Don’t get me wrong here, his training/manners are holding and I can catch him, saddle, bridle, ride him but the flight instinct that is always lurking there has come bubbling right to the top again to the point where he took off with me again when I rode him yesterday. I pulled him up within  30m, wasn’t particularly fast, wasn’t that scary but it happened and it hasn’t for months.

 

Jenny, if you are reading this, I have had Archie on the magnesium for 12 days now and I appreciate that this is not really much time, but if this is to be the answer to some of his tension issues then I am not seeing any signs of it.  If anything he has got worse whilst he has been on it.  Having said that I am not saying that the magnesium is the issue either as I had similar problems with Archie this time last year.

 

Before anyone gets onto the wrong track Archie is yarded and hand fed. Since last August when I realised the season was going to be a disaster I have stocked up on feed (for the most part from one supplier) so there has been no change in his diet from summer when he was so good and calm to now when he is not.  So whilst it would be an easy answer to my problem I don’t think it’s diet related.  Though, just to throw yet another option in the ring, he could metabolise his feed differently from summer to winter and maybe I need a summer diet and a winter diet.  (More dilemmas).  Yes I could get blood tests done, but not having had them done on a regular basis what am I going to learn from them??  I am not a believer in one off tests.

 

Emotionally it is not knowing what has brought this change in temperament about that is so difficult to deal with, but as I tell my students;  who really knows what goes on in horses heads, we have enough trouble understanding ourselves let alone another species.  What we need to do is deal with what is happening now.  Keep in mind the potential reasons but don’t get bogged down with them.

 

So this brings me (finally you might say) to the one thing that Archie seems to be focusing his issues on and if I can get him over this maybe it will have a follow on effect with other things.

 

My hitching rail is about 5-8 meters from our wash bay. In February we installed an small instant gas hot water system so we could have warm water to wash our horses with.  Right from the moment it was there Archie took a dislike/distrust to it.  On day one I took him over to have a look and a sniff but whilst he didn’t try to run away or back off he wasn’t “OK” with it.  My thought then was to ignore it.  Let it become part of the background and not make an issue of it. 

 

In an effort to try and keep him with a mane I had got into the habit of washing it weekly and Archie (who hates water) had got quite good about having it done and was even starting to relax about it ….. until I decided one coolish day to wash him with warm water.    I wash his mane with  a bucket of water and don’t take him into the wash bay but he immediately knew I got SOMETHING from THAT SCARY THING and had trouble getting up to him with the bucket and washing his mane.  Mane washing has somewhat degenerated from this point on no matter where I get the water from.

 

I then knew that I couldn’t just ignore the SCARY THING wether I wanted to use it or not, so I started to take him into the wash bay.  Just in and out initially but gradually built up the time in there 30 seconds, a minute.  I started to take him in there to take off his rugs before I worked him, or maybe to take his saddle off after I worked him.  He walks in and out quite calmly but I think that is because of his manners and not because he is getting OK with it.

 

My problem is that I think I have made him MORE aware of the SCARY THING by this action and he now focuses on it from further away.  When I now lead him up to his hitching rail about 25 meters away his birdie tries to go back to his yard.  The arena we are forced to use in the winter due to light constraints is, at it’s closest point, about 10-12 meters from the wash bay and it was as I turned him away from this point when I was riding him yesterday that he took off. I feel his attention on this area all the time I am riding him and if someone goes over to use it he watches with his whole being rather than just keeping an eye on it.

 

My thought in the middle of the night was that I would just start saddling him up in his yard for a while, try to re-establish the trust and relaxation (not that he is as calm and relaxed in his yard are he was, but is certainly better than at the hitching rail) and start again from a different angle.  My feeling is that I have two issues, one the possibility that I have a horse who has issues with the shortening of daylight/changes in metabolism whatever;  and the other  is that I hadn't appreciated that he has built up such a head of steam about the SCARY THING and hadn't realised the effect it is having on his being.  I fel I need to separate these two things to see what is really the issue here.

 

Deb, no wonder I haven't done this before. Trying to put into words what you see in a moment of watching is not easy.  I have spent hours on this and still don't know that I have conveyed what I feel about the situation.  I certianly haven't been able to put all I need to about Archie and I am hoping that having met him, you will understand where I am coming from.

 

I supposed what I am hoping for is ways to make him OK with the SCARY THING.  Deb "OK" is such an apt term, I can make him stay near IT (acccept IT), his training allows me to do that but I can't make him OK with it, that has to come from him somehow.  We are going to a school with Tony in two weeks.  The venue is nearly Archie's second home and doesn't have a SCARY THING so it will be interesting to see what he is like there.  But in the meantime I would appreciate any suggesitons anyone has to offer.

 thanks for listening (reading) sorry it is so long.
 
 Debbie

 

  

 

 

 

Scott Wehrmann
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Joined: Sat Mar 24th, 2007
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 01:12 am
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Hi!

This is probably going to sound a bit odd, and will probably be dismissed out of hand by a lot of people who are better horsemen than me. 

Maybe what you need to do is have something MORE to offer your friend Archie.  Something challenging.  Interesting.  Get his mind and body working on something that is a bit more relevant to him. 

You mentioned all the problems you two have overcome in the last couple of years.  All the while he was really having to stretch, test himself, find out just how much he was capable of.  So were you.  You have both come a long way.

Now you two may be stuck in this pattern of having to accept or tolerate or not be afraid of some silly piece of equipment that really doesn't have much to do with him as a horse or you as a person.  Forget it.  

I have this weird dislike for heights.  I can be perfectly safe and yet when I look over the edge of a tall building or cliff I get this horrible feeling way down deep inside, a little queasy, a little dizzy.  I hate it.  I avoid it.  Sure, I could go to a counselor, spend a lot of time and money and effort and be miserable the whole time.  And even if I got over it, so what?????   Hell, I live in Nebraska.  Not a lot of tall buildings or cliffs around here.  It just isn't relevant to my life. 

The time and energy I spent working on my fear of heights could have been spent learning to play the violin or make wine or playing ball with the kids or a whole range of things I haven't even dreamed of yet.....things that would add meaning and depth and dimension to my life. 

It may just happen that if you forget all about this, dedicate yourself to other pursuits,  really set out to just enjoy being together and experiencing new things that when you someday come back to this "problem" it simply will have ceased to exist.  What you both saw as an obstacle to be overcome is now simply gone. 

Anyway, have fun together.  Enjoy life.  Take care of each other.        

 

 

Debbie Turk
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Joined: Wed May 16th, 2007
Location: Adelaide, Australia
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 04:36 am
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Thanks for your thoughts Scott,

 

I do hear what you are saying, but the way I see the issue, is like you having to go up an elevator and look off the top of a high rise building every day.  This SCARY THING is part of his environment that is not going to go away.   His response to being around this area now, is like someone having a panic attack., elevated heart rate, sweating, general nervousness that has not been there previously.

 

So because I can’t move this, I feel I need to move him to his safe distance.  In this case my thought is to move all the way back to his yard and start from there.  Gradually bringing him closer and closer over time until we can get back to the hitching rail.  And if maybe I can’t then, I can accept that too.

 

I suppose I could take him over there to ‘work’ him in hand to do things  to take his mind off the being in that particular area, though really I am trying that when I ride him in the arena near it.   I could organise to have the cars parked further away and do some in hand stuff around there and see what comes of it.   I will give that a try and let you know how we go.

 

I did contemplate putting his stump there to let him ‘meditate’ his way into OKness, but I don’t want to interfere with his obvious enjoyment of his stump.  The stump that I use in this riding area is actually nearly the closest  point to the wash bay and maybe I just need to let him spend more time on it looking that way.  Organise to have someone over there at the same time. ... TIME is what is needed to work our way through this issue.

 

tricolchin
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 04:52 am
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Hi Debbie,

From what I remember through Dialogues in Horsemanship, Archie cannot absorb the worry he feels for the scary thing.  He may tolerate it, but you will see the discomfort in his eyes.  Don't worry about the details  (how many meters, what angle you approach)...instead say"my horse in not 100% okay"...since you are aware of this, I would say that's quite a start.  Often horses are not there with the rider/handler and that is ignored until the horse "suddenly" becomes "resistant".  Unawareness or force past the scary thing will not work, as I'm sure you know.

Take however much time it takes to get him okay until his mind can be with you again.  It is not unusual to rush away from that scary place...wherever it may be. Please do not take it personally that you are on his back when he has to release the pressure he feels, as he cannot absorb it. He is not able to consider you at that moment.   AND he may find more scary places if he is still worked up over the initial one.  Until he is okay with it...I don't think your horse can truly go forward with you to something else.

I know it is hard to feel like you are starting from square one, but often the 'long way' is really the 'shorter way'.  I hope this helps...

~Katherine

Last edited on Mon May 28th, 2007 04:57 am by tricolchin

renoo
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 08:45 am
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again have to say I'm no professional, but the post about spooking made me think and ask a question: what is Your reaction?

tell me if I'm wrong, but maybe... at first the horse couldn't accept this new installment, but now - somewhere deep inside You expect him to "not be OK" with this object, and he senses it, and if he thinks that You are not OK, then cannot be OK himself?

 

Debbie Turk
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Joined: Wed May 16th, 2007
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 01:08 pm
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Yes Renoo, that thought about my OKness has occurred to me as well.  I don't believe I am anticipating his behaviour as I have learnt from years around horses that they don't always do what you expect.  I am not worried by his behaviour because he does have excellent manners and I don't believe he will hurt me.  I want to figure out how to get him OK with this as there are probably more SCARY THINGS out there that we will come across.  I am also a bit blown away about how this has escalated without me quite appreciating what was happening.

Scott Wehrmann
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 01:57 pm
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OK, maybe this might help.

You might try working with Archie on the ground in the arena adjacent to the Scary Thang.   If you haven't done much of this sort of thing, it might be helpful to get both of you good at it in a small round pen first, then move to the arena.

No halter, ropes, bridle, just loose.  Start off at the far end of the arena, as far from the problem as you can be.  You'll need to drive him away from you, and toward the problem.  If you can do this with your hands or body posture or energy level, great.  Perhaps you need to find some sort of flag, a plastic bag tied on a stick, a garbage can lid, whatever.   

If his attention is on you, his eyes and ears on you, he is facing you, bring up the energy as little as possible to get a response.  Be subtle.  Be patient.  But get a response, and do what it takes.  When an ear flicks back away from you and toward the far end, release.  Wait a moment.  Let him soak.  Start over.  Get another try, and release.  Pretty soon you'll get both ears and then the eyes, a glance in that direction.  Start again.  Get him to look over there, bend his neck.  Get a change in his weight.  Soon his feet will follow, if only one front foot moving one inch.  Accept any little change, any little effort.  Release, let him soak.  Don't go pet him yet.  Get him to where you can help him decide on his own to move down the arena toward the Scary Thang.  He is finding a release from the pressure you put on him by going farther and farther away from you and toward the problem. 

When he makes it down there, let him soak.  Go pet him.  All over, nice, long, reassuring, comforting strokes.  If you feel like you could put his head down to your waist level and snuggle up, do it.  Be sure NOT to get your face over his poll...you could really get hurt if he loses it and jerks his head up.  If you don't feel like you will succeed at this just yet, then don't ask.  It will come.  If you feel like things are going well, maybe start over.  Get it a little better.  But don't overdo it.

This whole process may take ten minutes......or ten hours or days or weeks.... that doesn't matter.   It depends on how well you bring up the pressure, how good your timing is for the releases.   Get him pretty good at it, and mix things up.  Do it first thing, then maybe after you get him all saddled up and ready to go.  Maybe after a ride.  Maybe the last thing of the day.   Enlist a friend to help you.  You ride Archie, but don't do ANYTHING to direct him toward the scary end of the arena.  Have them drive you two down there just as you did.  Make it his idea to go.  When he tries, just pet him.  When his attention is at the comfortable end, your friend puts a little pressure on, whether from five feet away or all the way at the other end of the arena.    You'll kind of ride him stiffly and uncomfortable.  If his mind goes back to the scary end, his feet move toward it, you ride just as smooth and soft as can be.  Pet him.  Don't touch the reins or urge him with your feet and legs.  This is going to be his decision to go down there.  When he makes it, just wait, let him soak, pet him. 

    

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon May 28th, 2007 05:09 pm
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Wow -- Scott, thanks for your detailed replies with several good suggestions, some of which I am about to repeat. I go to bed thinking "well I will answer Deb in the morning," and by the time I get up there is a whole dialogue here already.

Deb -- The first thing to remind you of is that you are one of the best horsewomen whom I have met in Australia. Scott knows enough to say the same thing to you, and he hasn't even actually SEEN the progress with Archie -- I have.

And although he's guessed them pretty accurately, neither has Scott been able to see the DETAILS that I have. For example -- you will certainly recall the disturbed person who owns, but did not ride, the black horse at our recent clinic. As an aside, for the upcoming issue of "The Inner Horseman", I am going to write something about "disturbed persons" .... they are not infrequently encountered in this horsemanship life. One of their characteristics is their total unawareness of or ability to be concerned for where other people may be at with their horse; the disturbed person can only "see" their own horse. So this disturbed person was out there at a certain point on the last day, you will recall, when we had the balls in the arena. And whereas everybody else was playing with their horses with the balls in a safe and proper manner, this person was kicking the ball, making it fly way up in the air and bounce off the walls of the manege. Her horse, which is (I think you noticed) ruined beyond all repair, stoically tolerates this and other forms of overstimulation that the disturbed person continually bombards him with (did you hear the very sweet girl that was engaged to ride the horse mention to me that she continually feels him trembling? And did you hear me reply to her that in the five minutes I rode the horse last year, this was immediately apparent to me too?). In any case, Deb, you will recall that at one point the kicked ball bounced close to you and Archie, while you and he were up on the drum. I saw your eyes widen -- I knew what you were thinking, which was "I don't need this idiot ruining Archie's hard-earned tranquillity up here." But here's the point: you did not move. You did not convey this to Archie. You hung in there through the circumstances and you continued to suggest to him that he could hang in there, too. So he raised his head a little bit and he looked down at the ball, but after that one heartbeat he went right back to total tranquillity.

This is the kind of detail that distinguishes a horsewoman who is going to make it with any horse.

Now as to the magnesium: I did not suggest that to you, particularly. Magnesium has two well-attested effects: one, it's a muscle relaxant; and two, it can aid the insulin-resistant horse because it facilitates normal carbohydrate uptake. (Well, there's a third well known effect, and that's as a laxative as in "milk of magnesia", but we are not talking about giving it in those kinds of quantities). If magnesium has power to improve "behavior", i.e. calm a horse and/or dampen hyper-reactivity, it will be through improving carbohydrate uptake by brain cells.

What I DID suggest to you is that you carefully review the feed that is going into Archie. This will mean that, if you are feeding chaff, you need to find out EVERYTHING that is in it. The bad stuff you are looking for is known to contain neurotoxins, which are usually alkaloid poisons produced either by the plant itself or, more commonly, by fungi or molds that either live within the plant's tissues or become attached to the outside of the plant (i.e. ergots and molds). The premier bad stuff to look for: rye, of any type (i.e., Wimmera/Italian, perennial, or annual); paspalum; panic grass/box grass/witch grass/millet; tall fescue; phalaris/Toowoomba grass/Harding grass/canary grass. Plus, of course, anything in the way of bad weeds that attack the nervous system, especially in this case cat's ear/flatweed, mustard, and (I don't know if these occur in Australia) yellow star thistle and the wildflower pheasant's eye.

It's an interesting thought that, if a horse eats chaff or hay, it is as if he is actually turned out in somebody else's pasture. So, another thing I would suggest is that if at all possible, find out where your chaff or hay comes from and go there and ask permission to walk the field. I think farmers do their level best to see their fields are "weed free" but first they have to realize that something is a weed or would be bad for horses if it is growing within what will later be cut and baled.

I would add that anytime there is a SUDDEN change in a horse's attitude or responses -- i.e. a change for the worse I mean -- diet and toxins should be suspected. Thus, you can also be asking whether you had just started feeding a new batch of hay or chaff or gotten some from a new location or supplier within, say, three to five days before Archie seemed to regress.

This having been said, though, Deb, I do believe you when you talk about the boogery object. And here, what Scott has suggested is right on -- just forget about it and go do something else with him. The suggestion that the two of you might need "more to do" is particularly apt -- if you can jump, go jump; if you can go find some cattle, go do that; if you can get to a fairly challenging trailride, go do that. And if THIS doesn't get it off your mind, then I am going to start feeling compelled to suggest that YOU need the magnesium supplements!!!!

I want to tell you that like anybody else, sometimes I have gotten myself discouraged over what was going on with myself/my horse. Inevitably when I have come out of these funks I have discovered that an over-high degree of self-involvement and self-concern was fueling the problem. When I would go to my elderly teacher with this, he would sometimes ask me, "Debbie, how many years was Painty troubled and bothered before you started working with him?" -- the answer to this was seventeen years. "So we expect it will take some time for him to get completely over it." And he DID get completely over it -- this took about six or seven years.

On other occasions when I would go to him complaining that Painty had suddenly seemed to regress, he would say -- "Debbie, just start over."

I found out that never cost me a thing, and I think you'll find the same.

Stay in touch & let us know how it goes. And don't let the upcoming clinic with Tony be part of your thinking. You know how kind Tony is; he will certainly understand and try to help you, whether you attend this particular "school" session or not. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Debbie Turk
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 Posted: Wed May 30th, 2007 01:09 pm
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Thank you Scott and Deb for your suggestions for me to work with. I remember being on the stump at the school that moment with the ball coming towards us. Maybe that part of the issue is because I can’t get that same tranquillity with this thing but I haven’t given up.

I have been tacking Archie up in his yard, which is in a way good because I am not putting a halter on so he isn’t inhibited so much by his training and I can more easily assess where he is at mentally. Scott, at this stage I have been working him with a rope on as the work area is about 30m square and I am limited during the week with time/daylight issues and don‘t want to get us into a situation we can’t resolve. As you suggest I start him at the end away from the problem and gradually work him towards it. He was really good tonight and I could get him well past his flight distance and there was lots of lip licking and deep breaths happening. If his anxiety rose I would wait a moment or two, if it didn’t go away I would let him retreat a little and go try again One interesting thing I noticed tonight (paid more attention to maybe is a better phrase) is that Archie’s anxiety about the hot water system increases markedly when someone is standing near or using the system.

I will try him off the rope on the weekend when time won’t be a problem. It will be such a challenge to figure out how to get him to look towards the wash bay as once you start to ‘work’ with him on the ground my problem has been how to get my signals small enough to get smooth reactions from him, he really tunes into me (maybe a little too much, though he is relaxing more with this work now). Given his rise in anxiety when there is someone at the wash bay, if I can figure out how to work him as you are suggesting and get good responses, do you think the next step would be to have someone in the wash bay and start again from the fartherest point in the arena or have him hold his ground at the point I get him to whilst someone does advance/retreat thing from the wash bay. Probably this first as it once again becomes his decision to go towards it again. Thank you Scott, you have given me lots t think about.

Deb, Jenny suggested the magnesium which he has been on for about 2 weeks, but I did take your original concerns about his feed seriously. I had already started by taking him off the oaten hay which is the most variable part of his diet. I was interested to read that you suggested about 3 - 5 days prior to a change in temperament was enough. Would the same time frame apply when you take them off or would this be dependant on how long they had been on the feed? If things improve having taken him off this hay - do I need to put him back on it for a few days to see if it comes back, just to prove it wasn’t a coincidence?

And yeah, I know about having to go back to the start again, and again, and again. Also about getting rid of our ambitions for our horses. When I got rid of my ambitions that is when I really started to learn about horses. That is the thing about horses isn’t it, they make you have to be honest with yourself. Anyway at least I am getting some sleep again……..goodnight will let you know how we go.

Scott Wehrmann
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 Posted: Wed May 30th, 2007 03:36 pm
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Hi!

If you have access to a round pen that might be the real key to getting this working for both of you.  Maybe you've gone through this already, but from the sound of things you have some doubts as to whether you can drive him smoothly away from you.  You might be setting yourselves up to fail if you just turn him loose in the arena.  Lots of folks concentrate so much on having the horse hook on to them that they loose the ability to drive them, and change eyes too, both in front and behind them.   

If you have Buck Brannaman's Groundwork book or video, there are some sequences that will be invaluable to you and Archie.  If you two can develop a little more feel flowing back and forth in hooking him on, driving him off, and changing eyes you'll be in a much better position to help with his fear.   Once you can get to where you can drive him around the round pen just as if he had a snaffle in his mouth, pulling a little cart with you driving.....but there is actually nothing on him at all......just an imaginary bit and reins....turn left, turn right, go around the pen, stop, start, stay on the fence, then cut across the pen ....up to a trot, back down to a walk, then a fast walk, then a slow walk...and get this really smooth and subtle ....you'll be all set to do the same thing in the arena.   Then with the heater.  Then with someone using it. 

Just imagine how easy it will become when you have actual contact with him through your whole body, your reins.  

Have fun with it!     

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Thu May 31st, 2007 12:22 am
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Hello Debbie

Despite the excellent training advice from Scott and Dr Deb, I'm thinking this whole problem is likely to be feed related, especially your hay.

I'm in Queensland and have been tearing my hair out this past year trying to find forage.  The appalling drought conditions have resulted in my 3 horses turning a 20-acre paddock into a bare 'yard'.  Queensland is lucerne country, which is something I absolutely will not feed to my horses, so in January this year I started buying oat hay from South Australia.  This hay is grown under controlled, irrigated conditions for export to Japan, is weed-free and of good quality, which led me to assume it's sugar/starch content would not be particularly high - almost impossible to get a meaningful test in this country.  I fed this hay for 3 months until mid-April.  One horse, an older TB, scoured badly for the whole 3 months, but it took a while to work out it was the hay as I had changed some other parts of his diet at a similar time.  Another horse, an Andalusian colt, had softer than usual manure the whole time, and was cheekier and more boisterous than normal.  The third horse, a mature Andalusian stallion, became spooky - not while we were working together  (although it did take more effort from me to get and keep his attention), but just generally, for example being horrified at the sight of my jacket hanging on a post just visible from his feed pen.

Mid-April, I found a source of small round-bales - beautiful rhodes grass grown on the Atherton Tablelands in north Queensland (they've switched from mangoes to hay!).  I'm putting a bale out in the paddock so the 3 horses can feed at will, it's not palatable enough for them to stand and gorge on it all day but they'll munch for an hour or two, then wander off and come back to it later.  The TB gelding stopped scouring within 2 days of starting on the new hay.  The colt quietened down to his normal level of cheekiness within a week, and the stallion stopped being spooky within 10 days, jackets on posts no longer having any significance.

I don't know if high sugar was the issue, or whether the oat hay had been sprayed with herbicides to achieve weed-free quality which may have upset the horses.  Either way, the change was dramatic.  Over the years I have found that inappropriate feed is behind very many behavioural problems, especially those where changes happen suddenly as with Archie.  Generally, changes in behaviour that are feed induced will be seen in about 3 days.  For example, my TB gelding is extremely sensitive to lucerne.  He is an exceptionally quiet, placid fellow, but if I give him even a couple of handfuls of lucerne chaff, he will start looking for lions behind every tree within a couple of days, and conversely it only takes 3 days to return to normal when lucerne is removed.  I think it would really pay you to experiment with changing Archie's hay to a pure grass hay that does not contain any cereals, clover or lucerne.  I know it's a nightmare to find anything at the moment, but look out for those bales from Atherton, I hear they are going down south, and they are small enough for me to handle alone.

Just as an aside to Scott's last post, it's easy to rig up a makeshift roundpen if you don't have a real one.   I'm currently using a corner of the paddock that has hotwire fencing adjacent to their feed pens.  The closed feed pens make one wall, the paddock fences make two of the walls and I just stretch some tape across to make the other wall with a plastic starpicket in the middle.  This makes an odd rectangle of about 11m x 15m  and can be made ready in less than a minute, but is more than adequate for the ground work I do with my horses, which is very similar to what Scott suggested.  It really does make a big difference being able to drive your horse without any ropes or halters.  It won't take long before you will not need any enclosure, Archie will stay with you anyhow.  The two Andalusians are just about at that point, and I was thinking only this week that I won't bother putting the tape up next time we play together.

Good luck with Archie, I'm sure we will all be interested to hear how you go.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu May 31st, 2007 01:46 am
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Scott, Pauline, and Deb: Yes, yes, and yes. You guys are doing all my work for me (how nice! so I can be working on the poison plant book).

YES Jenny and her NZ people also confirm that behavior changes CAN come on in a very short time after change of feed....and that return to normal is usual within a few days of changing to better stuff. However, in the case of neurotoxins and liver toxins, some at least of the damage may be irreversible.

YES oat hay can be quite high in sugar....they grow and cut it that way in most places in my experience, because if it didn't have much sugar, horses won't very eagerly eat it (it is, otherwise, "just straw"). Up here in the States it's called "green feed" because it's cut when still green, so that it has sugar in it. My own horse gets mainly this for the hand-fed part of his diet BUT do remember, it is soaked in water for 1/2 hr. before it's fed so as to lower the sugar content. The rest of his diet is grazed Bermuda grass and endophyte-free fescue, a common mixture around here where the soil is sandy and the climate is hot and dry in the summer.

In this matter and also in the matter of alfalfa/lucerne, my experience differs from Pauline's; I've had no difficulty with either, even with alfalfa as the only hand-fed part of the diet. This leads me to suspect that there is something more at work....perhaps our varieties or cultivars differ; perhaps the mold or endophyte content differs; perhaps there is some other factor. Pauline's note about "conditioned" hay (hay sprayed with chemicals to make it cure quicker and keep it from molding when it is made in an area where it is likely to rain more often than once every four days) is quite important. Up here we have learned to reject any "conditioned" hay, not because of the chemicals, but because when the hay is sprayed it also kills the blister-beetles. They thus do not fly out of the windrows as they normally would, so that the dead bugs then get baled up with the hay.....but two blister-beetle carapaces and a horse is a goner. And, there's just been a new article in EQUUS magazine on the "final piece in the Potomac Fever puzzle", which turns out to be mayflies, a kind of dragonfly we have up here. What I'm saying is that maybe some kind of interaction between hay/haymaking or field grazing and insects could be part of the problem in Australia, too.

As to the other facet at play here: YES play with Archie at liberty, and I want to emphasize what Scott said about the importance of driving the horse vs. merely hooking him on and calling him in. Yes it is an ego booster when the horse finally starts trusting and wanting to come in when called....so much so, that I've seen many people either tempted to go no farther than that or even totally unaware that there is a farther place to go. Like so many things in life, before you can get to the next farther or higher place, there's a tough spot to get through here -- when Archie is moving around you and looks in and says, "OK I'd like to come in now" you have to say, "no, not now -- you stay out there until I suggest you can come in." And from the first day you ever say this to him, until forever, this must be the rule: he comes WHEN you call him -- or else, as Buck Brannaman has been heard to say, you will be guilty of lying to your horse.

Making him stay out there when he's indicated that he would come in is not being mean or unfair to him (although that's probably how it's going to feel to you at first). 
This is going to require some firmness -- the horse may go to shaking his head and you see he's miffed. Why would that be? Well -- don't we all THINK we like being masters of our own destiny? The problem arises from this, and also because PART of what he learned as you taught him to come in was that he had a right to come in anytime he wanted to. It's almost impossible not to give this impression to the horse during the first lessons, because one does not want to discourage the animal, so you DO let him come in every time he offers to do so at that stage.

But there IS a farther stage, and that's when we start driving. This is how we teach the horse to give us control (as opposed to our taking control). The horse will joyfully give you control, just as he will joyfully (or you might say with a big sense of relief) give control to the old mare or more dominant gelding who can convince him that "now it's time for us to go THIS way." Turns out that being master of his own destiny ain't that important after all!

I would encourage you, therefore, not to think of STOPPING Archie from coming in, but rather regard the total "trail" that he tracks, whether it goes toward you or away from you, as the "trail" that you're indicating that he should follow. Then there's no big wrench; you'll just be teaching him to follow your DIRECTION, rather than cutting him off from yourself or yourself off from him. Just re-direct his movement, is what I'm saying, and pretty soon you'll be able to re-direct it so it goes past you and then out in front of you, and then seamlessly you'll be driving and he will be willingly driven. All longeing, free-longeing, ground-handling, driving, line-driving, and riding IS driving -- so what I am saying is that it does not matter whether you are on his back or not, your effect can and should be the same. But unless you can drive him, and unless he is willing to be driven, then you have niether all of his impulsion/power, nor full control. This is the link between impulsion and control which all the old masters speak of.

And this leads me to the last thing -- again -- I think it's important for you to go OUT. So long as you don't get into a situation that overfaces Archie, it will do him a world of good (and yourself also) to just have a good breather in an open field and/or along the trail. Clears the mind, untangles the emotions, and relaxes the muscles.

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

Katy Watts
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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2007 01:26 am
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Debbie,
  Yes oat hay (along with all hays made from grain crops)  tends to be higher in sugar, especially if grown under drought stress or cold stress.  The Dairy One lab manager told me some of the highest sugar hay he's every seen is oat hay from Australia.  If your horse settles when you soak this hay under water for a couple hours, then you will know it's a problem with excess sugar.
  Pauline: I hear it's really bad in Queensland finding forage.  Best wishes to you all that the rains return soon.  I hope the ecosystem on your new land is still preserved so decent grass can come back.  When it does rain, be very vigulant for toxic plants that will be very profuse with the grass all killed off from overgrazing.  I fear  the affects of overgrazing all over AU. 
  Dr. Deb: we did 15-30-60 minutes soaks and got a linear function for sugar reduction.  Ran out of money, but I recommend soaking for a couple hours if one can, as I think it will take out more sugar.  Some oat hay in my soaking study was so high in sugar 60 minutes really wasn't enough to bring it down to acceptable levels. 
  I also think a lot of the problems Jenny Patterson is dealing with in NZ are a combo of sugar and endophytes.  They have some really 'special' strains of endophytes down there because they have some unique insect problems.   Did you see any of those affected horses that look like they are suffering from migraine?  Squinty eyes, laid back ears on formerly sweet natured horses.   Dr. Pollit was just in NZ, and is becoming a believer on the toxic nature of perennial ryegrass.  The cows are even getting sick. 
Katy
http://www.safergrass.org
 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2007 06:54 am
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Glad to see you in here with your always-helpful observations, Katy. Yes, I also think Jenny P. is dealing with some kind of unusual conditions in NZ -- they seem to have markedly stronger symptoms, and they have trouble with a higher percentage of horses. Which makes NZ, small country that it is, a kind of test-tube for the rest of us, and makes Jenny's experiments and observations all the more important.

As I hinted in the post above, I'm working on revising my "poison plants" compilation for publication in full book form, and I'm promising it by this coming Christmas. I've just finished indexing ALL the photos I have so far taken -- over 3,000 -- about 40 gigs worth of jpg's.

As a book, this work is going to include not only weeds and wildflowers (i.e. broad-leafed things), but also grasses of course. This has been a real bit of learning for me, as grasses can be rather difficult to tell apart, and, I find, there is no real good grass identification book for North America. I recently found an absolutely terriffic one for Australia: Lamp, Forbes, and Cade's "Grasses of Temperate Australia: A Field Guide." My other two favorites are Robbins, Bellue, and Ball "Weeds of California" (getting dated as to taxonomy but beautifully illustrated); and the USDA "Common Weeds of the United States". And of course one could not be without Knight and Walter's "A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America."

There is also Lauren Brown's "Grasses: An Identification Guide", part of the Peterson Field Guide series, but in quality far below what one is used to with the Peterson Field Guides -- the printing is blurry because the book has been cheaply manufactured on blotter-type paper instead of something with a high surface as should have been done. As a result, it is sometimes impossible to tell what is in an illustration because the ink has all run together (let me tell you how frustrating this is). So because of what I perceive to be a paucity and a difficulty, I am including a "pictorial grass dictionary" in my poison plants book, NOT to stand as a complete field guide, BUT to hopefully make the grasses we would prefer to associate with horsekeeping absolutely clear, and make it clear how to tell them apart.

This having been said, Katy, I have good photos of about 60 kinds of grass. HOWEVER I want to present as complete a dictionary as possible, and knowing that you are a grass expert I was wondering if you -- or anybody else reading this -- might be able to supply images of the following kinds. I will gladly pay for use of photos; if anybody wants to submit images, please let me know by EMail and I'll direct you where to mail a disk. Note that MANY of these grasses are found on all continents -- contributions from readers in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand would be most welcome! PLEASE do not EMail the images themselves (we do not have high-speed or wi-fi).

The views I need would be: a picture of the whole plant or a clump, either taken as growing outdoors, or uprooted and taken against a plain background; a medium view of the whole panicle; closeup views of the spikelets, awns, glumes, etc., and also of the leaves if they're helpful (i.e. ribbed, curled, fuzzy). This is NOT a technical manual so you don't need to worry about the ligule, "ears", etc. that a professional botanist would use.

Here's my "most wanted" list:

Yorkshire Fog, also called Velvet grass (Holcus lanatus)

Arrow Grass (this isn't really a grass, but a type of lily; Triglochin maritima)

Wheat (Triticum; green and with the awns still entire, rather than dried and shattered as in hay)

Wild Rye (genus Elymus)

Sweet vernal grass (genus Anthoxanthum)

June grass (genus Koeleria)

Quack grass (genus Agropyron)

Three-awn or poverty grass (genus Aristida)

Dropseed, also called poverty grass (genus Sporobolus)

Cord grass (genus Spartina)

Nimblewill (Muehlenbergia)

Rattlesnake grass (Glyceria)

Purpletop (Triodia)

Holy grass or Vanilla grass (Hierochloe)

Any type of Panic grass (Panicum)

Thank you in advance to anyone who can contribute!

 

Katy Watts
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 Posted: Fri Jun 1st, 2007 12:14 pm
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Dr. Deb,
  You'll want to have Manual of the Grasses of the United States by A. S. Hitchcock Vol 1 and 2, revised by Agnes Chase, Dover Pub. 1971.  It comes in paperback.

Weeds of the West has very nice photos.  Western Society of Weed Science, 1992  The standard for all us crop consultants. 

Another series for the serious botanist is published by the New York Botanical Garden. Reprinted 1994. They  get heavy into keys and morphology. Cronquist, Holmgren, Reveal and Holgren.  I only have  Intermountain Flora-Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West USA, Vol. 6 The Monocotyledons  No photos, but very nice detailed ink drawings.

  You should have got the Yorkshire Fog in NZ.  I don't think we have it here in the states.  I had trouble with some of my camera data cards, so I don't have a good solo pic. 
  I can help you out with some of those photos.    Lost your email.  contact me via
email on home page of my website. 
Katy
http://www.safergrass.org


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