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Fear/excitement
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Jacquie
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Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
Location: Nr. Frome, Somerset, United Kingdom
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 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 01:41 pm
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Hi

I have a bucking pony, called Sunny Boy, who many people who have been reading the topics on this site will be familiar with! Basically, he never bucks at home, but goes crazy with bucking at shows. It is only if he is away from my side and being ridden away round a show ring or around a course of jumps he would jump with his eyes shut at home. At home he clears a course of 3 foot show jumps rarely touching a pole and no bucks. At a show he clears the jumps fine, but he bucks like mad whenever he thinks he can fit a buck in in between the jumps.

OK, so that is the summary of Sunny and my problems. We have actually given up shows now really because of it. I have now put it down to his terror of being in the company of many other unknown horses and the fact that he is small (13hh) and most of them are much bigger than him and he is afraid of them, - we think.

Now an interesting thing happened yesterday.

In the UK hunting foxes and deer with hounds was banned quite a while ago, however due to certain clauses being brought into action, hunting still continues today in every county of the UK. It is even more popular now than it was before the ban as one of the clauses is to bring out a falcon with the hunt. I wont bore you with all the details, but it is quite incredible that hunting still persists here and although many of my horsey friends participate, I do not approve of it personally.

The local fox hunt were scheduled to be meeting on Wednesday, near to where my horses are kept in a small livery yard. I decided to turn them out early, let them stretch their legs and then bring them in for the period while the hunt were in the area, as the sight of 30 galloping horses and 15 couples of hounds, plus several 4 x 4 cars and some quad bikes streaming past their fields would have made them so excited that hocks and tendons and so on would have been at serious risk of injury. One of my boys has just been getting over some fusions going on in his hocks, so I was obviously keen to protect him in particular from too much charging about.

The horses are installed in their stables munching hay and relaxed. All except one. Sunny Boy was tense. No horses had passed by, but a quad bike had driven past the end field. He has seen quad bikes here many, many times before and is not even slightly traffic shy, but he was very tense. Perhaps he could hear the hunting horn in the distance, but I could not.

The hunt arrived at a point two fields away, visible, but not too close. 3 huntsmen and the hounds, but no followers yet. Sunny was more tense. He started to rear slightly in his stable, box walk, dung rapidly and sweat. He continued to do these things, plus he then started to shake from head to foot. He rapidly became so agitated that it was necessary to put a rope across the top half of the stable door (no top door to close is present on his stable) as he was rearing and trying to climb out of his stable. He was wet with sweat from head to foot, shaking all over and highly agitated for the following two hours while the hunt came and went from sight. He was worst when he could see them. I gave him some tranqilax, left over from when we used to try to take him to shows. It has worked very well to calm him down at shows in the past, so thought it would help a little in this rather desperate situation. It perhaps had a slight effect, but not enough - it was too little, too late. We also plut a radio blaring pop music outside his stable to drwon out the sound of the hunting horn and hounds and gallooping hooves. This may have helped him a bit.


Now ~ I know I was watching Sunny and know that he was a pony who was full of  fear in this instance  - perhaps fear of the large number of horses, hounds and vehicles charging around made him feel scared but the question is this.

Is there ever any kind of excitement shown in an equine which is not born from fear to some degree?

Many people prefer to say 'exited' when their horses are getting keyed up and not 'afraid', but I am wondering if all excitement might be caused by fear to some degree.

I am now positive that Sunny is frightened at shows for the reason I thought he was - fear of persecution by larger horses; insecurity.


My other three horses and the one other livery horse at the yard were interested, but not particularly wound up by the hunt passing. They did not mess up their stables unduly and scoffed all their hay, showing their considerbly lower level of fear/excitement.



What is the opinion of others on this excitement/fear matter?

 

Sunny is peacful and fine in the field in spring sunshine today and no-one sustained any injuries from this event, thank goodness. He is retired from show jumping at shows and is now to be my trick pony  (yipee he is all to me now - I love him to bits) and maybe we wil do a little driving too. He loves to do tricks and is very intelligent and eager to please. I will never sell him as he is too potentially dangerous, especially as he is too small for most adults and too strong for most kids. Flo managed him very well, getting him soft and sgoing really sweetly at home but he is not an easy ride ever and at shows he was downright dangerous to ride. Flo has a lovely sensible 15.2hh grey mare to show jump now and knows she is a very lucky girl.


kind regards

Jacquie




Mule Fool
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 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 03:11 pm
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I don't know what to say about your horse, and I am studying the Birdie Book, but still haven't digested all that.  But I will mention a few things.  I had my mule at a clinic last year and we got in a situation I don't think she was really ready for.  It involved horses going all different directions at a trot and lope and trying to pass a flag off to other riders.   She became pretty upset.  I tried to just keep her moving and I  tried to stay as calm and focused as I could.  I really feel I rode the best I could, but it really wasn't good enough to help her out.   Her birdie had flown for sure.  This was the very end of the clinic a really bad way to end what had been a really great experience for us both up til then.  I went back to some easy things on my own to end the clinic on a better note, but  I think we both ended kind of demoralized.   After that when I rode her around other horses I would say to myself "I think she'll be scared and worried about those other horses" and sure enough she was.  I became hypervigilant about where the other horses were in relation to her, sure enough she was too.  I soon realized I was becoming alot of her problem.  I wasn't helping by becoming hypervigilant about the other horses, too.  I made a huge effort the next time I rode to remember our best rides and how good things could be, to relax and not try so hard to keep her from even looking at other horses and such.  I think we both took a nice sigh and had a great ride.  I'm not saying things are perfect, but I think that helped.  I've noticed also when I say something in my head like "she's not going to like THIS" she usually won't.  If I'm thinking about what a great mule that really comes through for me she is, she's much more likely to come through and prove me right.  So I guess what I took a long time to say is, I wonder if all your vigilance and scurrying around trying to make things better for your gelding is adding to his feeling that something is NOT okay and he'd better start worrying.

miriam
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 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 04:57 pm
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Has he ever acted like this in the stall before?

Sam
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 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 12:16 am
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Did Sunny Boy ever hunt?  We hunt hares here in NZ and years ago I joined in too, and the hunted horse seems to fall into three catagorys, ( for want of a better word) the old seasoned hunter/the horse that copes well with the whole situation and the horse that is a complete 'nutter'/ not coping one iota and the horse who only hunts at the front.  So from what I have seen of hunting horses and if I have a little guess, if Sunny Boy has hunted, was a good jumper etc but never could understand the whole concept of a herd of horses galloping madly away from 'something', over hill and down dale, and the horse who is not really okay with the whole thing will be scared to death, if hunts over there are like ours here, your horse can be in this scared frame of mind for hours!!   And as you say its a fine line between fear/excitement.  And lets say this scared/excited horse does this for a whole season, if he so much as hears a hound or something he associates with that stressful situation he is going to get stressed.  I don't really know this is just a suggestion, but I have always felt the hunting was a huge ask of a horse, and there are a lot here that just do not handle the pressure.

Glad Sunny is enjoying his tricks, ain't they fun.   Bye for now Sam

Jacquie
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 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 06:30 pm
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Hi all

All my scurrying could have made him more alert - but it did not have this effect on any of my other horses. I was not particularly concerned anyway when I got them in  - I  just brought them in and handled them as usual. I had no reason to think any of the horses would be that upset - I was just preventing them from churning up the field and risking their legs too boot - espectially Storm, another of my horses, as he has had arthritic hock trouble.

 

I bought Sunny Boy as a 4 year old and he is now 12. To my knowledge he has never hunted, but of course it is possible that he has, as I know he was broken and ridden far too young.

 

He was never a problem in his stable before. He liked it in there - warm - loads of food, (Sunny really loves food!) comfy bed etc. He was always totally fine about stables.

 

Poor lad was so traumatised by the wretched hunt though. He is recovering, but has not been too sure about his stable since they came past  - this is improving though with gentle encouragemnt from us.

Thanks for your replies.

 

Jacquie

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 11:15 pm
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Jacquie - I sent you an email using the address on the member's profile page but think you may not have received it.  Have a few thoughts I'd like to chat with you about re Sunny Boy but would prefer to do so privately for now.  Is that the correct address?

Best wishes - Pauline

Jacquie
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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 09:42 pm
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The thing is, forget the incident I described -

I am interested here in whether anyone out there believes that excitement is ever caused by anything other than a manifestation of fear.


 

Jacquie

Vickie
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 Posted: Mon Mar 31st, 2008 10:53 pm
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When I watch horses go to work with cattle.  Either roping, cutting, branding or doctoring there is always interest there.  Some horses do get excited, even the "old hands", depending on the handler and how much confidence is given to the horse about what is going on.  Others do not, it's all part of a day's work.

So I would have to say, from my experience horses do get excited and they also can have fear.   There may be a fine line for some horses on their reactions displayed but I feel that their body language and the look in their eye will and can tell us, if we know what that horse's signs are.

Vickie

miriam
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 Posted: Tue Apr 1st, 2008 05:02 pm
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Check out chapter 8 of Dr Deb's Birdie Book where the 'Wheel of Emotions' talks about fear vs curiosity. Excitement isn't listed on the wheel, but tension and irritability are, and have their opposites of relief and contentment.

Some horses that have been gamed roughly will show that fear and tension before the game ride. I suppose it's b/c they thought they should - it was expected of them to be so lively. And after doing it, they were rewarded by being done and stopping.

Maybe the pony, being smaller, is afraid of being trampled by all those thundering hooves that he can hear, and feel in the ground underfoot.

Jacquie
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 Posted: Tue Apr 1st, 2008 05:53 pm
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Hi

 

All very interesting. Thank you.

Yes I do think that Sunny was terrified the hunts horses were coming to get him at home!

 

When he is at a show I now really believe that he is obviously afraid of the other horses. Dr Deb has been instrumental in making me understand this truth. I was labelling him naughty before I was enabled to become more enlightened........

He is very clingy to stay with whichever horse he has travelled to get to a show. If I am with him, right by his side, he is less anxious, but if I am more than a few steps away and he gets scared. 

 
He is going to be a trick pony now, so no need to be too far from me and no need to show jump. Its a bit of a shame though really cos he is extremely talented indeed at jumping. So keen to please. So giving with all of his efforts.

No, Trick training is all about fun - and he loves it. He is good at it too, mastering new tricks very quickly. All fun now! No stress!
 

Jacquie




Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon Apr 7th, 2008 01:15 am
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Not entirely sure about the fear/excitement thing, Jacquie, especially when people are involved, so can only go on what I've actually seen.  Leaving Sunny Boy out of it, I think horses can simply be excited when they're having fun, just like a dog at play.

My 2-yr old colt was beside himself with excitement the day another horse arrived, even though he couldn't get any closer than some 20m.  Despite the calming influence of the two paddock companions he'd grown up with, who were only mildly interested in the new arrival, he was bucking, leaping, racing around for a long time (oh this is so much fun, pleeeease can we have new horses every day).

The other occasion that comes to mind is some years ago when my TB was around 8 yrs old and I was doing a lot of free lunging to help with a foot problem.  These sessions turned into playtime and quite often my horse would adopt the exact same body language that my big dog showed when he was becoming a little excited during games.  Have you seen a playing dog approach obliquely in small leaps while tucking his chin in and waving the nearest foreleg around in a circular motion?  That's exactly what my horse did quite regularly, usually towards the end of our session when he was well warmed-up.  I have always interpreted that as him being a little excited with the fun of moving around, but perhaps I'm kidding myself.

Hard to tell where excitement ends and fear begins when each horse will express both emotions in different ways.  The colt and the TB are at opposite ends of the spectrum in character - one naturally exuberant, one naturally placid so their individual body language for the same emotion is quite different.   Just another challenge for us to try to figure out what's happening.

Best wishes - Pauline


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