Just before Xmas we bought a horse, a horse with some baggage. Her previous owner was completely frustrated by her behaviour – they just didn’t feel safe. Words like unpredictable, jumpy, nervous, multiple personality, too “marish” etc were used. This was a stunning mare to look at and she seemed quiet. Were we dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde?
And yes, I have to admit that we found the descriptions were correct. She was nervous (often trembling without a reason), pulling back when rugs were removed, overly sensitive to noise, and the more you worked with her, the worse she became to the point of being dangerous.
So, what was going on? Do we sometimes focus on one area of a problem and forget about the big picture?
This mare is lovely, and she is kind and gentle. Obviously, helping her with training was not working. It was time to think outside the square.
On the nutritional side, the first thing that comes to mind is magnesium – tense muscles, nervousness – one would think it was the obvious choice. But her sweating was not normal. A horse cannot sweat out the minerals making up sweat if it has a mineral deficiency. A Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis revealed that she was deficient in some minerals, but not magnesium.
Which brings me to the next part of the big picture. Helping a horse with a problem HAS to be a multiple approach. Whether it is nutrition, gear issue, soreness or whatever, it is important to look at the big picture.
In this instance, training and health went together – one no more important than the other.
Once her mineral balance was better, this mare completely changed, even her coat colour! So then we were able to revisit the other side of this issue – her training. Re-training well learned problems and building confidence in a horse is so much harder than educating a horse from scratch – but it can be done.
Question – Was her learned behaviour/training problems a result of her nutritional imbalance OR did her nutritional imbalance cause the behaviour/training problems?
Answer – It doesn’t matter, so long as both areas are recognised and addressed.