I've literally driven around in circles today. My first stop was to see a new client and her pony that she has had for just over six weeks. Since moving the pony seems to be fairly insecure and has been difficult to lead. The priority seemed to be to set her up with some good groundwork and this worked very well.
This is a fairly common scenario for me to deal with and there are a few common factors in the horses I meet in these situations:
1. The horse seems to be absolutely fine in their old home; settled and calm, confident and working well.
2. The change of environment is sudden and significant and there is absolutely no common link to the old home in terms of humans or horses.
3. The management regime in the new home is significantly different to the old home - in terms of food and turn out. Changes in feed content or grass available can make a real difference as can suddenly keeping the horse in for long periods of time.
4. The horse has no company in the field when it had company before or is separated from other horses by electric fencing when it wasn't before. The horse cannot therefore engage in all important synchronising and mutual grooming activities
5. The horse has had some time off from work at either address
6. The new owner trains and works their horse in a completely different way.
As I left the first client, I spotted this group of young Thoroughbreds all in one field. A useful reminder of what horses will do if they are allowed to socialise. Horses kept in groups tend not to get separation anxiety when they are asked to be alone. Horses that have been isolated from others make up their minds that they are never going to let it happen again and cling to any new companion.
However, it is also important to consider whether there are any medical problems which may have been present before the horse arrived, have started since, or may have even started on the journey!
My second call of the day was to meet a client in a very similar situation. Her new horse had a long and arduous journey from her old home and the horse's behaviour changed almost as soon as she arrived in her new home. All of the symptoms and behavioural changes pointed to gastric ulcers and today she had arranged for her horse to have a gastroscopy with expert vet Tim Brazil. I'd gone along to give her support and found myself literally supporting her horse's head while she was under sedation with the camera exploring her stomach.
The vet confirmed that the horse had a significant number of Grade Two ulcers and confirmed that they could have been caused by the stress of the journey. Worrying that it can all happen so easily and from one event.
The list of symptoms for gastric ulcers is absolutely vast and it's only when two or three are present that owners become aware that there horse is a candidate for gastric ulcers.
Last stop of the day was very straightforward. I introduced Sampson to clippers in readiness for the winter. We could only clip along his mid-line as he is going to a show in a couple of weeks but he accepted it easily.
This is just the time of year to start getting a horse used to clippers before the winter weather sets in and it has to be done for real.