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Training or health issue?

I have a marish mare that when I purchased 2 years ago was barely broke to ride under saddle. I took things slow and did groundwork for 6 months, light riding and starting her at the canter. At this time I needed spurs to ride her. She was always difficult about this one set of arena doors and would bend her body away to avoid them no matter what I tried-working her away and letting her rest there and sometimes she would go past them and there was still an obvious tense reaction but would not ignore aids to keep her on the rail. i have her examined before I start jumping since she is a draft cross and was 5.5 years so I wanted to make sure she was sound for jumping. She was sound and had hocks x rayed and everything looked good.

I start jumping her and she was pretty willing. I had started riding with a more experienced friend that helped me with starting to collect her, using herself properly and decided to move my mare down the street to my friends barn so we could work our horses together/get better care.

i give her time to chill out and start riding again. she slowly starts become more sensitive to the leg to the point where you barely squeeze your calf and she is going. She is hot and huffy and swishing her tail. Starts getting barn and gate sour. Balking when being lead to and even away from the arena. Absolutely rushing jumps. Afraid of this shed on the side of the arena sometimes and other times not. She does better off property than on property. I have a vet examination her and she has fluid in her stifles so we inject them. No behavior change and vet thought it might have been the reason for rushing jumps. Meanwhile she has been up for sale for months and about 2 weeks after the injections she starts bolting at the canter. Someone comes to try her and asks if she has ulcers so I’m trying her on nexium and it has been a couple weeks and saw some change but yesterday she was hot and reactive-had stopped bolting at the canter for a few rides since I started riding with another trainer and we have been working on it. She also got progesterone implants due to gross heat cycles that seem to last forever.

I just cannot tell if this is health related or training related and I don’t know what to even tell a vet if they came out to look at her. I’m burned out and want her sold at this point because she may do much better with someone else. Any thoughts or personal experiences would be appreciated.

Send her to someone else, see if she improves or stays the same. She ay be bored out of her mind with her arena, constant training every ride. She is young, probably feeling very good with no place to use up the energy under saddle. Constant being collected causes muscle ache, fatigue, as she develops, which hurts. You are not happy riding her, which she can feel, know, so that doesn’t help.

Pay a trainer to work and show her for sale, see if horse improves. Don’t go cheap on the trainer. Get one with a good reputation for developing young horses.


That is a great idea but there aren’t any decent trainers in this area. I would have to send her far away and cant do training, boarding and a percentage of purchase. Might be able to have my trainer now ride her for awhile but she is showing and works full time.

It sounds like you do not have the experience, resources, or support to work through these basic training issues at this time. On the other hand, from your description the horse is probably not saleable at this point.

How does horse go for your trainer?

Reading your story I can’t tell if it is pain or training or a bit of both. The red flags I see in the training is that you broke the mare, then moved on to jumping too fast, before you had her solid in flatwork (since she was still spooking off course in the arena).

Then you start her on jumping and she gets hot and then realizes she can also refuse to listen to you at speed. And now you have a hot mess half broke angry mare that has your number.

No one is going to buy her, but you might be able to rehome her as a project to a good trainer who will restart her from the ground up. Not to another 17 year old girl looking for a low cost starter horse.

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A draft cross, getting into more work that is asking her to do more with her body, would have me testing for PSSM as fast as I could collect samples. Test both types since you (I assume) know what her other half is.

And along these lines, anything change in her diet when you moved to your friend’s barn?

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Her diet did change from no grain to getting grain 2x a day(1/2 scoop, low sugar/starch) feed. She doesn’t have any classic symptoms of PSSM from what I have read but it can’t hurt to test.

What grain specifically?

Did hay, and/or access to grass change?

Resistance to increased work is a “classic” symptom of PSSM. How that manifests varies by individual personalities, and doesn’t exclude the behaviors you’re seeing.

Another vote to test for PSSM. Find a trainer that’s actually accomplished something tangible in whatever discipline you’re trying to advertise her under and get their weigh-in once they’ve started working with her. They’ll be able to better evaluate and verbalize issues to communicate to vets, will have quality contacts for things like chiropractors, sports med specialists, etc. You might spend more up front, but if it’s a veterinary issue, you’ll likely get the true answer more quickly and if it’s just a training issue, a quality trainer will be able to resolve this much faster than you will. In the interim, training under a reputable trainer can get tacked onto her resume, which helps sell and with all of trainer’s contacts, horse might not sit long at all.

To add to the good suggestions above: how is she cross country? FWIW, I don’t work my youngsters in an arena more than twice a week as it is rough on their little brains. A three day work cycle has worked well for me. that is, one day in the arena, one day cross country ( it might just be a quiet walk around a field), one day of gentle lunging and one day off.
rinse and repeat. You didn’t mention how old the mare is but I agree with Goodhors, the mare may be bored and ring sour.

My PSSM horse got two closed handfuls of grain per day (maybe 3/4 cup) and got noticeably worse when I doubled it. I was doing everything else management wise right for a horse with PSSM. Near daily work, 24hr turnout, etc.

​​I too would start with PSSM testing.