I need answers

I know I probably sound completely, diagnosabl-y, bipolar when it comes to Finn. Last week after the horrible day I had with him I had a heart to heart with my trainer who basically told me that if I felt I was done, then be done. It's not worth the time and aggravation I am putting myself through if I wasn't having fun anymore. And that's what this is supposed to be, fun! But then she also said that she really does like Finn, thinks he's a good horse, thinks he really hates the winter, and that he is just going through a phase. She said that he's a smart ass and knows I'm afraid of him. But she also said that she can help me.

She rode him most of last week and last Friday we split my lesson up half and half with her riding the first half. All the horses were being brought in for dinner, it was about 15 degrees out, and there was just a lot of commotion. He spooked a few times, and I said to my trainer that Finn was all hers. She said put your helmet on, and GET ON!

Got on, and at first he had his head in the air, looking all around and I felt like he was a second away from either rearing or bucking. She told me to loosen my contact, talk to him, and scratch his neck. As soon as I started having a conversation with him, and laughing, his head dropped, he started chomping lightly on the bit, and sighed. We worked for about 40 minutes, mostly at the trot, changing directions often, and collecting and extending his stride, letting him stretch out his back. He felt phenomenal.

And for the past week, he's been pretty good. My trainer has been riding him quite a bit. This afternoon I had an early day at work so I headed up to the barn. The cold has broken a bit, and it was a sunny 30 degrees (feels like summer compared to 0 degrees). Brought Finn in, let him chill in his stall for a while in case he had to pee (I didn't want a repeat of my ride from two weeks ago). Put him on the cross ties and he was calm and perfect. Brought my saddle out of the tack room and he immediately started prancing around and pinning his ears. I could barely tighten my girth as he was so upset. I didn't even bother with a bridle and stuck him on the lunge with just his saddle. He was nervous and prancing on the walk to the indoor (a horse that was FINE 10 minutes before), and as soon as I let out a little bit of line he TOOK OFF.  A totally accurate description of how he acted was that he looked just like a bronco- rear, buck, rear, buck, over and over. He was not listening, he had this crazed look in his eyes, and he was moving so quickly that I was getting dizzy. He was making this horrible noise that sort of sounded like a squeal/groan, and from the center of his panic around me it sort of looked like his outside hind leg (right) was coming way far out from his body, when he would settle and canter it looked like his hind legs were cantering together, then he would kick one hind leg out and start cross-cantering again or racing. It was crazy.

My trainer says, always says, that he is testing me. This is not testing me. This has to be pain. Or am I crazy?!!!
1. This is a horse that is on ulcer maintenance/treatment. I also give tums pre-ride/lunge.
2. His grain was cut in half two weeks ago.
3. He is turned out 8 hours a day in a giant paddock with buddies.
4. He gets good quality forage all day long.
5. Coat and body condition look great. He has even muscle tone throughout his body.
6. He is on SmartCalm Ultra and has been for three months now.
7. He is in slow, top line-building work six days a week. He is asked to work long and low at least 30 minutes a day, with tiny bits of collection thrown in, and a small amount of cantering 20m circles both directions.
8. I had my saddle reflocked and refit two months ago, and get it done every three months.
9. He just had his teeth done two months ago.
10. He was just tested for lyme.
11. He had a massage last month (done monthly), and chiro 3 weeks ago.

I would think that being in this much work, in a frikken program, on little grain, and on SmartCalm Ultra he wouldn't be completely mental unless he was in some sort of pain, right?

Once I got him back in the aisle, on the cross ties, and saddle off, he was still tense but not as bad. Brought him back outside, and called the vet while sitting on one of the rocks in the paddock. Once I let Finn go in the paddock he never, ever comes over to me. This time he walked away and then decided to come back to me and hang out with his head draped over my shoulder. He is not a bad, mean, or angry horse. He is a sweet boy and I honestly think there is something wrong with him. I talked to his vet for about half an hour about what to do next. She will be up next week for back x-rays. Possible things that I've mentioned to her are:
1. Kissing Spine-- he seems to have all the symptoms. Unpredictable, explosive, difficult to girth, unwilling to work.
2. Cervical arthritis- neck arthritis? This is not something I know much about or have researched a lot, but some of his strange symptoms also seem to line up with this.
3. Hock or stifle issue-- with how his leg has been swinging out he may have something going on with his stifle, although it never looks like his stifle is actually locking. Hocks- last time he flexed 1 out of 5 and vet said eventually he will need them done. I really don't think it's his hocks, seems higher up.
4. Hoof angles- Finn's always had great hind feet (yay for something!), and I don't think his angles are off, or it is a hoof problem, as it does seem to originate higher up.
5. SI's-- maybe he needs his SI's injected again? Symptoms also line up with this. This time around though I will get his SI's injected with ultrasound assistance. Last time we did not inject using the ultrasound.
6. Ulcers- I have never gotten Finn scoped for ulcers. I have him on SmartGut Ultra, and have treated with 30 days of ulcergard. Could his ulcers be so bad that he needs more than what I've done? His symptoms seem more extreme than ulcers though.
7. EPSM/RER- Also something I don't know a lot about. I know that it causes extremely tight muscles (which Finn has throughout his entire body), but he's never experienced, to my knowledge, an episode of tying up. I also don't think this would cause his unpredictability/explosiveness.

Another strange thing that both me and my trainer have noticed is that he doesn't sweat. This entire winter, even after tearing it up on the lunge for 30 minutes, he won't even be warm. After a ride, his chest won't be warm or sweaty. It has been very cold, and he doesn't have a long winter coat this year, but he has always sweat before.

 Hopefully next week we actually get some answers. I know I posted this a few weeks ago....Finn on the lunge with my trainer before a ride. Notice the strange way he bucks/squeals. And, this was a good day. This is how he "warms up" every day. I don't mind a horse that bucks, acts a little naughty on the lunge when the weather is cold, when they've been stalled for a while, to get the sillies out. What Finn does though I feel is on a whole other level. He will buck/rear for 20 minutes while I say over and over whoaaaaaaaa. He is just SO nervous and SO on edge.


  1. Honestly?

    Yes. He could have any or all of those problems.

    He also has your number, big time.

    Unless your idea of a good time is 95% trainer rides, 5% lessons and never just getting to enjoy your horse, this situation isn't going to work. Not for him, not for you, and not really for your trainer. It's not that your trainer is profiteering or telling you lies--Finn isn't an easy horse and once he has your number, the fun is over. He knows how to scare you and he's smart, so he's going to do it.

    Why are you ok with that?

    And the above is a genuine question. I wouldn't be ok with it, but I'm not you. What about this situation is making it worth it for you?

    1. I'm not okay with it. There is nothing about this situation that is making it worth it for me. I am 99% sure there is something wrong with him. For two years I have questioned his soundness and done everything I could for him. He is not, and probably won't ever be, the horse I want. But for some reason I just can't let go. I think it's because I feel so badly that if he ends up back at the MSPCA he will be put down. He seems sound and happy to be a pasture puff, but honestly I don't even know if he is, as I don't know what is wrong with him and the extent to which it bothers him. And I know I am not strong enough to be the one to say its time to put him down. I don't know if he could be sound in another home. Maybe he really does just have my number. I feel like everything is just a big question.

  2. SB makes some good points. It's not an easy situation to find oneself in, don't get sucked into sunk cost scenarios.

  3. I think SprinklerBandit's comment is very to the point and wise.

    I think it's certainly possible -- likely, even -- that Finn has one thing or multiple things going wrong.

    I think it's not likely, given the way that everything affects everything else, that finding and fixing something that's wrong will make him behaviorally perfect.

    And I think that it's a dangerous thing, to build a relationship on the hope that the other party will change.

    1. I know, I agree. He was never a horse that was behaviorally perfect, but two years ago he was a horse that I was confident trail riding off property, jumping in the outdoor, and having a blast with. Now, he is so far from that horse. I don't think he is plotting of ways to scare me off, and I do think there is something wrong with him, but I just don't know if I can stick around to find out anymore.

  4. I hope that you get the answers you are looking for with the next vet visit. I was going to mention kissing spines next cuz you've ruled out so much. Does he do that double kick/buck on the lunge with no saddle? Are most of his antics w/ a saddle or is he all over the map? Once you address the physical (if that's his issue) he might still act up, at least for a while because lots of learned behavior starts physical and then it becomes mental (bracing, anticipating, habit)

    You have to ask yourself if this horse is the right fit and how much do you want to make it work with this specific horse. I had all kinds of issues (still do) with my wild mare and there were days i was all "my god what have a done" but i decided to stick by her and so far its working out but i'm a they are members of my family kind of horse owner. All horses and situations are different and i dont think theres any shame is saying " were not a good fit" if you really feel that way.

    If your trainer thinks winter may be a factor then maybe give it a go though spring and dont make a decision until you see how he is in warmer weather. Theres a blogger (thesassygrey.com) who swears her mare has seasonal depression. In any event i feel your frustration and really do hope it all works out for you and Finn

    1. He does do the double kick without saddle, but not to the extent that he does it with the saddle. He also doesn't act as extreme under saddle, as he does on the line. He will put his head in the air, cow kick, but he will not do the crazy bucks/rears/extreme nervousness that he does on the lunge. At this point, I don't think either of us are the right fit for each other. I will check out that blogger....thank you!

    2. There a rider at my barn that is going though something similar with her mare. Is it physical, is it mental and can she give her horse the time it needs. Shes a 6 day a week horse not a 2/3 day a week horse. Its a really hard thing on a lot of levels. I dont envy you but whatever you decide it will be the right thing. Just know that.

  5. I think it's easy to go down a rabbit hole looking for something physical, when at the end of the day the answer might just be what your trainer is telling you - he's got your number and he's being an ass. It's okay to be done if that's the case. Everyone might be happier.

    1. Agreed, everyone might be happier. Thank you

  6. I'm coming late in the game and really want to echo the comments above. You have done more than your share of searching for the perfect solution to the problem. You've investigated the physical, you've had him in professional training and you continue to explore solutions. Even if you do find something (and by searching as hard as you are, you will), I don't feel that this relationship is going to get to the point where you trust him and then have fun with him. And, owning a horse is so expensive, so time consuming that if you don't have fun, why do it?

    If I know then what I know now, I may have sold Sugar at the peak of her career... not because I couldn't ride her but because it is always going to be hard to ride her. She will never be easy.

    And, I know many horses that switched riders and their relationships flourished. It's not a failure to move on but truly a letting go... Good luck!