Tuesday, February 3, 2015


I was so impressed with the level of response I got from my last post. I didn't intend it to be such a great discussion post and honestly thought y'all would tell me to buck up and stop complaining. Its reassuring to know that I'm not the only one frustrated with Eventing and the direction its headed, so thank you guys for that!

I also made a tiny blurb about being mildly frustrated with my current horsebeast and riding in general, and that remains true.

I rode once last week and it was so horrible, again, that something in me snapped.

I don't want to be done, but I feel so done.

I want to ride so badly, but I don't.

I cannot grasp why my wonderful, beautiful horse is acting like the world's douchiest bastard.

All I wanted to do was hack down the road and have a nice, relaxed, no pressure ride. I had a breakthrough (or so I thought) with my last ride and really wanted to try out my theory.

The first half of the ride was great. I rode basically on the buckle and he seemed to take note and was relatively relaxed and swingy. We just walked since I wanted to keep it easy. I breathed a sigh of relief. For once we might have a good winter ride!

And then halfway down the road Bacardi must've seen something that pissed him right off because without warning he reared straight in the air and spun and tried to peace out.

Noting, that I had been riding on a loose rein and we've probably walked down our road a good 50 times since I've owned him.

So what the fuck.

Imaginary ghosties and ghoulies.
He literally spent the last mile home snorting, prancing and half rearing and it was all I could do to not cry or rip his face off in frustration. WHY couldn't he just fucking walk? Why can't we have ONE nice ride this winter? WHY. I barely touched him! I didn't ask anything of him!

For the first 5 months I owned this horse he never once reared under saddle. Not one time. He rarely spooked either. He tried so hard to please me. He made HUGE strides in progression & I loved it.  was THE most perfect baby and I looked forward to riding him everyday.

And now I can't stand it.

I know everytime I get in the saddle, hoping we might have a nice ride, I'm actually going to end up riding a wild bronco and it breaks my heart everytime. Its like, what am I even doing now, what is the point. I've NEVER had a horse this difficult, ever. Even asshole Murphy or wild baby Yankee. I've never been afraid for my safety, or my horse's. I've never dreaded getting in the saddle. And now I do.

With Yankee, Murphy, or any other difficult horse at least we had positive, encouraging and progressive rides sprinkled throughout the bad ones. I know all riders/horses have bad days and bad rides but the consistency of our bad days is really eating me up inside.

My mind is my greatest enemy, but who would want to ride, knowing its going to be shit everytime, no matter what.

I'm so sick of it & I want it to get better.

If this is how every winter is going to be with him I don't know if I can do this.

I just want that horse back and I'm losing my mind over it. I cannot grasp how an older horse, with more experience can backslide so horrendously, when his younger self was literally an angel. Its like night and day difference.

The last thing I want to do is not ride the rest of winter, but even when I want to the weather or the ground prevent it from happening. And then when I want to and can, its terrible everytime and nothing I do makes it better.

Then I sit and think about how shitty this will be if he maintains this level of fuckery into spring and summer and I never get my calm, wonderful baby back. I couldn't deal with that. I have a surplus of patience and love and understanding for retraining babies, but I cannot tolerate dangerous behavior that makes riding zero fun. I'm terrified this isn't just a horsey version of SADS and he is stuck like this forever.

Seriously frustrated and about done.

Am I overreacting? Do I really need to just give it up until spring and hope his attitude improves? Or did I break my horse and he's forever an asshole...


  1. I can totally empathise. I have ridden horses like this. I think the cold temps and lack of consistent riding just makes some horses act like this. Especially TBs. I think once you have the warm weather back, you will have your calm, wonderful baby back.

  2. sigh... :( all of the commiserating and shared feels, none of the advice or anything helpful. Though maybe it's helpful to not feel like the only one? I broke someone else's horse and now he's an asshole...

    I think taking a break might be a good thing for both of you. And even if it doesn't really seem like a good thing for him to take a break right now, you are the more important one in the equation, he will be fine. He really will be.

    Take a break- and no guilt, worry, or pressure allowed!

  3. My guess is either pain, or too much pressure. A better routine might solve this, might not.

    If you aren't having fun, there is no point. If you can't send him for training, maybe it's time to move on. No shame in that.

  4. It's really NOT normal for them to backslide like that, and honestly I've never seen it happen for no reason. I'd be looking for something phsyical, personally. Several fairly common things can present like this.

  5. I am going through something very similar with my gelding. Who is 8 this year. He was the calmest, most laid back young horse in the world. And now he has escalating pissy, wild, spooky behavior. He has left me on the side of the road 2 times (because I got off, afraid for my life). I have not blogged about it because it's so disheartening. I think part of it is too much pressure on both of us. It stresses me out, and he looks to me for that and thus becomes stressed out too. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't. It is incredibly discouraging.

  6. I know that this is easier said than done, but at the end of the day, riding is my hobby and what I do for FUN. It's what I spend my money on -- shows instead of tropical vacations. So if I'm not having fun, then I need to reevaluate and come up with a new plan.

    Beyond that, I don't know what the answer is. But maybe try taking a break for a few weeks or a month? See if that improves Bacardi's attitude at all.

  7. I'm going to be brutally honest because being a backstabbing bitch isn't my style.

    1) Riding a greenie OTTB 1x a week in the winter is not a good plan. I moved Courage to an indoor for the winter because the very idea of trying to work less than 4x a week on a high as a kite winter brain sounded like no fun at all to me. It actually sounded dangerous. It doesn't matter what you can accomplish in the summer when it's hot and you ride 5-7 days a week--winter is a whole different thing.

    2) You're an ammy now. For reals. You have one horse (yay money!) and you don't get to play pretend-a-pro like we all did in highschool. That was awesome, but sadly no $$ in it. The reason ammies take lessons is because we need another set of eyes on the ground to help us figure out what's going on with our horses. As in, we have less time, so we have to maximize it. If that makes sense.

    It could be something physical. It could be attitude. It could be some silly riding thing you're overlooking. Maybe it's all three combined.

    And really, I like you and I'm not here to rag on you. I'm just older than you and figuring out this ammy thing is harder than it at first looks. Best of luck!

    And PS, yes, it is all about having fun. Keep that in mind.

  8. If it's a black and white difference, I'd call the trainer and the vet. Otherwise, move him along to someone. Doesn't mean it's not upsetting or disheartening, but there are only so many options and that kind of behavior is not normal.

  9. This makes me so sad. I want you to be having fun on your beautiful boy. I would take the other's suggestions. Have a vet come out. Have a trainer watch. Or take a break and then do those things. If nothing seems to work, then maybe it is time to change the plan with him. But I would exhaust the other things before taking that step. You two look so good together, and he may just be a crazy ass in the winter.

  10. Hmm, I am sorry this is happening to you, there could be a couple of factors (winter, good feed, being clipped, back soreness) that can contribute to the rearing and general fuckery, but honestly, it may just be training or what he feels like throwing you this winter. Smokey went through this last year in the indoor, EVERY TIME at B, he stop, rear and spin. Sometimes it was cuz I asked him to turn (and he hates giving on the right side) but most of the time it was out of no where. I bought him knowing he had these issues though, rearing and stopping at jumps and gates, bucking ect; so it wasn't totally unfounded. This year he's been GREAT *except that one week where he continually tried bucking me off but that was all due to the right side locking. Winter would FOR SURE be a factor, but I can't say much not riding the horse. What will he do if you flex him left or right when he rears to prevent or disengage him? does that make him more reactive or will he rear through it? Does he have a good forward button (rearing really comes down to lack of forward most of the time) Can you distract him with leg yields or other lateral work when you feel him getting squirrely?
    I wish I could tell you more, I totally get the frustration. He also may need some turnout run around time in an indoor or something to make him less reactive. Unfortunately I can say one thing for sure having rehabbed many rearers, it never really goes away. You can train them and get a cue to "turn it off" or teach him other means of expression but if he rears that will be his first reaction to scary/spooky/don't wanna go forward ect ect. Overall it's a habitual thing it WILL get less and less frequent and violent as he gets more trained and you tackle the issue but it will never really totally go away, so if this isn't something you can/ want to deal with in the long term (even with less frequent bouts!) it may be time to think about parting =/ He also may need a pro-training program to keep him sane it just all depends. Smokey is a mega douche with days off so I have to work the shit out of him 24/7 especially in the winter or my ass is grass. Call me if you need me dude, rearing is something I can help with and I'm more than happy to spend some time on the phone going through all the various variables!

  11. It does sound like Bacardi' s problematic behavior is escalating - something to be mindful of maybe, because if he's already at a dangerous point, how much further is he willing to go? His behavior doesn't sound quite right to me; but to be honest, I live in Australia, and we don't have to deal with snow and the cold like you do... Just stay safe okay? A break might be the best thing for you both right now, or at least some help from someone else you trust.

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  12. My fallbacks when behavior changes with these hotheads is always 1) ulcers, 2) back stuff like kissing spines which seems to be rampant with OTTBs and hard to pointpoint), and 3) then general joint stuff and hoof stuff. Or if you're in certain areas, things like Lymes disease, which made Gogo act batshit bananas. Ulcers make them batshit bananas too, for no reason at all. A couple weeks of Gastrogard could rule that one out for you.
    Other than that, winter with greenies can REALLY REALLY suck and I totally commiserate.

    1. I second looking into kissing spine...I fostered an OTTB for a while and rode him pretty consistently for about a year before he was adopted into a great home win someone looking to do dressage with him. He started having bad behavior problems (sounds like what you're experiencing, but I never experienced it first hand) and they seemed pretty random too. The lady did everything she could for the horse in terms of diagnostics and they finally found that it was kissing spine and they way his spine was, it wasn't painful 24/7 but as she increasingly asked him to use his back during training the nerves would get pinched more and he'd lash out.

      I had totally forgotten about it until I Andrea just mentioned it here...I don't want to scare you, but I'd seriously look into it. Best of luck and be safe!

  13. Ok here is my weird 2 cents. When I moved my horse barns, he was straight up untouchable for weeks. I thought he was gone. Finally, he calmed down amd we did a lot of lunging. Sometime five minutes, sometimes 45. If you arent seeing him frequently you may need to reestablish your relationship. Later down the road I was told that the barn used to an indian burial site. Dunno if you believe in ghosts or anything, but hey its something to make it happen rather than nothing. Someone had to be the weird commenter lol

  14. You've had some great advice here. I second what Andrea said and others have said. So many things can cause unpredictability in horses, but there usually really is a reason for such a drastic change in behavior. OTTBs are very prone to ulcers, simply because of their management on the track (diet, lack of turnout, exercise regime, etc). Last year a friend's OTTB started having the same kind of explosive behavior that Bacardi is showing, both under saddle and on the ground, rearing and all, and it turned out she had hindgut ulcers. She was placed on more like 8 hrs in/16 hrs turnout and the ulcers treated and voila: sane mare. Still a hothead that one, but no more rearing and explosions when worked. My own mare developed ulcers after going from 12 hrs in/12 hrs out turnout to very limited turnout while healing from a ligament injury. I was ready to sell her after her rehab was done. I dreaded riding her and it just wasn't fun anymore. So I totally know how you feel right now! But before putting her up for sale, I first treated her for ulcers (no scoping; couldn't afford that kind of thing. I just talked to my vet and she prescribed GastroGard. I finished the treatment with omeprazole paste from www.abler.com -> SOOO much more affordable!) and within a week of starting treatment, her explosions (which consisted in bucking at the touch of a heel) ceased. I decided to try 24/7 turnout with her once she was done rehabbed. She went from being an absolute whackjob to turning into one of the most awesome trail horses I've ever known. I adore that mare and am so glad I gave her another chance. She just can't be in a stall.

    I concur that Lyme disease can also cause some really erratic behavior: the horse doesn't feel quite right and thus he feels vulnerable to predators real or imagined = explosive behavior and spooking. I know a steady-Eddy QH gelding that suddenly started spooking on the trail. The reason? His Lyme titers were through the roof. He was treated with doxycycline and soon returned to his normal easygoing self.

    Can you have a vet check him, just to rule out a physical issue? If you can't ride him consistently in the winter, I'd consider keeping him outside as much as possible. Pull his shoes for the winter if the mud is a concern and slap them back on if he needs them come spring when it's drier and/or you can work him more consistently and then re-visit the behavior, see if it's still there. If it is, talk to a trainer. Get some eyes on the ground or have someone else who's also experienced with OTTBs work with him and see if he does the same things. You still have options you can try, but do be safe. Rearing is one of the most dangerous vices. If at the end of the day you decide you don't want to try to work through B's unpredictability because you don't feel safe, that's a perfectly reasonable choice as well.

    1. I second the Abler blue pop rocks! Or aloe juice from Walmart. I've seen some of them turn around literally overnight with that.
      Don't even bother scoping him, if you go that route. Aside from being $$$$$$$$$$, the process of fasting them leading up to the scoping can give them ulcers even if they didn't have them before. So not worth it!

  15. I totally am going to chime in everyone above; The consistancy of the bad days says it all, IMHO, something is bothering him, and horses are often remarkably stoic creatures. Often times, consistant and constant pain will translate into a consistant and constant state of alertness and reactivity. If you think about it, it makes sense from a strictly biological standpoint; the injured member of the herd should be the most wary - he's the one most likely to get eaten! If his attitude has changed that drastically it's likely a physical issue. . .

    Ulcers spring to mind, particularly if he's being fed hay, rather than being on free choice. With a lot of horses fed hay is better, reduces waste, and keeps weight down. For an easy keeper, maybe one who isn't very dominant in the field, it can mean that their stomachs are empty way too long.

    Then you have to rule out other issues, especially those that are hard to diagnose or see, like spine, neck or pelvic issues. Maybe the vet can't find anything wrong with the structure, but a chiro might find bones out of place, or causing stress. Some foot/joint problems are tough to spot, but cause constant soreness and crankiness. A sprained or pulled muscle might also be tough to spot, and last far longer than you would think, especially if he is constantly compensating for it or over-reaching himself.

  16. For what its worth, I remember Amy from Slow and Steady Wins the Race blog talking about going through the same thing with Steady. I remember she said she didn't ride him in the winter because he was so reactive it was dangerous.

  17. your frustration comes through very clearly in this post - and it makes me super sad about the situation :(

    i don't really have anything insightful to add that hasn't already been posted above (tho in our area we see a lot of lyme disease, so that might be something to add to a battery of physical tests...) - but just wanted to wish you the very best of luck in figuring out a solution that works for you and your riding future!

  18. Everyone else has mentioned anything I might suggest regarding health, so I'll just say my horse is the same age and his behavior has been a lot more reactive and spooky (bolting) this winter too. I had to take him off of his fat supplement and he needs more exercise because he's getting fat, but he really isn't very fun to ride right now. I wish I could longe him or something, but I guess I'll just do a lot of hand walking. Can you do groundwork, ponying, hand walking, longeing, anything on the bad weather days? It sucks not having an arena!! How is he on the ground? Is he respectful and always aware of where you are? He may need reminders on how to act around humans. I wouldn't give up on him until you see how he is this summer. I'm hoping with my horse that it's a case of green+winter+first time really riding in the winter and that by next winter he will be a whole lot less green. That's my light at the end of the tunnel anyway lol. However, all that said, my horse isn't being flat out dangerous, he's just spooky, so I would definitely check into the stuff everyone mentioned. The sudden change in behavior doesn't sound like just weather and inconsistent riding to me. I really hope you can figure this out. Just remember we are all here for you so don't give up!!