Saturday, February 23, 2013

when bad horses get expensive presents

After last weekend's excessively fun rides, I went and spent a lot of money on a beautiful brand new heavy weight Weatherbeeta Freestyle blanket, complete with the detachable neck. I ordered it through my local Dover store because surprisingly, they had the best price on it, but they had to ship it from their warehouse so it did not get here until this weekend. As I was standing at the counter in Dover, signing the credit card receipt, I thought "my horse is so good, she deserves it!"


Wouldn't you know, she was a complete and unholy TERROR this week. She had the first part of the week off because I was dealing with some personal stuff (a friend passed away Sunday night) and on Wednesday I went out there and lunged her first, and then rode. Kenny wanted to ride her but I wanted to get on first to make sure she had a brain, which she did not. I did the best I could but here is some video to give you an idea of what I was working with:

The idea of going from one jump right to the next was to make her think about what's coming up, instead of thinking about throwing a fit. It worked very well.

On Thursday night, I went to work with her again, this time keeping it to ground work. She was outlandishly bad right from the start, at one point rearing straight up in the air. She had the full 21' of lunge line at the time, but as soon as I got her back down to earth I took away most of the length of the line, so she only had about 10' to work with. Gradually she stopped breathing fire and started to listen, and then I felt comfortable giving her more line. By the end of it she was cantering softly around in both directions, and then we did some work disengaging the hind quarters, backing up with her head low, and some stretches. That evening, I got a call to tell me the new blanket was in, so I picked up this lovely new blanket and gave it to a horse that I really did not like very much at the moment! Spoiled mare.

Last night I tried riding again and while she was not quite as bad as she was on Wednesday under saddle, she was still pretty fired up.

So today I sent out some emails to local trainers to see if I could find someone to come and help me out a bit. I feel like I am at the end of my rope, both in ability and patience. I do think that this week, she was a gigantic cow. We'll see if I get any replies. I really hope to figure out how to do a better job with her.

Today I went and picked up a big load of hay with Maddy and Kenny, and that is probably the last present Lucy will get for a while, or at least until she starts behaving herself again.

Here are some photos of Lucy modeling her new blanket:


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your friend and also that Lucy was in such a mood. Hopefully you'll get a response from someone who can help you out. She definitely seems to have a lot of energy!

  2. I think it's a good idea to have someone come help you all seems very busy and fast paced, and she seems quite upset. She may benefit from just slowing everything down a bit.

    Hope you can find someone knowledgeable in your area...someone who knows OTTBs would be ideal.

    Very sorry about your friend...I can't imagine how hard that would be.

  3. Oh boy...I don't know how you do it with her! She is one tough cookie! You are so good and so patient with her. I definitely think working with someone is the way to go. Having an experienced set of eyes on the two of you working together could really help especially if it's someone experienced in problem horses/OTTBs. Well, she looks really cute in her new blanket ;)
    So sorry about your friend.

  4. What a tough week you've had. I'm so very sorry your friend passed away. That's horrible.

    It must be very frustrating riding Lucy at times. She's so pretty and talented, but such a handful. And you are so talented and really put the time in. Do you think it could be some kind of winter thing for her? Wasn't she fairly bad last winter and then quite good in the summer? Not sure I'm remembering it right. Anyway, I hope things turn around, and she's good all the time.

  5. I like that you gave her something to do with the jumps and kept her forward, which didn't let her escalate too much. Beyond that? Here's hoping you can move forward with a trainer for a bit. Lucy is a very complex lady and it's smart to have backups on call.

  6. It's definitely smart to get some back-up. Laine Ashker, who is, in my mind, one of the smartest OTTB re-trainers out there, always says "don't try this at home!" with OTTBs. By that I think she means having help is the way to go. You might contact her, actually. She seems pretty willing to answer questions about OTTB owners who want to event. Lucy's lucky to have someone who is so patient with her.

    1. She's an OTTB.Tee supporter and we are of her as well :)

    2. She is super easy to contact through facebook too. Good suggestion, Jess. Lainey is awesome!

  7. I also admire your riding skills. She really can be a handful. I can almost guarantee I don't have the perseverance that you do. Maybe she was feeling your sadness and just didn't know ow to process it it, I don't know. Some days she can be so so good and others?...I know you will get it worked out. Thank you for sharing the good and the not so good. I still think she is pretty perfect.

  8. Wow, what a week. I am sorry about your friend, I am sure that made Lucy's behavior all the more trying for you. I give you many kudos for staying with it and unflustered (or hiding it well)as she was throwing quite the tantrum. Hope you can find a local trainer that can help you two work through this. Any she's looks great in the blanket spoiled girl ;)

  9. I also say props to you. I've been following your blog for about a year and I am always amazed with your patience!

    I have a difficult mare as well and this time of year is the WORST. Weather is getting better, and its pretty much the first heat cycle out of the winter so their horomones are effed up. It usually goes away in a couple weeks but I remember this time last year I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel. So hang in there, hopefully with some help and a little time you'll have your summer Lucy back!

  10. geez... what a week for you! I'm sorry to hear about your friend :( That is heart breaking. As for Lucy, as least you can have the peace of knowing you are trying EVERYTHING. You are a tough cookie for sticking with her so long. Random question - have you ever had any Xrays of her spine done? Just heard of "kissing spine" syndrome because my friends mare was just diagnosed. She was showing similiar attitude problems and the vet randomly suggested spine Xrays. May be something you could look into if you haven't already?

  11. Hi Kate! I'm a newcomer to your blog, but love it so much that I went back and read it from the beginning to make up for lost time. :) Lucy is gorgeous and talented, and you are an AWESOME rider and dedicated owner. Kudos to you for your perseverance and dedication to her.

    I wanted to add to Ashley's comment, because I've noticed that it seems like in almost every one of the photos of Lucy misbehaving, she is pinning her ears, which is often indicative of pain or discomfort somewhere. Granted, this might still be unruliness from a dominant mare, but I personally still think this might be something else, especially considering how good she was for you 100% of the time in the beginning. I know you have ruled out the big factors: ulcers, saddle fit, you've had vets and chiropractors evaluate her, she gets excellent hoof care, you've tweaked her diet, and your riding is impeccable.

    I can't remember now, but have you had her tested for Lyme disease? This can cause all sorts of weird sensitivities/pain and erratic/unpredictable behavior in horses. It's ruled out with a blood test and treated with doxycycline, and if the horse is affected, she will often start to respond to the treatment within days. We had a mare at our barn that was extremely sensitive to touch and ended up having both Lyme disease and a uterine infection!

    Speaking of uterine infection: my second suggestion is her reproductive system-have you considered having hers looked at? There are many different ovarian abnormalities that can cause some of her behavior, like the explosiveness, sensitivity, spookiness, and aggressive behavior towards other horses. One of the big ones are granulosa-theca cell tumors-they can cause some crazy behavior in mares, including stallion-like behavior.

    Here are a couple of articles on GTC tumors, with some of the most common signs and treatment (diagnosis is with ultrasound, and they can be removed laparascopically; mares do great afterwards):

    The same ultrasound that would could diagnose an ovarian cyst or tumor would also rule out other issues, such as a uterine infection or growth. Some hormonal abnormalities can also be diagnosed with bloodwork.

    I had a gelding that was the sweetest horse in the barn, but was extremely unbalanced, explosive & spooky under saddle, no matter how much desensitizing or groundwork I did (he even had stifle surgery-my vet had attributed his hindquarter deficiencies to weak stifles). I thought it was me-it turned out he had a neurological disease of unknown origin. But I know how frustrating it can be when you try everything and nothing is making the problem better. A good rider and owner will always think the problem lies in them, but every once in a blue moon, the problem really is in the horse; we just have to figure out what it is. If only they could talk!

    I hope this helps! Don't give up yet!

  12. I hope you find a trainer that works out for what you are looking for. I'm having my trainer (weather permitting) come out to help us with some of the same issues; evading, head tossing, back humping, etc. For me, it's a constant struggle to figure if it's lameness vs excitement or both. Laz has a bit of kissing spine but chiro thinks he's more than capable of trotting/cantering with no trainer comes into play :) I'll be loving to read your posts when you two work it all out with additional training. It's a craft, our riding!

  13. I love your blog. As others have said, I do admire you for your patience, skill (and courage) in dealing with Lucy. No one could ever say you aren't trying your absolute hardest to figure out what's going on with her. I hope you get help and answers soon. Best wishes.

  14. "I would have chose something a little more soothing" lol...sorry, I laughed a little at that one.

    It's frustrating to see Lucy slipping back into her old witchy self. Winter was always killer for her, this time last year in particular right before spring I remember some really difficult times. Maybe a trainer will have some insight into slightly different approaches to achieve the same things in an alternative or more round-about way? I was surprised to hear about that rearing know my frustration with that...but I'm glad to hear she settled down after.

    I do think all of her issues are exacerbated by hormones, maybe if not caused by them, but also I agree with Mary: I think horses are way more attuned to our "aura" (not in the crazy tea-leaf-reading psychic sense but just in that being animals they are so much more in touch with our non-verbal signals). I'm sure she was sensing something different in you as a result of your recent emotional trauma and was reacting to that. I noticed after I lost both my grandfather and good friend within a week of each other last month Charlie was definitely not the same. I know his behavior was an accumulation of many factors but I wonder at how much likely was caused by my continued emotional stress during that time. I honestly think that with me not being balanced and "whole" no matter how much I thought I was able push it away and focus on him as a distraction from my personal life I was just that, distracted. I think he knew my mind was elsewhere and could pick up on my less than positive vibes and that was a big reason contributing to his acting out.

    You'll get through it, you always do :)

    P.S. Those videos made me wish I could be there to ride with you!


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