I am at wits end, any advice or idea is sincerely appreciated. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place for the future of this talented mare.
As of August 4th, my mare was confirmed Prix St. George with piaffe, tempi’s down to 2’s, and could easily school the halfpass zig-zags from the Grand Prix Special. She was a superstar mare (slightly biased) that caught the attention of many international clinicians- and, best of all, I had done all of the training on her. However, I went from having a Small Tour princess to a training level dud within 10 days, and it has stayed that way since.
After the week of August 4th, my mare started balking two or three times a ride. Nothing too serious, and easily fixed with a walk pirouette or leg yield away from the wall. About four days into the little balks, I decided to take her out on the hills for a week- and she loved it. After a week working in a field, I brought her back to the arena and she had never felt better. Great! Problem solved- just a tad ring sour.
NOPE! Unfortunately, I came off a young horse that following week, and suffered a severe concussion. I was not able to ride from August 13-21, however my trainer rode my mare two or three times over that week. Trainer said she was wonderful once she got through the balkiness.
I competed in a schooling show the weekend of the 26th, which was a complete nightmare and caught us in total entropy. Many factors played into this: the mares at the barn come off regumate towards the end of August (as per the approaching winter season), her hooves had been trimmed too short the day before, and her new turnout schedule had lead her to put on quite a bit of weight pretty quickly. (Come to find out, she was also turned out right across from the stallion). Warmup was a disaster, and I knew she wasn’t feeling herself. Flat-footed, cow-pony trot, cannot hold the canter for more than a stride or two, profuse squirting, moving croup-high, tight through the entire body- all caused by the previously listed factors. Within 15 minutes of the warmup, I got off and called it a day.
After the disaster at the schooling show, I decided to give her the next week off due to her sore feet and Regional Championships. Leading her to and from the field was a 15 minute ordeal as she crawled down the gravel way, her feet still incredibly sore after a week off and applying turpentine twice a day. After catching her in the “founder stance”, I decided to call the vet with the fear of founder coming over me.
Unfortunately, it was laminitis. We pulled x-rays, and they all looked wonderful- no movement of the coffin bone or dropping of the toe. The vet was very confident that she would just need three days of bute and no grass, and she could go back to normal work in 7 days. Within a week, she was sound and happily galloping around her turnout field (which was no longer across from the stallion). The chiropractor came to adjust her, and she was moving wonderfully on the lunge. Everything was looking up.
Or, so I thought. Once she was back under saddle, the balkiness became more aggressive to the point that my trainer no longer felt comfortable working with her. She would lunge perfectly beforehand, only to become a totally different horse to ride. It didn’t matter where she was ridden- indoor, outdoor, field, hills, trail- she would balk and buck at the slightest touch of the leg. It has escalated to the point that I can only walk her.
Can horse’s get ulcers if they aren’t under much stress? The only thing that has changed from June to August would be a slightly more intense training regimen (3 days of hill work, 3 days of arena work as opposed to 5 days arena work). My trainer doesn’t think it is ulcers, as she hasn’t left the farm since June. And I would hate to spend the money on ulcer treatment if that isn’t the case. My trainer mentioned that it could be Lymes Disease or that she is just burned out, but I am not convinced. This mare is my little girl, it breaks my heart to see her be so uncomfortable and angry under saddle. I hesitate to believe that she is burned out because this is all so sudden; she still runs up to me in the field and is perfectly normal on the lunge, I don’t believe a burned out horse would eagerly do those things.
I would also like to add that this horse has never had ANY soundness issues, as perfect as x-rays can get for a 10 year old competing FEI, no history of behavioral issues. The only health issue she has ever had were ulcers in her Larynx in 2015- though she was tighter in the neck and jaw prior to treatment, her work ethic never changed. I am moving across the country the beginning of the year to take a training opportunity, and it wouldn’t be fair to ship her all the way out there if she is going to continue being dangerous and feeling so peculiar. If this isn’t treatable, my only other choice is to retire her at my parent’s house. I struggle to resonate with that possibility, as she doesn’t seem like she doesn’t like Dressage, and this is all so suspiciously sudden to just be burned out. Any advice or ideas???
TL;DR: Perfect mare suddenly becomes dangerously resistant when ridden. Behaves wonderfully on the lunge. Bucks and kicks out once asked to move forward under saddle.