'Out of Proportion to the Stimuli'Chic a worried horse no more.

When I read the words “out of proportion to the stimuli” on Jenny Paterson’s Calm Healthy Horses FB page,  those 6 words pretty much summed up the long journey I have had with my horse Chic. 

Initially when I first got Chic, she was obviously very grass affected, and from what I understand, she had been strip-grazed on very short grass. 

She had arrived after a 3 day journey, during which time she had been fed lucerne hay.  Her eyes were puffy and very bloodshot.  Every time she put her head down into her feed bowl, she would fling it back up.  I soon realized that this was because when Chic is “not right” her nose is super sensitive.  There is also an area about half way between her nostrils and her eyes, roughly where the halter sits that swells up when she is grass affected. (Obvious in the picture - right)

There was a little bit of grass in the paddock, which my husband dealt to with the spray truck.  I have to add at this point that my husband thought I was completely mad!! He had been farming all his life, and to have a paddock looking like the Sahara desert didn’t make any sense to him. 



The journey begins...

Because Chic had been grass affected for so long, in her case it took a long time for her to come right. 

Getting the halter over her nose was sometimes impossible, as it soon as I got it over her nostrils she would fly back at 100 miles an hour. 

Trying to desensitize her nose before doing that didn’t seem to make any difference, and I have realized that if they “are not right” you can desensitize ‘till the cows home’, and you might get the job done today, but it won’t make any different tomorrow!
When in this state, it also seemed to affect her eyesight, whether or not it was because her eyes were puffy and swollen I don’t know,  but she would hold her head up high and try to look at me out of the corner of her eye – almost as though she had no central vision.
The sound of a carrot being snapped would make her jump, even some days if I coughed she would startle.  Anything different would make her HIGHLY suspicious. 

In the beginning if I went into the paddock wearing a different hat, jacket, jersey etc would mean that, I would have difficulty catching her. I certainly couldn’t catch her if I was wearing loose fitting clothing that flapped in the breeze.  I couldn’t approach her with my hands in my pockets, any movements had to be very slow and smooth.

She also wouldn’t eat if I was standing by her, and certainly didn’t want to be touched, she had to be completely alone.

After I had had Chic about 6 months, and she was getting better, but a long way from where she is now, we had to go away on holiday for 10 days and I booked her in at a great place that agists horses. 

She was put in on a paddock with not a lot of grass, but what was there was short.  When I came to pick her up, she was pretty much back to the worst she had been.  It took 6 weeks to get her right again. 

And now...

Chic recently at a Buck Brannaman clinic

Now, if her “emotional wheels get a bit wobbly” because of a change of feed or hay, it only takes a matter of 24 hours, mostly by increasing the GrazeEzy , AlleviateC and salt.

I let her have a graze on long old grass for about 10 -15 minutes some days, but she is doing very well on just hay and looks a picture.  Her topline has improved and her ‘upside down’ neck has disappeared.  Her eye is soft and kind and she looks interested in things going on around her, and not worried about everything.  It must be just terrible for them to live in a constant state of over-reaction.
Initially, if I asked Chic to lope - whether on line or ridden, she seemed to have to launch herself into it and would usually crossfire and look kind of like a saw horse with her hind legs trailing along behind, almost as though she was trying to drag herself along.  She was just so stiff and tight, and not at all supple. 
I recently rode Chic on a clinic, and she had to be stabled for 3 days.  She took everything in her stride, and you wouldn’t believe it was the same horse. 
The farrier recently commented on her calm she had become, and said “Whatever it is you are doing – keep doing it”.   
Going out for a ride is really a pleasurable experience now,  she is good in traffic, doesn’t mind the boats and water-skiers (I ride near a lake),  isn’t worried if trucks are passing nearby.  Isn’t too fond of groups of runners, but now that her state of mind is better that is something that I will be able to work on.  I don’t think she will ever be that fond of men – but I think that may be a hangover from a past experience.

Final thoughts...

It is a bit of balancing act,  and being vigilant about what she eats, making sure that she gets the NZ Minerals, Alleviate C, salt, and GrazeEzy.   What has made the biggest difference in the last 8 months is the addition of Graze Ezy.  That has certainly been the icing on the cake.  If there has been a change in Chic’s demeanour – increasing the GrazeEzy for a day or so brings her back to a calm state.
If it hadn’t been for all the research Jenny has undertaken on this subject, her wealth of first hand experience with so many grass affected horses, and her desire to make the lives of these poor horses so much better, I know that I wouldn’t be able to experience the pleasure of having Chic in the calm healthy state of mind that she is finally in.

Chic now waits by the gate in the morning and night and walks with me to the shed, instead of walking off and looking away.  She’ll stand in the paddock with the rope over her neck while I brush her instead of flinching as the brush touches her coat.  She will eat from the bowl while I brush her or take her cover off, although I am still careful to take her cover off and will put her halter on to do this if I don’t think she is absolutely “right”.  I can pick up all her feet while she is eating.  In fact the whole “don’t come near me while I’m eating thing”, has completely disappeared.  She is so much softer to ride, and hind quarter yields and serpentines don’t feel as though they are a struggle physically for her.  When I’m riding around the lake often little kids wearing life jackets will come running, yelling and shouting up to pat her – no problem.  They stand right under nose reaching up to touch her nose!! Unbelieveable!!

My husband John, who thought I was completely mad when I wanted to spray out the paddock and keep it that way, has seen the transformation.  John is not a horsey person, but now notices when other people’s horses don’t look right.