Monday, February 1, 2010

Miranda Settles In and Fritz Frets

Miranda is settling in well. She's eating all her hay (my daughter calls her a "vacuumer") and drinking well. She's continuing on her Nutrena Empower and stabilized rice bran, and is now getting a bit of cocosoya oil and CPI Equi-Balancer pellets (which is a vitamin/mineral balancer pellet), and I'll be slowly adding some Purina Senior for extra calories - she can be a hard keeper.

Despite her prior aggression issues, so far she hasn't been a problem - my daughter was a bit concerned that some of her prior behaviors might reemerge when she was handled by new people. She tends to suddenly pin her ears when food is in the vicinity, and sometimes when you're petting her face when she's loose - one minute the ears are up and her expression is pleasant, and the next minute the ears are flat. When she does this I hiss and step towards her to have her move away, and that's working fine. I've been able to adjust her blanket and pick her feet without a problem. This evening I'm going to groom her, and I expect she'll be fine with that. All these little things were things that it was impossible to do with her before her ulcer problem was addressed and my daughter worked with her to get her to accept being handled again. In some ways, I think the ear pinning is just a left-over reflex rather than a behavior with much intent behind it, but I'm continuing to treat it as if it were intentional and being vigilant about consistently insisting on good behavior.

It's snowing a bit today, but one day soon I want to do some in-hand backing and lateral work with her in the bridle - my daughter hasn't done much lateral work with her and it might be entertaining for Miranda and I while riding isn't possible.

Fritz continues to fret - stall walking and some continued weaving. I was racking my brains to find anything that has changed in his routine that might have made him anxious and set off the stereotypical behaviors - the pacing and weaving - that he's exhibited in the past when anxious. The only thing that I can think of that has changed is that we increased his Purina Senior because he was losing weight. And then it occurred to me - horses that are getting too many available carbs can develop anxiety, and I've also observed that in horses who are prone to stereotypical behaviors like cribbing and weaving, feeding them something that is high-carb - even a small treat - can trigger the stereotypical behavior. A number of horses have come to our barn with stereotypical behaviors, and the behaviors have been reduced or have gone away completely, I think in part because we don't feed high-energy feeds. The fact that Fritz started being more anxious - he can be nervous ordinarily but this is much more noticeable - and redeveloped a stereotypical behavior when nothing else had changed, makes me suspect the feed.

So today, after talking to his owner, we're starting a test. Today he'll only be getting our CPI Equi-Balancer pellets - which is essentially just vitamins and minerals and is low-carb. No oats, Purina Senior, cocosoya or supplements. I'd like to see if over the next several days if the anxiety is reduced and the stereotypical behaviors disappear. If he improves, we'll know it's the feed. Then I'll add one thing at a time back in and watch for changes.

17 comments:

  1. Interesting about Fritz. I'm looking forward to the results of your experiment.

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  2. I like the systematic way you address behavior issues with your horses. Their behavior is always trying to tell us something--we just need to figure out how to LISTEN! I'm curious to see what you figure out.

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  3. It makes me think of the paint mare we saw at the arena. I don't think I mentioned that the guy said she has some food aggression issues - if I see him again I'm going to suggest he check on ulcers.

    Glad you've got an idea on how to help Fritz. Makes you wonder if this kind of thinking through would help zoo animals.

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  4. hmmm that is very interesting about Fritz I am looking forward to hear. I had a young TB for a few years that could not "handle" high starch/sugary food like sweet feed(which was what my barn fed at the time). He had many stereotypical behaviors like pacing and head tossing until I changed him over to a pellet and most of his strangeness disappeared. If it turns out to be a calorie issue you could try substituting some of the grain for beet pulp. I have always heard that they are "cool" calories.

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  5. I would tend to agree about Fritz, give him more energy and nowhere to burn it... canyou try him on beet pulp?

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  6. Diet is so important, so relevant! I will be reading to see if you notice any changes

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  7. Did you ever try Safe Choice with Fritz?

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  8. Good process for figuring out what triggers behavior patterns in you various horses.

    My Tucker is still a little feed aggressive--this after his ulcer treatments too. I agree that learned behaviors are the hardest to change. He always respects my corrections, but it's as if he just can't help himself.

    But all in all, it seems Miranda has made some super progress. I'll be interested to hear how your little lateral lessons go with her. I bet she's going to be a good student.

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  9. I hope you can get to the root of Fritz's fretting, poor love.

    Is Miranda still on ulcer medication or a digestive supplement? I went back to your first post about her and read that she was on a generic version of Gastrogard. Just curious as to how you guys maintain her long-term?

    Great to hear she is not reverting to her learned behaviours, kudos to your daughter :)

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  10. Enjoying reading about your thoughtful process of assessing and evaluating the horses' behaviors and responses to feed, etc.

    The ability to do that is one of the reasons I LOVE having my horses at my own barn - it's so much easier to keep my eye on things.

    (now let's see if this comment will go through!)

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  11. I like the process of testing the feeding to see if that's causing the behaviors. If you think it is you're probably right, but it will be interesting to see how it works out.

    Miranda sounds like she's settling in well. Dusty still pins her ears occasionally at feed time but she gets corrected often enough that she will just do it for a second until she remembers her manners.

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  12. That little tidbit about too many available carbs contributing to anxiety is my something new that I learned today. Thanks!

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  13. If the worst thing Miranda does these days is exhibit a little bit of food aggression I think she sounds like a great horse! Food aggression and anxiety seems to be hardwired into a lot of horses, probably because in nature it is their #1 priority.

    Fritz is such a cute old guy, I hope you get to the root of his issue soon. I'm with you and wonder if the increased Senior is the culprit.

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  14. good luck with finding the answers with Fritz . Feeding horses can sometimes be such a scientific process. Even just on grass behaviours can change. So many grass types are toxic and behaviour changing. I have decided that even trying to keep it simple can be hard work

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  15. yes, let us know how that experiment turns out. We have a couple here that tend to pace the fence or paddock, although I think that is more behavior/personality type than feed.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

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  16. I'm curious to what happens with Mr Fritz. I have Laz on only 2 cups a day of Purina Senior but am very interested if you think this is causing him more anxiety.
    Laz was on a grain diet for about a year that I felt was too rich and too much for him to burn off without acting like a sugar crazed toddler, so he is off that and acting calmer. I am always looking for new info on new feeds, etc.
    Good luck! :)

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  17. also..how great that you offer ideas to your boarder!!

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