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November 2017 - AAEP is on Stall Rest

AAEP is taking the month of November off from "Ask the Vet", but will be back in December to answer your equine health questions concerning winter weather care for your horse with expert, Dr. Christine Tuma.



Click here to read this month's questions and answers.
  1. I would like to improve the bond between my Quarter Horse, Tater Tot, and myself...we have not pair-bonded yet. Could you provide suggestions? 

    (View Answer)

    Well, please begin by changing his name. Tater Tot is not working. No respectable Quarter Horse is going to bond with someone calling them Tater Tot. As well, not all horses will bond with any given person, and not all horse/human matches are made in heaven, so Titan may not be your soulmate, and he may be miffed by all that time you spend driving those minis without blinkers. That said, make sure Titan’s other life is filled with abundant friends, forage, and locomotion. To bond with you, Titan may need to first bond with another horse in your herd, so make sure he has a significant other. After that, make sure the time you spend with Titan is a good deal for Titan. Training has to be fun, with lots of grooming and rubbing. Hand grazing stabled horses often bonds them to their handler.

    To pair bond and establish familiarity, one must brush their horse, often and regular. Massage is essential to maintain health in stabled horses, full body massage. Massage is diagnostic and therapeutic. Rub your stabled horses, and do not forget to rub the coronary bands. Rub them before tacking up, rub to make sure they are sound. Rub, rub, rub, as rubbing creates winners. Forget the bute, and rub. 

     Brushing and grooming stimulate digestive and circulatory functions, as well as create social pair bonding between horse and horsefolker. Brushing enhances nutrition, circulation, and many physiological functions. If you are confused about rubbing, watch horses rub one another and watch horses rub themselves.

    Stalled horses need a good hour or two of brushing a day to feel enriched. I have seen people train horses to ride by simply brushing them everywhere everyday. That is it, brushing, which apparently can involve and incorporate pressure and release and reward, creating the establishment of boundaries and yields. Mutual benificence.

    When in doubt with the training, brush, is what I learned from that little girl, and what I hope you to all learn from this unit.

    When a horse becomes troubled, stop the training and brush and rub, please.

    Troubled horses do not learn, while brushed horses learn well, oh yes. To brush your horse is to train your horse. Forget about showing your horse who is boss, show your horse who cares about them.

    Brush your stabled horses, often, please. Rub and brush. Lunge them, too. The word lunge comes from lung, it seems, and to lunge is to enhance and maintain pulmonary health. The key to prevent bleeding (EIPH) in racehorses is abundant locomotion. Some believe drugs keep horses from bleeding, but the preferred method is abundant locomotion. Bleeding during a race can be prevented by abundant locomotion between races.

    Notice how often horses self-groom their lower legs. Rub the legs all up and down before tacking up. Flex all the joints and find the digital pulse.

    Remember to rub your horse's fetlocks, pasterns, and coronets with your bare hands before and after riding each day for winning results. To know your horse, rub your horse.

    Horses are physical beings. They need friendly touching, often. And clean: I dare proclaim horses are the cleanest creatures on the planet in open country.

    Stabled horses, well, they get quite dirty when forced to live in a stall or stable. Open range horses seldom need bathed, but stabled horses may, so dirty and soiled a regularly unmaintained stall or small paddock is compared to the open range, where horses stay quite clean, but will sometimes show up very muddy or dirt-caked in insect season.

    At racetracks, many horses are bathed daily, others less so. Many horses learn to enjoy the process, which involves extensive grooming and brushing and close physical contact. Other horses are quite aggravated by water, and many despise water squirted near their ears, eyes, and nose. 

    Sometimes water is applied to cool horses off. The place to cool hot horses off, and the place they most accept water on the head, seems to be directly on their forehead, above the eyes, below the ears, straight on, right over the brain. This forehead area is where the most heat is dissipated in the least amount of surface area.

    Horses in competitive training that get hot often come to appreciate head cooling, which is physiologically effective in lowering body temperature.

    Watch the nozzle-squirting devices, and use a soft stream when habituating and desensitizing your horses to water. Hose the hot horse's body and up into the groin, as well. Get your horses habituated to water carefully over time, especially at first. 

    Make your horse's first experience with water a good experience. In some cultures, horses are not bathed with water so much as with brushing. Rubbing a horse brings one into an awareness of the horse's soundness, health, and demeanor. Rubbing simulates movement. If you cannot provide locomotion, you best get in there and rub. Stall-rested horses need rubbed and passively flexed for at least two hours a day to maintain health. Friends, forage, locomotion, and rubbing. Get in touch with your horses with your hands. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  2. My horse and I have the worst luck ever. Three years ago, after multiple vet visits and a never-ending lameness that slowly worsened, he was diagnosed with a keratoma in his right rear hoof. He did have a hoof resection to remove the keratoma, then was on stall rest for about 6 months until he could get back out safely and healed. Despite careful rehab, three months after he was turned out, he tore a collateral ligament and tendon in his right front pastern and ended up back on stall rest for another several months. He has ringbone now in that joint, though has been maintained at a level 1 lameness since the diagnosis with careful management. He has been back out on pasture for just shy of a year, and is now displaying subtle but consistent hind end lameness. My farrier works closely with my vet and is doing a great job keeping my horse balanced and easing his breakover, but yet, this new lameness is here, subtle and persistent. I am honestly at my wits end and wondering what the heck is going on, and why my horse cannot seem to stay sound. That is question enough, but now, with some suspicion of suspensory issues in the rear, I I am afraid his vet will recommend stall rest, again. Besides the obvious mental damage (every time he comes out a little less focused and overly reactive) resulting from multiple periods of extended stall rest, I find myself concerned. Will a third extended bout of stall rest be one too many? It feels like the stall rest periods, though necessary, may now be contributing to some sort of overall weakness. My horse is falling apart and every bit of vet advice I follow only buys us short bits of time before a new insidious lameness pops up. 

    (View Answer)

    Horses thrive on friends, forage, and locomotion. Perhaps life in a stall is not the best approach to care for your horse or to manage his musculoskeletal health. Many horses heal and stay sound after they are carefully acclimated to a herd and are allowed to live at pasture where they can constantly fulfill their need for abundant daily movement on their terms. The horse’s hooves and musculoskeletal system are dependent on miles and miles of daily walking to heal and remain healthy and sound. Stall rest may not be the answer, as demonstrated, for your horse. Horses depend on movement for health. Deprivations of locomotion are often the cause of further musculoskeletal degeneration, weakness, and lameness. Here is my popular piece on How Horses Heal:

    How Horses Heal

    Restoration strategies that recreate the horse's social grazing preferences facilitate and potentiate horse healing. Appropriate healing of many equine maladies is encouraged when the veterinarian provides appropriate initial treatment and subsequently carefully facilitates a scenario to provide the horse with abundant forage, friendship, and locomotion. 

    Grazing pasture in an open setting with other horses, when appropriately orchestrated, has the potential to provide the most profound and often the most cost-effective healing of musculoskeletal infirmities and injuries. For conditions allowed to progress to lameness, time is required, often months. When musculoskeletal conditions are detected early, before lameness ensues, short term rest and restorative strategies encourage solid healing (days to weeks). Both long and short term healing are enhanced when the horse is content with the forage, friendship, and locomotion resources. Avoid unnecessary restrictions to locomotion whenever feasible.

    The earlier inflammation is detected, the shorter the time period is required to heal. Healing in a social-grazing setting is a long-evolved trait of the horse. Horses acclimated to herd and pasture settings during their development respond best to restorative healing. 

    Horsefolk need to take special care not to exceed the horse's adaptability regarding stabling and healing. 

    Horses require a sense of comfort and security for physical and mental restoration (and maintenance). An adequate social grazing environment, or appropriate facsimile thereof, often provides the most comfort to the most horses. Horses provided with adequate socialization throughout their upbringing are most responsive to these strategies. For horses, comfort and security come from friendship, forage, and, most-critically, a near-constant casual locomotion. Young horses and newborns learn to be horses from the dam and herd, and foals are best served to develop with horses in an appropriate grazing environment, as well. Horses learn to socialize, communicate, graze, locomote, run at speed in close company, play, smell, balance, move, and compete from their mother along with the herd members.

    Corral or stall rest is counterproductive to healing, as it deprives horses of all three healing essentials. Horses heal efficiently in a social grazing setting, not one of isolation and deprivation. To a horse, restoration, from the word rest, ideally implies grazing open country in a herd setting with abundant environmental resources; appropriate grasslands to graze and walk, salt, and appropriately placed clean water. The properly managed social grazing setting with the open view is the environment in which horses evolved to thrive and heal. 

    Healthy physical and mental development are best actualized in a social grazing environment. Neonates rely on their dam for critical early learning processes, including sensual development, locomotion, and early mobility. The development of agility, coordination and athleticism in early life is critical to subsequent mental health and soundness. Abundant social contact, grooming, sleep, play, athletic development, and social bonding occurs during early herd life. Horses rely on constant contact and frequent interactions with other horses for healthy mental and physical development. 

    Opportunities for the abundant expression of normal equine behavior and motion promotes healing. 

    Unfortunately, healing opportunities of this sort are not available everywhere, especially in the more urban equestrian settings. Space and grazing limitations restrict healing opportunities. In these scenarios, the horse's preferences have to recreated with carefully designed and implemented ENRICHMENT strategies that provide some fashion of near constant forage ingestion that allow oral and physical and movement and motion. Stabling scenarios often restrict social expression and sensual contact. Horses are sensitive to these deprivations which results in stress, which complicates and delays healing. 

    LOCOMOTION is essential for both horse health and healing. 

    Husbandry, healing, and rehabilitation nearly always benefit from appropriately managed and free choice locomotion strategies that are constantly tailored to the horse's healing process. Locomotion is required not only for normal healing, but for normal digestion, respiration, hoof health, circulation, and all other physiologic functions of the horse. Stall rest is at the expense of many systems, especially the hoof and metabolic systems. Digestion and respiration are compromised by confinement and restriction of movement. Metabolic, digestive, circulatory, hoof health, musculoskeletal, and nervous, systems, as well as the all other systems and functions of the horse, are dependent upon adequate and appropriate locomotion for normal functioning and/or healing. 

    For horses that are hospitalized, paddocked, stabled, and corralled; active implementation and re-creation of the social pasture setting is necessary to maintain health and promote healing. The absence of abundant forage, friends, and locomotion are detrimental to a stabled or hospitalized horse's health, if not welfare. Medical conditions are apt to deteriorate in the face of the deprivations created by stabling and hospitalization. 

    Stalled horses heal poorly. Locomotion, social, and forage deprivations create problems for horses. In addition to appropriate medical treatment, veterinarians and stable managers must creatively provide horses with abundant socialization, forage, and locomotion to maintain health and facilitate healing. 

    Horses also heal horsefolk, and those horsefolk that implement these healing strategies often experience a sense of healing themselves, it seems. The human/horse bond runs deep. Domestication of the horse is a co-evolving evolutionary process. The human perspective is being shaped by the horse's perspective these days. Appreciation of the science of equine behavior and equitation is a welcome change for the horse after centuries of considerable subjugation.

    To healing horses,

    DrSid

    Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  3. We recently picked up two orphaned percherons that are 8 and 22 days old. We were told by someone that they had to be walked every 2 hours to keep them from suffering reperfusion. Is this true or will they stand up frequently enough on their own to prevent this condition?

    (View Answer)

    Horses are born to move, and move they must for health and vigor. The orphans will require appropriate abundant daily locomotion preferably in a pasture setting with appropriately kind and socialized herdmates to teach them normal equine behavior, which includes the essential principles of sociality and communication required for the normal physical and behavioral development of all equids. Indeed, the youngsters need to walk and play abundantly to insure normal physical and behavioral development. A nurse mare or mares would be most welcome. An appropriate mare or mares can be induced to lactate and care for them. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  4. Why would my mare begin to bite her own knee when a forefoot is lifted for cleaning? Pain? She is a rescue with unknown medical history. She is also provided a joint supplement with her current diet. This behavior just started since I have had her 3 years and she is now 13.

    (View Answer)

    She is perhaps indicating a painful musculoskeletal condition present in the carpus or elsewhere, exacerbated by flexion of the limb. Don't forget to rule out the hoof and neck as sources of inflammation, as well as the entire limb. Please have your favorite veterinarian do a complete hands-on wellness and musculoskeletal assessment. Check those teeth and provide daily massage to all of the legs. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  5. I have a 3-year-old mare that will run around the pasture with her head straight up in the air. Sometimes she will exhibit this behavior toward other horses and other times not. Can you tell me what this behavior means?

    (View Answer)

    Your mare is fulfilling her need for abundant daily locomotion. Horses evolved to run and play for short periods each day to hone their flight response. Horses require miles of daily walking, foraging, and periods of play and running to maintain behavioral and physical health. Horses utilize body movement and head position to communicate with others. Movement and running is a part of socialization for horses, and she is speaking to the other horses with her running, perhaps hoping for a horserace and some play to hone her athletic prowess. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  6. I just bought a flextree saddle, but a now hearing these may cause back problems in my horse? What is your opinion?

    (View Answer)

    More important than the specific saddle or style of saddle, is the specific fit of the specific saddle to the individual horse, and the suitability of that saddle to fulfill the needs and anatomy of horse and rider. The saddle should be well-suited to the horse’s anatomical features and the pursuit, as well as to the rider’s size and ability. There are saddle-fitters, and saddle fitting guidelines, along with high tech devices to assure an even distribution of pressure under the saddle. Saddle pads are critical, as is their cleanliness. The horse’s back must be sound and inflammation-free to begin with, and the ribs must be quiet. Often, if you can believe it, where the rider’s heels ride along the horse’s rib cage there can develop tenderness and bruising from inadvertent and purposeful kicking. Rib pain must be ruled out before and after each ride. It is important all of the ribs and back are carefully palpated for inflammation and tenderness before and after each saddling. Grooming and brushing the back are important. The horse’s stable life needs to be fulfilled and enriched with abundant friends, forage, and locomotion.

    Most important to equine back health is the rider’s finesse, ability, and style of riding, along with the effective fluid development of a willing partnership between horse and rider. It is critical the rider moves with the horse, and assists the horse in her locomotory pursuits, avoiding any aggravation or limitation of natural motions and gaits. Rather than saddle issues, many back problems are the result of imbalanced riding.

    There are flexible trees, and solid trees, and saddles with no significant tree at all. Each has their place when properly fitted and applied. Horses need to be abundantly fulfilled, massaged, and warmed up before being saddled. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  7. I notice after I ride my horse that he begin to display signs of abdominal pain and doesn't eat anything for a while. However, he is just fine before the ride and only displays this behavior after the ride. I really don't know what could be going on with him...

    (View Answer)

    This sounds like a digestive disturbance rather than a behavior problem. Horses require abundant daily forage and should never be without a bite of appropriate forage when they are not being ridden. Horses should not be hungry or forage deprived before they are ridden, and nor should they be fed grain unless they are in race training or a similar pursuit. Stalled horses require miles and miles of daily walking to facilitate digestion. Normal digestion is dependent on 24/7 appropriate forage availability and miles of daily walking. Make sure your horse never runs out of appropriate forage, and that he is getting miles of daily walking beyond his riding routine if he is stalled or paddocked. Please have your horse examined by your veterinarian, do a fecal egg count, and have the teeth checked, as well. Make sure the saddle fits, and that the cinchas are clean and non-irritating. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  8. Our horse just had pastern surgery and is currently recovering at the equine hospital. However, he seems depressed and is not eating and drinking like normal. He paces in his stall and it has been only been two days. Is this normal behavior after surgery? I also have not seen him have a bowel movement but once and his urine seems dark. We brought this to the attention of the attending veterinarians but they seemed unconcerned. I’m just worried about him . . .  

    (View Answer)

    Yes, your horse appears socially deprived, metabolically depressed, and perhaps painful as a result of surgery and hospitalization. Surgeons, and equine surgical hospitals are obligated to provide patients with adequate and appropriate socialization, locomotion, husbandry and forage. Water is critical, and should be fresh, with salt present at all times. These essential behavior and metabolism services can be provided by you or the veterinary hospital, who will know how essential it is that horses require access to abundant friends, forage, and acceptable locomotion or passive flexion and massage to promote healing. All stabled horses require that their essential needs for friends, forage, and locomotion be re-created in the stall when stall rest is prescribed. Your horse needs a friend, preferably his pair-bonded other horse to stay in the stall next door. You can be a friend, as well, and spend abundant time with your hospitalized horse grooming and massaging him. Appropriate forage needs to be present 24/7. It is best if the patient is bedded on clean straw rather than shavings to help keep him moving. If he cannot be walked, massage and passive flexion of all four limbs are necessary. Digestion and respiration are dependent on abundant daily locomotion. If locomotion is not to be allowed, essential body movements and digestive functions have to be re-created in the form of massage and passive flexion and extension of the limbs.

    Here is my article How Horses Heal.

    Restoration strategies that recreate the horse's social grazing preferences facilitate and potentiate horse healing. Appropriate healing of many equine maladies is encouraged when the veterinarian provides appropriate initial treatment and subsequently carefully facilitates a scenario to provide the horse with abundant forage, friendship, and locomotion. 

    Grazing pasture in an open setting with other horses, when appropriately orchestrated, has the potential to provide the most profound and often the most cost-effective healing of musculoskeletal infirmities and injuries. For conditions allowed to progress to lameness, time is required, often months. When musculoskeletal conditions are detected early, before lameness ensues, short term rest and restorative strategies encourage solid healing (days to weeks). Both long and short term healing are enhanced when the horse is content with the forage, friendship, and locomotion resources. Avoid unnecessary restrictions to locomotion whenever feasible.

    The earlier inflammation is detected, the shorter the time period is required to heal. Healing in a social-grazing setting is a long-evolved trait of the horse. Horses acclimated to herd and pasture settings during their development respond best to restorative healing. 

    Horsefolk need to take special care not to exceed the horse's adaptability regarding stabling and healing. 

    Horses require a sense of comfort and security for physical and mental restoration (and maintenance). An adequate social grazing environment, or appropriate facsimile thereof, often provides the most comfort to the most horses. Horses provided with adequate socialization throughout their upbringing are most responsive to these strategies. For horses, comfort and security come from friendship, forage, and, most-critically, a near-constant casual locomotion. Young horses and newborns learn to be horses from the dam and herd, and foals are best served to develop with horses in an appropriate grazing environment, as well. Horses learn to socialize, communicate, graze, locomote, run at speed in close company, play, smell, balance, move, and compete from their mother along with the herd members.

    Corral or stall rest is counterproductive to healing, as it deprives horses of all three healing essentials. Horses heal efficiently in a social grazing setting, not one of isolation and deprivation. To a horse, restoration, from the word rest, ideally implies grazing open country in a herd setting with abundant environmental resources; appropriate grasslands to graze and walk, salt, and appropriately placed clean water. The properly managed social grazing setting with the open view is the environment in which horses evolved to thrive and heal.

    Healthy physical and mental development are best actualized in a social grazing environment. Neonates rely on their dam for critical early learning processes, including sensual development, locomotion, and early mobility. The development of agility, coordination and athleticism in early life is critical to subsequent mental health and soundness. Abundant social contact, grooming, sleep, play, athletic development, and social bonding occurs during early herd life. Horses rely on constant contact and frequent interactions with other horses for healthy mental and physical development. 

    Opportunities for the abundant expression of normal equine behavior and motion promotes healing. 

    Unfortunately, healing opportunities of this sort are not available everywhere, especially in the more urban equestrian settings. Space and grazing limitations restrict healing opportunities. In these scenarios, the horse's preferences have to recreated with carefully designed and implemented ENRICHMENT strategies that provide some fashion of near constant forage ingestion that allow oral and physical and movement and motion. Stabling scenarios often restrict social expression and sensual contact. Horses are sensitive to these deprivations which results in stress, which complicates and delays healing. 

    LOCOMOTION is essential for both horse health and healing. 

    Husbandry, healing, and rehabilitation nearly always benefit from appropriately managed and free choice locomotion strategies that are constantly tailored to the horse's healing process. Locomotion is required not only for normal healing, but for normal digestion, respiration, hoof health, circulation, and all other physiologic functions of the horse. Stall rest is at the expense of many systems, especially the hoof and metabolic systems. Digestion and respiration are compromised by confinement and restriction of movement. Metabolic, digestive, circulatory, hoof health, musculoskeletal, and nervous, systems, as well as the all other systems and functions of the horse, are dependent upon adequate and appropriate locomotion for normal functioning and/or healing. 

    For horses that are hospitalized, paddocked, stabled, and corralled; active implementation and re-creation of the social pasture setting is necessary to maintain health and promote healing. The absence of abundant forage, friends, and locomotion are detrimental to a stabled or hospitalized horse's health, if not welfare. Medical conditions are apt to deteriorate in the face of the deprivations created by stabling and hospitalization. 

    Stalled horses heal poorly. Locomotion, social, and forage deprivations create problems for horses. In addition to appropriate medical treatment, veterinarians and stable managers must creatively provide horses with abundant socialization, forage, and locomotion to maintain health and facilitate healing. 

    Horses also heal horsefolk, and those horsefolk that implement these healing strategies often experience a sense of healing themselves, it seems. The human/horse bond runs deep. Domestication of the horse is a co-evolving evolutionary process. The human perspective is being shaped by the horse's perspective these days. Appreciation of the science of equine behavior and equitation is a welcome change for the horse after centuries of considerable subjugation. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  9. We have a horse in training that seems to have a neurological disorder. When we go to saddle, we have to do it slower than usual (slower than more horses get saddled), otherwise he will faint. We did some research and asked our local veterinarian and discovered that might be the Vegas nerve that is triggered when saddling normally or too fast. Furthermore, while riding, he will seem fine in most cases, but once in a while he has his "moments". This is where he freezes up and has a glazed look, basically checking out. When we first purchased him we tried encouraging him to go forward and eventually he would come back, but a bit hyper. Now, anytime he locks up and we squeeze him to go forward it is almost as if he comes back scared and takes off bucking and bolting. The little girl that rides him tends to get in his face a lot and seemed to aggravate him a lot. I hopped on him and he seemed like he was just hyper at first, but after a while he just doesn't want to work anymore. So, I keep him working, but he will freeze up and take off on me when I would encourage him to go. It is scary, but I thought he was just being a bully and continued to work him. Now, I believe he has a neurological disorder that he can't help. I have the little girl riding one of our other horses in lessons while I have her horse in training, since he gets so frustrated. After working alone with him just conditioning he seems very relaxed, but once in a while seems to get a glazed look. He does get excited going on trail rides and stubborn in some cases, but we work through it. That part seems like a typical new barrel horse in training, a hyper horse. I believe this little girl needs to find a better match for her as I feel he is too dangerous for her. We tried tracing his past to figure this out, but it is hard without his papers, although we did find out he did have a very abusive past. He was starved and beaten when he would have his "moments", checking out. He is a good boy 90% of the time, but it's just when he is at a show, working consistent tiny circles around a barrel or frustrated in general that he does this. Thoughts?

    (View Answer)

    The diagnosis is most likely narcolepsy. 

    Having children or strangers ride this horse is out, as the child you describe is giving many mixed messages to the horse, which are too overwhelming for him to handle. The saddling has become a prelude to trouble for him, signaling pain and conflict to come. What has followed saddling in the past has not been a good deal whatsoever for the horse as you have described, but rather a very frightening and stressful experience, and the horse has learned how to predict the future quite well. He chooses unconsciousness to what has happened in the past. 

    This horse’s other life needs spruced up immensely, as well. He needs abundant friends, socialization, 24/7 forage, hand-grazing and frequent turnout, and certainly cannot be expected to be healthy stalled most of the day if that is what is going on. 

    There may be an organic neurological cause as you suggest from your internet research, but if so, it is aggravated by the current unhealthy schooling and stabling scenario the horse has been made victim to. 

    The management and prevention for this narcolepsy is a vast improvement in the husbandry, stabling, riding, and training. All aspects of each always have to be a very good and pleasurable deal for this stress-vulnerable horse. The horse so wants to please people, but when given mixed signals, he checks out altogether, it seems, a protective mechanism related to freezing up. If he is stabled in a stall, he needs miles and miles of daily hand-walking and hand grazing. After an hour or two of hand walking and grazing he needs a full body massage before saddling if riding is expected to be non-incidental. The rider has to be an experienced equestrian who seldom gives mixed signals to the horse and whose cues are impeccably timed, consistent and refined. No harsh equipment or bridles. The rider must be pair-bonded with the horse, thus the daily extensive hand-walking, grooming, and massage by the rider. These are very simple straightforward measures that you can easily do that will greatly improve the horse’s welfare and fragile outlook on life at the hands of humans. I hope you are not tying the horse’s mouth shut with a noseband when he is being ridden, and using a bit with shanks. It is essential that riding must be a pleasurable and rewarding experience for this horse.

    I do not want anyone getting in this horse’s face, and I would rather the adults not allow the girl to get in any horse’s face. The horse always has the word, you know, and this oversight would be for the girl's safety along with the horse's she rides welfare. These problems are not the horse’s or girl’s fault, but the adults overseeing this scenario.

    Make sure you have your favorite veterinarian do a complete physical, lameness, neurological, and dental examination, with an extensive blood work up, as well. People who know how to make stress-prone horses happy and healthy, have horses that become confident and reliable for them. 

    When posed with troubling things, horses either flee, fight or freeze, depending on what is available to them. In this case, your horse faints, which is an extension of the freeze. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT

  10. I recently bought a 9-year-old Saddlebred mare. She was never stalled regularly from birth, but I plan on showing her this year and am having extreme difficulty in stalling her for short periods of time. We have tried feeding her in the stall. She will eat her grain, but as soon as the grain is gone, and hay is left she weaves terribly and has other horses in the stalls next to her. She doesn't seem to be herd bound or attached to her pasture mate. She is pastured all the time except for working and eating. She will walk in the stall and as soon as you take the halter off, she will run over you weaving, before working herself into a sweat. I don't want to stall her permanently, but it would be nice if she could quietly stall for 2-3 days as that is how long the longest shows are that I participate. I have attempted a calming paste, which didn't help.

    (View Answer)

    A stall is the last place a horse evolved to live, as your horse attests. A stall is a significant insult to any horse, let alone one that has never been locked down in one ever throughout her life. I would suggest you find a miniature horse or other suitable horse for her to bond with that can stay in the stall with her. I believe she is requesting a friend in the stall. Another better alternative might be to find her a pasture at the horse shows, as well as a pair-bonded other horse to graze along with her between performances. Horses require abundant daily friends, forage, and locomotion, and your horse is insistent a friend be with her at all times. At age 9, she may not be stallable, and you may have to go with friends in a pasture at the horse shows, which is possible and doable. 

    Short of that, you have to make being in a stall a good deal for her, and that may be difficult. Horses are a herd species, and they require other horses for security and contentment. Your horse does not accept solitary confinement, as is her nature at her previously uninhibited age. Sid Gustafson, DVM, Bozeman, MT