As the spring is here and the summer is on it’s way, the grass is growing and issues like laminitis and flighty horses are back on the scene. Buddy has had his feeet trimmed today, and in talking to my trimmer (Georgie) I’ve been reminded how often aspects of horse care, feeding, hoof care and tack are forgotten by many when facing challenging behaviour in their horses. As a coach and instructor I feel it’s important to know as much as possible about horses, not just about the physical aspects of riding and training, but all the elements of the horse’s life, that have an effect on it’s way of going.
The biggest issue horse owners are facing at this time of year is the grass. Many are rejoicing that the grass is coming through, and the hay bills are reducing. However, in most cases grass is not our friend. Too much grass and we are in to problems with weight gain, higly strung or sluggish behaviour, the potential for laminits or colic and more. It is important then to consider why these things are a problem and then to ACT!
The spring for Buddy has meant he has gained weight, his neck has started to develop a crest, and his behaviour has become sluggish in most work, and then spooky reactive behaviour out and about. It’s been a frustrating couple of months, and I’ve been trying to check I’ve covered all bases by checking tack, having chiroprator and physio check ups for us both, getting his feet trimmed, and doing what I can with his diet in the face of the overwhelming amount of grass that he currently has available. Georgie reminded me of the importance of salt to balance out the overload of potassium that the spring grass has bought around, and I realised this could be the missing piece I had forgotten about. At our last yard grass was much less of an issue, so it hadn’t been something I’d needed to worry about for a while.
So I thought with this post I would note some of the things to take in to consideration with our horses, at any time of year, but especially when faced with challenging behaviour. It’s not an extensive list, but a good place to start.
Environment – does your horse have a suitable environment? Is it both physically and mentally stimulating, and have his needs met? This can be difficult to control and change for many of us keeping horses on livery yards, but it is important to do what we can, and be aware if his environment is not ideal that this can affect his behaviour.
Body – is he free from pain and discomfort in his body? Chiropractor, physio, dentist and hoof care are all considerations here.
Diet – This is linked to body, but as one of the easiest things to control, and in my experience so far a very common cause of misbehaviour one that deserves it’s own note. Does he have access to appropriate forage? Could there be any exccess or lack of key elements of the diet?
Recent changes – This could me moving yards, a change of field mates, a change of diet or a change of tack. Change often unsettles horses, so making any changes should be done as gradually as possible, giving them plenty of time to adjust.
Tack – has the fit of the tack been checked recently? Has the horses shape changed? Ill fitting tack is a common cause of ‘poor behaviour’, and it needs checking regularly.
You – are you fit happy and healthy? Horses pick up on a lot of things from us through body language and energy. So noting how we are feeling is important too.
The main thing to do if you aren’t sure about anything is to talk to a professional. Get some sound advice from someone who is experienced in their field, and preferably has seen your horse.