Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When Your Horse Goes Crazy

Last Saturday Bast crashed a fence.
This fence, actually.
I had been leading him back from bath time in the main barn, when he attempted several times to bolt back to his pasture. This has been normal behavior. I attempted to work with him some in hand to get his attention back on me, but he continued to fixate on the distance and violently pull away. I moved him into a nearby empty pasture, eventually unclipping him. I figured he would run out some of his antsy feelings in the 90 degree heat of the day, and I could then lead him up. Having done something similar with him before, I settled in for a long galloping session.

Instead, I watched him fail to jump out of the field and crash through the nearly 5ft tall 4 panel wooden fence. It's changed the way I think about his behavior. It's time to get serious about his herd bound nerves and lack of respect for human interaction.
He took a direct hit on the post with his stifle, but got very lucky.
It's time to get real and address problems. His crash through this fence was not blind running. It was a conscious decision. He wanted to get back to his pasture, and he was going to solve his problem himself. He refused to come near me, standing in the field waiting for him to calm down so I could lead him back. Instead he took aim and threw himself right into the fence.
Not. A. Jumper.
That is not safe, normal, sane behavior.

This was not a horse being chased. This was not a horse in a blind panic. This was feral horse calculating his options and choosing to a painful and questionable escape to flee back to his pasture mates over dealing with humans.

He was lucky (which is probably a sign he's a terrible horse, since only the good ones seem to have tragedy). His stifle somehow was not shattered, despite taking a direct hit on a fence post at a gallop.
It swelled up immediately, but had nothing but superficial scrapes breaking the skin.
He made it up to his pasture (a little over a 1/4 of a mile from where he broke the fence), and stood outside the gate holding his leg up. I worried he had broken it, as he initially would not put weight on the leg and was very reluctant to walk. The vet thinks he startled himself badly, and the swelling and bruising hurt once his adrenaline dropped.
Your horse should not get into this situation simply being led back from a bath.
I had called the vet immediately, assuming he had broken something based on his reluctance to move and would need to be put down. While waiting for the vet, we sat outside the pasture. Bast exhibited some concern about the location of his pasture mates (who didn't care a whit about him and did not come to the fence where he stood suffering), but he quickly became very calm. He stood with his head in my lap. He licked my hands and arms. He wuffled my hair. He acted much like a sweet horse, which is very unusual for him. This further concerned me. I assume the pain was acting like a twitch.

Once the vet arrived, we determined there was no catastrophic break. We decided to stall him until he showed improvement. The plan is to bute for 5 days. While we initially worried, he made it down to the main barn just fine. (You can see how far it is in the above photo.) His walking actually improved as he moved, which bodes well for the injury.
This was the best he walked. Note the shifted hips, the straight legged movement. The supporting right hind. And the dragging toe. 
I stuck him in a stall, where he immediately turned to the window and began screaming his dumb head off for his pasture mates. I wrapped him while he screamed like an idiot, he ate his dinner, and I left him alone for awhile to think about his life.
Life sucks, huh.
Over the course of Saturday evening and Sunday morning, the swelling increased. I assigned him the nickname "Chipmunk Cheeks" for his swollen ass cheek.
I guess Chipmunk Ass is a better nickname than Dumb Fuck, though I'm pretty sure the last one is a more longlasting name.
By Sunday evening he was moving much better, and actually resting his other hind leg occasionally. I sat with him for an hour and half, during which time he actually turned his butt to me and took a nap. That is a first. Typically he will not relax that much around people without other horses around (we were alone in the barn, as all other horses were on turnout).
Resting the un less injured leg.
While he was still dragging his toe some, I felt encouraged by the improving look of his leg throughout the early part of the week and his willingness to rest the other one. The vet had cautioned that a fracture was still a possibility, and in that case any extreme movement (such as getting up from laying down flat) could torque the bone and cause it to shatter. Until we can evaluate his soundness further he is not fully out of the woods, but this seems like less and less of a possibility.
For now his future is a bit up in the air, and not just because his soundness is questionable. I am out of my depth in dealing with his tuned out and willful behavior. He has exhibited time and again a complete lack of trust in people, despite regular and sympathetic handling. His complete reliance on other horses to supply his confidence undermines any relationship he builds with me or other humans. It's not safe, and it's not improving. Clearly something needs to change. I'm working out what the next steps are, but for now his recovery seems to be progressing well and it seems he will make a complete return to soundness.

28 comments:

  1. Yikes 🙁 I've been dealing with some nasty herdbound issues with Cinna for a good portion of her life but thankfully she has not escalated to the point of crashing through a solid fence (although she has been known to utterly disregard electric from time to time). I hope you can figure out how to overcome this. Also glad his recovery is progressing well and that the prognosis is good.

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  2. Ugh Bast :( What a relief if doesn’t appear to be any worse bc that could have been bad. Here’s hoping some of your ideas for breaking the cycle and getting through to him work out! Who knew crab chips would be so goddamn salty tho... ugh. Next time the wine’s on me.

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  3. Wow...that’s an extreme response to get back to his pasture mates. I don’t have any experience with that kind of behavior but I think you are wise to work on a plan of action going forward. Hang in there!

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  4. This is the type of BS Copper pulls when he's not in regular work and I separate him from friends. He's injured himself once this way and has respected fences (mostly) since. Are their any sorts of calming supplements you could start him on? Also, is there the possibility of pasturing him away from other horses long enough to give him a chance to realize that people are adequate solace? Separation and routine are the best things for Copper when he finds himself in this frame of mind. :/

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  5. Ugh, Bast, seriously? I hope he heals up quickly and that you find a situation that works.

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  6. Jeeez, Bast. What a rough, terrifying experience. The video is amazing, if utterly terrifying. I'm so, so sorry - I hope that he comes back sound and you can figure things out.

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  7. i am glad he is 'okay' or as okay as he gets. And hopefully no longterm injury but seriously? I could see sliding thru the fence in a panic but with all that grass most horses would have just run around that big field then started grazing. Obviously not Bast. UGH Sorry about all this how stressful for you. I really thought he was coming around. No advice just my thoughts are with you as you try to figure out this tough nut!

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  8. Oh sweet Jesus Bast! I hope he heals physically as well as expected! The video you posted is just... wow! I've dealt with a few herd bound TBs that would jump out of the free school to get back to the barn but nothing like this!

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  9. I don't even know what to say... wtf? I can imagine few worse feelings than those moments right after watching this happen and and then seeing him not use the leg. I feel awful that you had to go through that. I hope his recovery goes smoothly and that maybe with some creative thinking you both can find a good place to keep developing!

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  10. Have you tried Magnesium at all? Katai can be scary and checked out off of it, I’m being reminded right now since I ran out, and will do things like almost run me over. On it she’s her normal self but just without the checked out reactivity.

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  11. Wow. Just wow. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this, both the physical injury and the mental causes of it. Thank goodness it was a wood fence instead of something worse like wire. Hopefully this was the wake-up call he needed and you guys reach a positive turning point.

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  12. Oh man, what a rollercoaster of emotions - Hugs!

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  13. Yikes. I've never dealt with anything so simultaneously feral and calculated. I hope he heals well.

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  14. holy shit. what a terrifying and very crazy weekend you guys had. i am sorry you are having to deal with this - and i hope you can find a good end result for both of you.

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  15. I am so sorry you are dealing with this. How very not fun for either one of you. I hope you can find a good end result for you both. I know it is a bit controversial, but I have used depo (at the recommendation of my vet) for an extremely anxious, semi-feral gelding. It helped immensely and kept us both safe while we worked through the basics of learning how to be a functioning equine member of society.

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  16. WHAT THE FUCKERY. I agree with you, this is dangerous behavior and not sane. Also agree with Shauna above with the suggestion of depo. It helped Hampton and is the reason I didn't sell him, or dump him at an auction. lol. not really only half kidding about the auction. But whatever your decision, I support you 100%. Just so frustrated for you because of all the hard work you put in and then he goes and does this.

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  17. Wow, that's scary. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this, but I'm glad he seems to be on the mend.

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  18. Oh my goodness! That poor dumb baby. I cannot imagine how terrifying that was for you to watch.

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  19. Well maybe being a high level jumper isn't in his cards. Yikes.

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  20. Wow - that must have been horrible to watch. Good luck on figuring out the next steps and hope he continues to heal up.

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  21. Yikes! What a scary situation! I appreciate your candor and honesty about this — and I hope that Bast heals 110%, whatever his future holds ❤️

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  22. WTF? If you are going to be a nut job, at least clear the fence. I'm sorry this happened. How terrifying to watch and then have to go collect him and assess the damage. Whatever his mental state is, I hope you can break through and come out the other side.

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  23. Oh goodness, that must've been incredibly scary to watch. I hope you can find some answers for Bast!

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  24. How scary!! I'm glad he's on the mend. Sending all the best your way!

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  25. That's super scary! Best wishes for his speedy recovery- mentally and physically.

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  26. Oh no :o even though it is said that Haffies are herdbound, I have never ever seen anything like that with Hafl - or any other horse :( that is really bad and I hope he gets well soon!

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  27. Sh*t Bast! You need to start making better life choices buddy.

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  28. Wow, this was so scary. Carmen can get like this and I've learned that I need to insist that she focus on me and be prepared to be the meanest person around so that she focuses on me. It's hard and I have no idea if it's the same for you but the lack of trust in humans is very very familiar to me.

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