Friday, March 28, 2014

Winston Thoughts

I'm sure it isn't a surprise to you that I spent most of last night thinking about Winston.  The more I thought, the more I became convinced that he may very well have ulcers.  Sandy had mentioned the possibility Thursday and it makes a lot of sense.

1.  Winston was not reactive the first year after I bought him.  He was forward and sensitve but also level headed.  He tried hard.  He couldn't wait to go to work; always meeting me at the gate.  I took him to a couple shows and he was solid as a rock, even in cold freezing wind that drove most of the other competitors to scratch.

2.  Then we moved.  He was already a bit more reactive, but still a happy partner.  I think that even though he enjoyed the shows, being there with all the noise and activity was stressful.  It was a far cry from his peaceful paddock life.  The move to our present home involved a very long trailer ride.  I've tried to block out exactly how long; but I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of ten hours.  Then he had to adjust to a new place.

3.  Winston didn't settle in peacefully.  He harrassed Jackson in the pasture so we had to separate them.  Then he started goading Mufasa.  When we were finally settled enough that I could ride again, I had lost six months.  He was belligerant and hard to catch.  He started resisting work.  I was baffled.  Where did my steady Eddy fun horse go?

4.  I trailered him down to take a few lessons with Sandy and we did well.  I loved how Sandy had me ride with focus and I loved how she used softness as a reward.  Winston seemed to be doing well.  I was feeling encouraged.  In answer to Kates (valid) concern, Sandy always goes to a very soft place- and stays there - as long as the communication is flowing.  The horses she trains are happy and relaxed.  This is not an issue of having the wrong trainer for Winston.

5.  Winston became more and more reactive; to the point where I didn't feel safe.  Initially, Winston made a lot of progress with Sandy and riding him was like being on a different horse.  He was soft and forward and fun.  But he still had reactive days and lately they've been increasing.  He flinches visibly when touched.  Sometimes, he does more than flinch.  In the past week, his demeanor has changed.

6.  The plan: a full course of ulcer medication; a full work up by the massage/acupressure therapist; ulcer prevention supplements and, lastly, more time with me.  Sandy will still work with him -- she is much clearer and I don't want confusion to add to his discomfort.  But, I plan to visit him in the evenings after work -- grooming, hand walking, hanging out.  We've been out of town the last few weekends with my  mom's memorial and my birthday, but I plan to spend more of my weekends with him now.  Some of you may remember Kalvin, a horse who stayed at Aspen Meadows for a little more than a year while healing from an injury.  He was a sweet horse, but he never bonded with us.  His heart belonged to his owner and he lived for her visits.  The difference in his attitude, the shine in his eyes and the spring in his step when she came to visit were impossible to miss.  I know Winston misses me; he tells me so when I visit.  I need to spend more time with him.


  1. tonight when I stepped out into the paddock, Frostig actually seeked me out, and let me scratch his head, all around his ears, rubbing his nose, willingly - then he just stood by, keeping me company while i cleaned. Its been six months, and imo he's finally realizing that this is home, not a temporary place until he gets passed along again. I do believe horses are emotional creatures that we dont give enough credit to; sometimes expecting a "push button horse" instead.

    I think your plan sounds like a good one :)

    good luck!


  2. It is said that there are only two kinds of horses, those who have ulcers and those who will have ulcers. Given all his changes in environment I think it is likely as well. Be very careful about treating with omeprazole though, it can have a rebound effect that can worsen ulcers in the long run. A short course of it can work wonders, but beware using it too long. Adding 3 lbs per day of alfalfa to his diet can help alleviate ulcers. However, you want to watch his calcium magnesium levels.

    That is something you should also check into. A magnesium deficiency can cause exactly the kind of reactivity and bad attitude you describe. It isn't just about how much Mg he is getting either, it has to be in balance with calcium. The ideal ratio is 2:1 Ca:Mg. Excess Ca can cause Mg deficiency even if he is getting enough Mg to meet minimum requirements. You might want to talk to a nutritionist or I can help you if you are interested.

    Good luck with him.

  3. You are probably right. Winston is telling you and Sandy that something is bothering him. Sounds like it got worse after he got there. Do you think the stress of being moved was the reason? I have not had a horse with ulcers. When treated, do they react quickly and do you give them a break from being ridden? What if he comes home and you trailer back for lessons again. The important thing is keeping you both safe during the transition.

  4. Sounds like a very good plan. So many horses have ulcers it's amazing - hope that does the trick and it may very well. Glad he's in good hands.

  5. We have worked with a lot of race horses that have had Ulcers I hope Winston responds to the Gastro Guard . Work pressure or stress , change in environment certain feeds ~ all as you know as you know often will bring them on stronger at times if he has them. Did he get an endo scope ? Best wishes with having him feel better.

  6. I've had a horse with ulcers and it's like they go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. From being sweet and snuggly and interested in their surroundings to being cranky and belligerent and sometimes downright dangerous. I second the alfalfa in the diet, adding magnesium, omeprazole, and ranitadine (you can get it from Costco for next to nothing). If he doesn't have it already, a hay net 24/7 can also help keep acid levels low, and of course reducing the amount of grain (if he's an easy keeper) and feeding only hay can also help tons. It's hard to have a horse with ulcers - I think *I* got ulcers from dealing with *horse* ulcers! Sounds like you have a great plan and he's in the best of hands. Hugs, and let's hope he feels better soon!

  7. What about turnout and social time with other horses? He was used to lots before.

    He has been through many changes, but it sounds like his current environment has exacerbated his unhappiness.

  8. This must be very frustrating for both you and Winston.
    You can treat for ulcers, but ultimately you will have to discover what is causing the ulcers, if he indeed has them.
    We humans buy horses and force them to fit into our own goals and vision, without considering those of the horse.
    Some less sensitive, or go-getter type horses will just go with the flow and try anything their owners ask.
    But some burn out after a while of being asked or forced to do activities that they are either to overwhelmed with, or just havee no interest in doing.
    I had this experience with my previous horse, who I bought to become my mountain trail partner. Her previous life had been spent in an arena roping and barrel racing and that's all she ever knew. So when I tried to take her out on trails, at first she tried to enjoy it, but soon became more difficult, more reactive, more spooky, more barn sour, until trail ridinn became not only a huge chore for both of us, but also very dangerous for me.
    I found her a home with a family of kids who only wanted to do rodeo games, and last time I checked on her, she was happily toting kids around in the arena at rodeos.

    And I bought a horse that loves trail riding as much as I do, and gets as bored to tears with arena riding as I get, too.
    Considering the horse in our goals and desires is very important.

  9. your analysis sounds good to me and definitely worth a try. I had excellent luck with changing Irish's diet and second the alfalfa.

  10. I hope Winston will get better soon. It's sad that we can't explain things to our animals so they will feel more secure.

  11. I recently listened to a webinar discussing signs of pain in horses.

    They spoke quite a bit about ulcers, which apparently the majority of horses either have, have had or will have. One point that was made - one long or difficult trailer ride can be enough to trigger ulcers.

    I've also heard tell of the rebound effect of omeprazole, and concur about determining whether the horse is getting sufficient magnesium. In a very large (10,000 sample) hay study shared with me by a vet, the average magnesium level was around 30% of rda. The human population also tends to be magnesium deficient.

    Good luck sorting Winston out - I know you'll figure out what to do, and he'll be so happy to see more of you. :D


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.