When a horse changes in attitude – particularly becoming less obliging, grumpy, right through to excessive exuberance, aggressive etc – there may be many reasons so keeping a record of when and what he is doing will help to analyse the why.
The number one reason for a change in demeanour is pain, whether from internally like muscle or joint soreness, gut discomfort and low grade colic type pain, or from equipment that doesn’t fit properly.
The most common pain source is from issues within the gut of the horse from poor processing of food. Many horses have difficulties when digesting starch and sugars, some suffer from ulcers or disturbances to the mucosa lining the stomach and gut wall.
The next possible reason is a lack of correct balance of work to feed ratio and also a poorly balanced diet, some nutrient levels too high or some too low.
Sometimes it’s a simple as lack of knowledge and understanding of the horse and how to manage and train it. Obtaining the help of a professional is the answer to that.
To assess pain that maybe from injury or soreness the examination of a veterinarian is needed with such diagnostic tools as flexion tests, nerve blocks, x-rays, scans, blood tests and others.
To check for pain from equipment again ask a professional instructor to look at this and an experienced qualified saddle fitter. However it’s worth noting that a sore back is often not the primary cause and has resulted in great expenses of new saddles etc. A horse will become sore in the back because he is getting off a limb and changing the way he carries himself thus causing back discomfort. The primary cause of a sore back is 90% in a lower area or limb.
Gut pain is often overlooked unless it develops into the obvious signs of colic. Nevertheless it is a very common cause of negative attitudes such as overly touchy, girthy, easily irritated and even difficult to handle and ride. Dietary imbalances, high grass sugars, difficult pastures like kikuyu, result in an inefficient digestive process and so partially digested food passes through and ferments in the hindgut where it causes discomfort and even pain. A product which provides enzymes to assist digestion, rice bran to slow the process down and provide antioxidants, prebiotics and toxin binder will assist. Many horses have become docile again within a few days when on Digest-Rite.
The other source of pain from within the gut is caused by a poor microbiome – this is the body of bacteria and microbes which breakdown the food so it can be transported into the physiology of the horse. A poor microbiome occurs when a horse is on antibiotics, has a change to diet, is stressed, in hard work or recovering from illness. *Providing a product with an active probiotic to provide new microflora, proven prebiotics to enhance existing microflora and a phospholipid (a substance that assists the protection of the gut wall), will help re-establish a good working gut thus reducing discomfort occurring at times noted above.*
The other reason to do with diet is from specific mineral imbalances – like selenium either too high from selenium enriched pasture or too low because the pasture level is too low. This is a very important mineral which if either too high or too low, will affect the behavioural responses of the horse. Also if overfed may be toxic to the horse.
Finally some horses (often thoroughbreds) do not have high enough levels tryptophan, or thiamine or magnesium. A daily supplement can assist that and reduce the level of tension which can result in hyperactive behaviour. Relax provides these in the correct daily levels. Note the magnesium myth, Magnesium does not create a calming effect in the horse, it is only if it is a little low in the normal levels that the horse may become edgy. So once the level has been topped up (as with the daily amount in Relax), additional intake, or fast acting expensive liquids or other sources will not create a calmer horse. Once the horse has the daily requirement and is at the level is required it will excrete all excess – so that can be expensive manure!
The important role for the owner/trainer is to take on board the fact that the horse is not happy, by changing his behaviour he is trying to communicate that he is in pain, then to analyse by using experienced professional help. The result is a great feeling for an owner to have solved the problem and for the horse to become the happy animal that he can be.