WHOLE HORSE Q(
A bam-sour mare needs patient, incremental retraining. Also, a show horse's shoe boil blemishes his elbow.
My 4-year-old Appaloosa/Quarter Horse mare is "barn sour." How can I correct this frustrating problem?
Natalie Shaw, Illinois
Barn-sour horses refuse to go forward when asked to leave their stable yard. They I may run backward or spin around in an effort to remain/return home. In extreme cases, they may rear or bolt. This problem has no quick fix and needs a patient, well-structured, incremental approach.
First, rule out physical issues with a veterinary check, plus ensure that your tack fits well and comfortably. Beyond those basics, your mare's urge to stay home may stem from separation anxiety when leaving equine companions. (This can be caused by early I or abrupt weaning or social isolation in the horse's management.) Fear of repeating painful or frightening experiences, such as bad riding techniques or traumatic incidents, can also cause barn-sour behavior. Horses instinctively avoid anything they associate with threatening situations.
If your horse worries about leaving her companions, arrange for her to spend time with a mature companion and practice short separations. Start by taking her a few steps away from her friend, increasing the distance gradually over subsequent sessions.
Then practice these separation sessions on short trips away from the barn. Ride or lead her out short distances with her companion to boost her confidence. Once she's relaxed over short distances, ask her to stop for a few seconds while your friend rides ahead 10 yards before you and your mare catch up. Also ride a few yards past them before stopping, then ask your companion to catch up. Gradually increase the distances. Over time, these sessions can help her overcome her urge to run home to other horses. If her issue seems to be the more generalized fear of past events or unfamiliar surroundings, build her con-
fidence by gradually introducing her to novel stimuli in a safe environment, using plenty of positive reinforcement. This can be done close to the barn, then gradually farther away as she becomes accustomed to new things. Eventually she should remain calm even well away from home.
The key to success is to avoid asking too much of her at one time. Study her body language for signs of tension. A squinted eye and/or tightness in the chin and lips are early indicators of anxiety. Progress should be steady, but if you have setbacks, return to the last step at which she was relaxed and continue from there.
The time you take using positive reinforcement-based training will pay huge dividends in the long term. Because you won't have added any fear of punishment, your horse will be far more likely to trust you and your judgment as you ride her away from the barn.
Equine behaviorist, England
I'm leasing a fantastic show horse, age 10, and intend to show him next spring. He's developed a highly unattractive shoe boil, however. Can it be removed?
Jane Torlin, Idaho
Jane, a shoe boil is a problem only from a human's perception of aesthetics, as opposed to a health problem for the horse. Doing anything with your horse's shoe boil can expose him to some health risks, plus possibly trade one unsightly aspect for another. Still, there's also the chance that surgical intervention could solve your problem.
A shoe boil, also known as a capped elbow (or, technically, as an olecranon bursitis), develops on a horse's elbow over time when the heel on the same leg bumps the elbow as he lies down.
That repeated trauma causes the lump.
Horseshoes that extend past the heels can be the source of the problem, although shoe boils can develop on unshod horses, as well.
These cyst-like lumps have a fluid core surrounded by a tissue capsule that produces that fluid. Shoe boils tend to recur, even after repeated drainings, because the capsule lining continues to create fluid. In extreme cases, shoe boils can be baseball sized, but most that begin to concern horse owners are about golf-ball sized.
A shoe boil boot (a bulky, donut-shaped device fitted around the horse's pastern while he's stabled) can physically stop the trauma of heel bumping elbow and give the lump a chance to subside. Some horses object to wearing the device, however, and may develop other stable vices when fitted with one.
Steroid injections can reduce the elbow's inflammatory response, but won't permanently solve the problem. Also, as needles can introduce infection, it's better to avoid unnecessary injections.
With surgery, the entire lining of that cyst must be removed; if any is left, the cyst can reform. Because a shoe boil causes no health threat to the horse, you must weigh the benefits against the risks. I'd be inclined to avoid surgery, but if this horse's job is in the show pen and the lump is keeping him from being competitive, it may be reasonable to consider. The best-case scenario is that the lump is removed and never comes back.
Risks, however, include infection and aggravating the area, creating more trouble. Scar tissue can form after surgery, possibly replacing one cosmetic issue with another. Also, surgery involves some pain, but if infection is avoided, the pain should be fairly mild and temporary. And, if all goes well, the surgery should lay your horse up for only a couple of weeks.
KAREN BOLTEN, DVM
Myrtle Beach Equine Clinic,
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