Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dealing with new mom syndrome in horses...

I'm writing this for someone I know reads the blog but I won't ID them. I think it's something a lot of us went through with our first horse and I'm hoping someone can offer some helpful advice.

By the time I got my first horse, I'd been in lessons for nine years and was already working polo ponies. When you polo groom, you are 100% responsible for making sure that 6 horses stay the right weight, fit, and completely sound. You get used to inspecting legs daily and memorizing what they look like. You know right away if a horse isn't quite right or something feels or looks different. It's great experience and I'd recommend it highly to any of you younger riders who want to really learn horses inside out and learn to ride a variety of temperaments consistently well. So, growing up in that, I didn't really have the "new mom syndrome" that so many people go through upon purchasing their first horse.

You know what I mean. If you're a boarding stable owner, you've likely encountered this person. They may get upset if their horse has a little hay in his water bucket, for example. I dump buckets once a day, when I clean stalls, and I assume other good barns do likewise. That said, horses like to throw their hay in their bucket and some actually wash their hay. The crystal clear perfection accomplished at cleaning time usually only lasts 5 minutes once the horse goes back into the stall.

This kind of owner will just about have heart failure if their horse comes in from shared turnout with a bite mark, and your reassurances that this is just what horses do won't assuage their level of upset. This owner worries nonstop about their horse and is often calling upon you to look at it and see if you think it looks thin or is acting sick. Now, while we all far prefer this owner to the owner who doesn't
notice if their horse is thin or acting sick, after a while we end up rolling our eyes when the person heads our way. Their horse is fine, why can't they see it?

Like I say, I never really went through this. I've always had horses, I've usually had multiple horses. If they get a cut, they get it washed off and treated. I don't worry that they're going to die unless they're colicking or something that I know is truly life-threatening. I can't really put myself in the shoes of an adult who didn't grow up in the barn and is experiencing a constant and continual fear that she is not taking good enough care of her horse, when in reality it's obvious to everybody but her that she is taking exceptional care of her horse, with the exception that her worrying has resulted in his having to change barns a lot. It sounds to me exactly how (I hear!) people are with their first baby...where they are just convinced they are doing it wrong and will somehow kill it. If you can relate to this syndrome, I'd really appreciate your posting your story or your helpful advice.


la mexicana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
la mexicana said...

I know a person who owns about 30 horses and has owned them for years and years and years...she STILL has "new mom syndrome". It is very frustrating to try to help her around the farm. Seriously, her stalls are cleaner than my house most of the time. She strips most of them everyday. Not only are the water buckets dumped...they are scrubbed and refilled twice a day.

Horses are horses, they are going to get poop in the stall the second they step foot in it.

Miss A said...

I can totally relate to this! I got my first horse a year ago and the first six months I worried -a lot-. I would stare at his movement until I spotted something I was convinced was lameness, considered switching barns when I found out others had left due to feed issues (to be fair this was a real concern, but it was addressed and turned out fine), and worried his general POA-ness was due to some mystery pain issue.

After hundreds of vet and massage practioner bills, etc. about six months had gone by and I just started to relax about everything. I got to know my horse and trusted my own judgement to know when something was serious and when it wasn't, and my own ability to do research and learn.

And guess what? I started to enjoy him -and- he's still alive! I'm sure your friend will relax after awhile, some people just need a little time to figure things out.

mugwump said...

New horse moms that don't calm down after a year or so tend to be people more effected by what they think people will think about them than if the horse is all right or not.
It tends to come with a personality that needs to be more "right" than anybody else, instead of simply learning how it's done.
Can you tell I don't have much patience with this type of horse person?
I am not including new, naive horse owners who find out all at once that their horse could implode at any moment and panic. I can't blame them.
With those folks I can be endlessly patient. I try to show by doing rather than telling what precautions are necessary and what isn't.

Miss A said...

Addendum to my above post, I knew I was being a freak about the whole thing so I tried to contain my crazy and not inflict it on the barn owner unless absolutely necessary :)

Drillrider said...

I had a "thrush" phobia as a new horse owner. Constantly picking the horse's feet and spraying with bleach water and having Coppertox stained hands.

Didn't hurt anything, but I learned their feet don't fall off if you don't pick them everyday and spray stuff on them!!

Anonymous said...

I can relate. I am a 23 year old first time horse owner and the horse I picked is a Friesian (which adds insult to injury because I am trying to protect my investment from running into fences). I have only had her for 7 months, so my behavior is much like you described. Except I understand equine behavior therefore kicks and bites dont phase me and hay in the water is nothing to cry about. However, if she gets diarreah or is being introduced to a new horse I get really bad anxiety. Trailering her this past weekend almost gave me a stroke, so we wont talk about that. But what I appreciate about the barn owners I have come across is that they are very understanding. Most people have gone through it and can relate. And if I have questions about something they are doing, they answer it calmy and give me all the reasons why and I am satisfied. I would reccomend anyone dealing with someone like this just to be patient and understanding and the new mom syndrome may go away with time. Some people feel so much better when they're stalls and tack are super clean and their horses blankets get cleaned once a week, and that's okay. Everyone learns in time.

Kim said...

I am on my first horse that I've only had a little bit over a year now, and I think I've only freaked out once or twice.. one time when I went to the barn I was boarding at and that day no horses had gotten their water, and I did not realize this til after, but anyhow, I went to work him in the round pen to get ready for a lesson, and he was NOT willing to hardly work. And he made such an angry mad face with his teeth bared at me, it really scared me, and I felt like crying, and the next thing I know he's sipping water from the mud in the round pen, and it clicked and I immediately thought "He's THIRSTY!" so when I went into his stall and paddock, I noticed he hadn't had ANY water! so I cried. Because he hadn't gotten water, he made that face at me, and because I had to reschedule my lesson and I didn't get to ride that. But I did learn,: a thirsty horse, will not work/cooperate. And if a horse is having a behavior problem, it's probably FOR A VERY DAMN GOOD REASON!... and these things should never be ignored.

Anonymous said...

I am admittedly a helicopter horse parent. I'm a re-rider and have had my horse for less than a year and am at my third boarding barn. It's a partial care facility and I am much happier there because I know what he's eating, how much and I also have control over how clean his stall is, his water buckets, pretty much everything. In fact, it's allowed me to calm down some (that, and time). I am even allowing him to be turned out in the rain (with a waterproof blanket on, of course).

I had horses as a kid and was the same way -- probably worse because I had more time on my hands. Back then, I didn't even allow my horses to get muddy. Frankly, the teenagers at my barn are the same way -- they'd rather keep their horse stalled for weeks than let it get muddy. Now, that stuff doesn't bother me. Little cuts and stuff don't bother me, either. Daily quality of life are my concerns: Cleanliness, safety, turnout, quality food, etc.

I think some people are this way and some are not. And sometimes it just takes time, experience and trust between boarder and barn manager.

LJS82 said...

Oh yes, I can relate to the "new mom" syndrome. But just as when my sons were babies and I evenually got comfortable with them, I have learned to "chill" when it comes to my horses the longer I've had them.
I am thankful that I worked at a stable/riding camp for over two years before finding my 2 geldings. I would recommend that experience to anyone who has not actually owned horses until late adult life. I learned ALOT about medical emergenices from colic (the mare died) to a horrific barb wire wrapped around the leg accident almost slicing artery (yeah, we'd been telling the manager to get rid of the stuff!) to rain rot, thrush, many of those kinds of things. I was lucky I'd been given that opportunity otherwise, I may have panicked when one of my horses experienced colic. I did panic for a few minutes, but then pulled myself together and started dealing with him at the lowest level of care for colic, walking, and walking, for about 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off. After about an hour, his vitals were back to normal. I also learned from this that he is prone to spring/early summer colic if I leave him on the new grass too long in the early months. Doesn't bother the other horse at all, but Bo is sensitive. So, that's my experience with the new mom syndrome! I have adapted. Best advice for new horse owners, ask questions of vets, go to health clinics, read books, get all the information you possibly can so you can be prepared for horse ownership. But, always remember, you are NEVER prepared for everything. That's just the way life is sometimes.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Kim - I have been in horses for 33 years and I will FLIP OUT LIKE A CRAZY PERSON if my horses don't have water. That really is freak-out-worthy. No one wants a colic bill or a dead horse.

green_knight said...

When I got my horse I had been riding for 18 years, looking after other people's, worked as a groom - and there's *nothing* as anxiety inducing as walking a $125K horse out in the open on a leadrope when the buckle on the headcollar gives way and said horse (on stall rest) walks off without it...

(Thankfully I'd been naughty and allowed him to graze. He stuck his head in the grass, I knotted the leadrope around his neck, and eventually walked back in the most nonchalant fashion I could muster... phew.

Any road, I *still* got new mom anxiety once or twice. Didn't help that my horse's first injury was near the hock. I was lucky to be on a supportive yard where I could ask for second opinions and where people would say 'oh, he'll be ok.' Later, of course, I grew to know my horse, who was a drama queen, and got in almighty trouble with yardies after a move when I was not overly concerned when he turned up three-legged lame (he'd been sore-but-ok walking in, but after a bit of a rest and with lots of people in the audience, he showed much worse. And I - gasp - ignored the vet and his 'strict boxrest' instructions (I'd called him) because Mr.Weaver was not resting at all, and a few short walks were much better for body and mind. OMG, I'm not listening to the vet. OMG, I'm not in pieces. Well, no. How would that have helped?

The cure I found - a horse that gets injured frequently (though thankfully very rarely with any significance) is not one I would reccommend.

Like brigjones said, doing the care yourself means your horse will always get a clean bed, good quality hay, the right amount and right kind of feed - much better imho than full care; and nobody cares how many supplements you feed

A Bay Horse said...

"That said, horses like to throw their hay in their bucket and some actually wash their hay."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has cleaned up after those raccoon-horses.

I got my first horse (as an adult) over a year ago. I'd had a horse as a teen and been a barn girl, so I'd like to think I haven't been too much of a "new mom".
But that said, I can understand that feeling and know the type. I'm more bothered by people who neglect their horses (and end up on your other blog). But you can also smother them too much. They need their play time, social pals, and they'll always find a mud puddle or a sharp stick in the pasture. My horse is still a horse and acts like one (for better or worse), not a baby human in a giant fur-suit.

A Bay Horse said...

I should admit - I did have a few anxious new-mom moments. Mostly along the lines of "OMG I'm going to be responsible for him for the next 20-30 years?! Was I really ready for a youngster? I hope I don't screw him up too badly..."

It helped to talk with other owners who had been there before.

Karen V said...

I have one horse at my house that has a tub for hay. I put in the hay, fluff it apart and pour two gallons of water over it. He won't eat otherwise.

No, really, I don't spoil my horses. Why do you ask?

Anonymous said...

There are also barn owners who are like new horse moms to a certain extent. I'm moving my horse from a place that goes back and forth between not feeding or watering (and I've been there right after feeding time) to hyper sensitive about everything being perfect.

There really is no solution to dealing with these people. Just let them do things their way. There are human moms who stay like this their entire life too. No matter what, unless you're constantly making your 10 yr old where a beanie in 60 degree weather, they might get sick (and die, but that part's unspoken).

Hyper sensitive horse owners, barn owners and parents really get on my nerves. The world isn't ending people! Get over it!

Ellen said...

Perhaps the best remedy for hyper obssessive horsekeeping would be having sole responsiblity for actually RUNNING a horse farm of ANY size, single handedly, dealing with multiple horses of all ages, AND holding down a full time job. That puts things in perspective in a hurry.

Karen V said...

ellen: I don't know. I've been on both sides. Our first horse was a sweet old granny mare who reluctantly stood quietly for our fussing over her, gobbled up every supplement we offered her and did as little as possible if we weren't messing with her. We still fretted. We boarded 20 minutes from home and I would drive out 4 times a day to check in on her.

Now I toss hay, top off water, check for new boo-boos, then head to the house. Before I go to bed, I count heads (or butts - whichever), interrupt naps if anyone is laying down, and I'm off to bed.

However, the sound of thundering hooves will bring me out of a sound sleep, into my sweats and out to the barn in under 30 seconds. (It's usually that cats fighting in someone's stall)

fernvalley01 said...

I grew up on a dairy/beef farm where the horses often just ran with the cows.That being said "Satan " the horse that I learned on( and yes the name was appropriate) was still going strong at age 27 and still more horse than a lot of the help could ride. When I got my first "very own horse " I started to read every horse care book out there and was absolutely scandalised by what I saw as our multiple mistakes!!I am sure I drove my family nuts. Then I want on to study Animal Health technology and tempered my new found knowledge with some practicality.
I have come nearly full circle over the years and have come to understand a few simple truths.
1) horses are and outdoor animal for the most part, you wont find shit or hay in the water if they have more room /hay in the water WILL NOT KILL THEM
2) they are social animals and unless there is a super aggressive horse running the others through fences etc leave them be (how many skinned knees did you suffer as a child?)
3) If you are worried ASK!! if the barn owner will not answer your questions and help allay your fears maybe you should consider moving on after all.
I have provided horse board services for years, to a select few and the questions I get asked range from the sublime to the ridiculous ,however these people are paying me to care for their horse so I smile and answer (if you are doing nothing wrong is easy to defend your actions) for years and the people who have

Heather said...

I learned to ride at an Arab show barn and the place was kept very well. There was no shared turnout but I did learn early how to manage self inflicted wounds. This is not to say that my 10 year old self was calm and rational about it. Nope, my horse had scratches in the summer and it was a freaking national emergency. Through college I worked at a polo barn and had a string of 11 under full care and another string of 7 that I did morning feed/water/leg checks on. I, too, learned what is truly life threatening from this experience.
Now, I own a horse a board it in a paddock with a shed. The paddock next to mine houses a horse which is owned by a new mom. She got her first horse when she was 30 and had about 6 months of riding lessons under her belt. Her choice of horse? A weanling. I'm serious. Needless to say, she treats the thing like a baby, a human baby. She has also completely fallen for natural horsemanship and gives me the stink eye for even owning a longe whip instead of a clinton anderson magic training wand. But that is a whole other topic, I suppose.
I think I might owe you for the vent session... Blogger makes for a grand therapist, eh?

barrelracingmom said...

I am protective in the way that I try to be as pro-active as possible. My theory is that if I can keep it from getting broke, less money spent on vet bills. But, I absolutely HATE barn owners/horse owners who will not turn out horses to keep them clean. Can't stand my horses to be kept inside but for the bare minimum. Also, I knew of a barn that if you wanted your horse out, you had to turn them out. Many of the owners did not provide water to them while in turnout. Pure laziness!

barrelracingmom said...

P.S. This is our 26 year old mare doing slow work. Yes, old does not mean skinny!!

Kim said...

It calmed me down when the barn owner was concerned to why I was crying... but I still don't know to this day (and although I liked that place, I have since moved him closer to home and he's the only horse (although he can hear, and I think see neighbor horses) and has a huge paddock all to himself (OK, he has a couple goat buddies lol), in fact it's like a couple acres and I LOVE the fencing, and I have never seen them without water. He has two water buckets and they the hose trickles in water and it works perfectly to keep the animals watered- I have not seen him without water once since moving him) still don't know why none of the horses hadn't been watered that day at the place I was first boarding at... I cant come up with a good enough excuse to why I think the horses water buckets weren't filled. Anyhow, I'd rather have had all the horses watered than the stalls mucked out that day. I mean yes, stalls need mucking every day, but I think I'd rather have my horse in his stall with water and a couple piles of poop, than in a stall with no water and no poop. And if I were a horse, I'd prefer it that way too. Nothing can live without water. All would die without water. But I agree, it's freak out worthy! in fact, maybe you should do a spin off post about what is freak out worthy, and what's not. I think we'd get a chuckle out of it. At least to us who don't freak out about little things, that don't really require a freak out. Like, hay in the water.. lol.

Michelle said...

My story -- a friend of my mothers boarded her horses at my huse when I was a kid, so from ae 13/15ish "I" had horses. Not mine, of course, but I was relegated with their care.

So when I turned 30, I thought I knew all there was to know about horses, right? They eat hay and grain, they need shoes on their front feet only if you are going to ride them, they can colic and if they lay down you have to walk them endlessly until you both die.

About 6 months or so after I bought Turbo and brought him home, I frantically called the vet when I found him bobbing his head up and down in the water trough. I thought he was choking. I had to sheepishly call the vet back and cancel when I realized that he was splashing the water on himself in an effort to get the darned May flies off himself!

Kim -- no water is a freakout -- I agree. I had my horses boarded out for one month a few years ago while I was readying my house for sale, and I wanted the yard to look nice and not smell like fresh poop. I kept just the mini's so it looked cute, and easy care/cleanup. Anyway, I visited them a few times a week, they were 45 minutes away. It was about 95F outside, and they had NO water. None at all! I was furious!!!!! They also left them tied up all night one night, they forgot to untie them after graining, so they stood all night, no hay, no water.

At another place I had my mare a for training, came once for my scheduled 11:00 lesson, and as usual nobody was there. My mare (and all the horses) were still inside. No rain in the forecast. I checked on her, no hay, no water. Hmmm.... then I realized all the horses ad no hay or water! I watered the horses in the small barn my mare was in, and I took her out and handgrazed her for almost 2 hours when I found the owner. She was "busy" putting up hay, and this and that, and hadn't gotten around to feeding them breakfast and turning them out yet. It was 2 pm!!!!

Kim said...

Yeesh, that is some SERIOUSLY BAD horse boarding barn owners.. I mean SERIOUSLY! I've just been reading a story of a woman who had her horse boarded at a place with 50 plus horses, and a Mexican groom guy who spoke no English got out his Spanish to English book and told the owner her horse was sleeping too much and when she got the vet out to check what was wrong, he had a disease and I think it's fixed now. But the point is, that if I was ever boarding that many horses, that is the kind of grooms I would want working there. To not only doing what needs to done, but also, noticing when there is a problem and making the effort to get it fixed or telling the owner when there is a problem that requires a vets input and help. The story made me want to cry of joy, to know he cared so much for that horse that he made the effort, and he probably cared/cares that much for all the other horses too. And 10 plus years later the horse is alive and well, all because of a caring Mexican groom. It's like, he cared more for a horse that wasn't his own, than a lot of people we've seen on the fugly blog, like the person in Oregon who tried to shoot his horses brain to kill his horse.

SOSHorses said...

being a self-educator I have a HUGE problem with people who don't read. I grew up around horses but did not care for them. My Aunts and Uncles did that for me so I didn't have to worry about it.

So the first few years I read everything I could get my hands on. I came home with a new book about horse care, first aid, nutrition, or some other information every week. My husband became accustomed to seeing me with my nose in a book on the other end of the sofa. If I ran into something that I didn't understand at the barn, guess what my first stop was? BAM or the internet when I got home.

I totally understand the "New Mom" syndrome, but I approach it differently. READ, READ, READ. Educate thyself! Once you have read everything you can find, if you don't understand then find someone who you think will know and ask.

Everyone loves to give advice, lend a helping hand. BUT, everyone likes it much better when you have at least tried to find the answer yourself. I like to help people who try to help themselves.

Now this is not to say I am never wrong. Far from it. But I, after many years of owning horses, STILL read a lot. I try to learn something new every day that will make me a smarter horse owner. Something that will improve the life of my horses.

SillyPony said...

Thanks for posting this! This post is very much ME right now. I'm two months into first-time horse ownership. I'm a high anxiety individual anyway, and buying a horse was one heck of a way to bring it all out! I don't obsess about his care so much, but I did feel awful when I found him covered in sweat under his blanket because the temp had shot up from the 30's to the 70's. I did worry about his feet (he was interfering behind so we had his shoes taken off and they started to look ragged from the slightly rocky arena), but when my friend (a vet) looked down at what I was concerned about, rolled her eyes and said "He's FINE" I relaxed. I read a TON of books as a kid and wish I had more time to do so now. I'm doing new thing now, though, like using rugs and having a horse that's stalled nearly 24/7. (Big 14/16' stalls, turnout when weather permits.)

I'm getting better with everything. I can tell I'm relaxing more and am building my confidence. I'm kind of a re-rider in a way. I rode from age 14-college age, took a bit of a break from riding the last few years of college and the years in graduate school. After grad school (and a real job with a paycheck) I jumped back into riding and found that my body forgot how to ride and my mind forgot how to suppress fear! I've spent the last 3 years taking lessons and saving money so I could have my own horse.

I mostly worry about his training and my ability to ride him properly. I've never had a horse I could just go and ride whenever I wanted. I was lucky as a kid to have a lesson (or two) a day all summer long. I find I'm not so confident when I have a weekly lesson and ride solo otherwise. You can read my blog if you want to know all the boring details.


robyn said...

Oh boy, can I ever relate! My first horse I had brought home in October. She was still thin-coated, and it was supposed to be in the 50s that night. I remember fretting that she would get cold (in a stall, with a blanket on). I also thought my corral (built w/ 2x6s) was extremely sturdy, until the mare panicked one day and busted through the fence, snapping the boards like they were toothpicks. I remember standing there w/ my jaw hanging down, watching her gallop away up the road.
Got some bad cuts--got the vet out until I figured out which I could manage on my own. Dealt w/ more colics than I should have, probably cause I got to the point where I could recognize a very minor one--and horses colic regularly and often, but many/most of these colics we never see/notice, and they clear up on their own. I had a broken leg on a mini. Had to put a beloved horse down due to an impaction colic. Had a vet tell me once "you can put a horse in a padded stall and he will find a way to hurt himself." That one I've never forgotten.

I've read a lot, asked a lot of questions, gone thru about 8 different vets until I've finally found one who was competent and trustworthy. Same w/ farriers--there are a lot of crappy ones out there. I learned to advocate for my animals--if I feel they are not getting the care they deserve, if I disagree w/ the treatment or hoofcare, you can bet I say something. And that vet or farrier better have a good reason for doing it their way, or we're going to do it MY way. I asked friends about trainers, vets, farriers, until I found who clicked w/ me and my animals.

There's no fast, magic way to learn about horse care (or other animal care, for that matter). Taking on a live animal w/o prior knowledge WILL lead to problems. Ask questions of people you trust. Read good books. There are even clinics out there for first time horse owners--what to look for when buying a horse, what to expect cost-wise, how to pick a boarding stable, or, how to create your own barn/pastures. DON'T cut costs on important stuff! I wanted to have a new corral put in, using White Lightening fencing (Centaur makes it, I think). It's great stuff, but I hired a cheaper guy to build the corral, than the more expensive guy. Well the cheaper guy had ZERO experience building this kind of fence, and I ended up paying almost the same amount as the more expensive guy would have charged, and got a horrible job done. I definitely could have done a better job myself, but I wasn't in the situation to take 2 weeks to do it--needed it done more quickly. But now I wish I had just done the job myself. I did end up having to redo the cement on several posts, redid all of the fence staples. But I did make it known to several other fence companies to NOT recommend this guy. And I learned the lesson NOT to be cheap when it comes to important stuff like barns and fencing. There are corners that can be cut, but these areas are not among them.

FD said...

Oh, ye gods, I have so many nervous-owner stories from my years as a high-end livery manager.

I always thought that I'd never fall victim to that, but as a competition yard manager, we had a stallion insured for several million (£, not $) come in. I gibbered slightly initially, but mostly got used it.

Then one night, a couple of pony mares in season got loose from next door and came gallivanting over to him to visit. He kicked his door, frame and all, out of his stable and went off to play.

I literally had a panic attack before ringing the owner to confess - he'd a sprained shoulder, cut knees and a fat leg, not to mention sundry abrasions. The pony mares, incidentally, hadn't a mark on them. Despite the fact that they were 13.2 ish and he was over 17hh.

She came over and laughed at me - "No big deal," she said, as I flailed and cold hosed and fussed - "It's the kind of thing horses do, get over it."

Skipawaygrey said...

When I was a working student at a very nice boarding/breeding farm in Pennsylvania, we had an elderly German woman keeping her 20+ year old TB there. The lady was either a very uptight re-rider or had OCD. I never figured out which.

Anyway, she kept five or six sheets and blankets of varying thickness/warmth hung on her gelding's stall door, with a chart saying which combination he should be wearing in FIVE degree increments AND she nailed a large thermometer to the door so that we wouldn't have an excuse for not making sure he was appropriately dressed at all times.

It was never anything easy either. Invariably, we'd have to take off the top layers, put on a new layer and then replace the upper layers.

There was no reasoning with the lady. I mean, the poor horse was obviously uncomfortable and absolutely hated to see us coming with yet another blanket, but she just wouldn't budge on the issue.

(And no, for the sake of the horse, we didn't always do things exactly the way she demanded, but we darned well watched the driveway for her car.)

tierra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tierra said...

My only real "new mom" moment was the same as a bay horse's... holy crap, I'm responsible for this animal for HOW long? :) But then--I had that reaction when I got my first cat and got over that quickly enough.

I think it has to do with personality types more than being a new horse owner. I'm laid back, so I take most things in stride. Other people are high strung. Can't change it. However, there is a giant learning curve for everybody at the beginning of horse ownership. (I wondered for quite some time why on earth a horse's teeth needed to float around in water at least once a year... huh???)

Anyway--best way in my experience (aside from reading a lot) to get to know how to take care of horses is to board them for a long time and learn from those around you--both what to do and what not to do. Good boarding facilities will get you on a schedule for shots, de-worming, hoof care, etc. I also learned some of the best information on horse care and what to freak out about and what not to freak out about from a barn manager I had once. He was also a horse trainer and almost an amateur vet with his horses--I learned so much from that guy, I could never repay him. I helped him breed horses, lance infections, clean out gaping wounds, etc., etc. That dude was a great teacher.

The other most valuable teacher? Experience. Well, along with time. In time, you will (unfortunately) experience enough injuries and sicknesses and colics that you will learn pretty quickly to recognize when you should and should not freak out. I've lost a young horse to Potomac Horse Fever. My friends have lost horses (one of them to anaphylactic shock--that was a rather awful learning experience). I've been there. I now know that life does, indeed, go on, and that every second you have with your horses is precious, so you learn to deal with the fact that you cannot control everything and you just let go and enjoy what you have.

I remember getting a truly panicked call from some pretty stupid barn managers (nice guys, but knew not so much about horses) about a wound on my QH that they just knew was going to kill him. So I drove out somewhat worried to find that he'd "unzipped" his chest, probably on a nail sticking out somewhere, but it was hardly a big deal. Looked disgusting--there was his entire chest muscle sticking out--but I knew from experience that it wasn't a problem. I took him to the vet, anyway, for them to clean it out (because that really does give me the heebie jeebies), but they were saying I could've done that one on my own.

On the other hand, I've had a so-called "trainer" (educated at a 4-year-equine college... hmmm...) get my Friesian yearling into a world of hurt and tell me it wasn't a big deal when it turned out she had a huge puncture wound to her stifle joint that I luckily found in time (with help of a vet I coaxed out). She spent 3 weeks at the vet's on IV antibiotics. THAT was a very serious wound that could have been the end of her entirely, if not the end of her not yet begun riding career. The vet gave her a 50/50 chance... happily for me and the horse, she healed completely without any lasting effects.

Guess that you live and learn...

Joy said...

An old cowboy type once said to me about a cut on my horse's foot, "its a long way from her heart". Puts it all into perspective.

bigpainthorse said...

It can be really challenging when you are a new horse mom in a large boarding barn to develop any security or trust of your own gut instincts about your horse because everyone around you will have an opinion (which they will most likely share with you ad nauseum whether you like it or not). After suffering scornful glances and whispered comments from shoe people, barefoot people, worm-daily people, worm-every-six-weeks people, blanket people, no-blanket people, grain people, hay-only people, supplement people, no-supplement people, natural horsemanship people, hard core cowboys, and assorted 14-year-olds-who-think-they-know-everything, NOT worrying and believing you are taking effective care of your horse can be challenging.

The necessary ingredient is a thick skin, but not one so thick that it keeps you from sorting through all the "my way or the highway" commentary to find useful advice and suggestions.

Monica said...

I have owned horses for about 15 years. I am far from a new horse person and have worked for veterinarians for about 10 years. It seems like my horses try to make me crazy.

My first horse was chased through the fence by the neighbors dog and cut his back leg from inside the hock down around the cannon bone, this wound went all the way to the bone and through tendons. Needless to say, the high tensil fence was quickly gone and we put up cattle fence and I won't have anything that doesn't allow at least that degree of safety.

I got my second mare from a trader, took her to the vet to be palpated to make sure there was nothing abnormal going on in there. The vet never said "start getting ready for a foal". He did tell me she would be fine to breed. Well, said mare started gaining some weight, so I cut back her grain and upped her exercise. Went out one morning to a foal on the ground. Lucky for me the foal was fine and the mare didn't have any problems. Other than the wt gain, she never developed a bag or anything. Boy did I feel like crap, starving my poor pregnant mare and riding the heck out of her.

The mares next foal (by of a Congress WP champion) came down with botulism at three months old. Filly spent a week in Horsey ICU at Haygard-Davidson-McKee and cost me mucho $$$.

A month later, the mare had an episode of colic. Drove back to Haygards. Surgery went well, mare broke her leg getting up and had to be euthed.

I have learned there is only so much you can do to prevent things from happening to a horse. Good fences, high quality feed, fresh water, vaccinations, dewormings. Unfortunately, we can't put them in a padded stall.

After all of the major things tat have happened (over the course of 15 years and over 10 horses) the little things don't bother me. After working for vets for years, I don't tend to panic unless its really bad. I can take care of a lot of stuff myself. The only things that scare me anymore are colic (you just never know whats going to happen) and the horses getting out in the street in the middle of the night (we had just moved and apparently one of the pests found the only weak spot in the fence). My horses have always lived with me, I think I would probably still worry some if I took them somewhere for boarding or training. But once I got to know the person taking care of them, I think I would get used to things.

Is there any way your friend could shadow a veterinarian for a few days, see healthy horses, lame horses, colicky horses, etc so she would have things she has seen to reference to about her own horse. It may make her feel better to have a little veterinary knowledge. Also, lots of reading material on horse care. I hope this post hasn't scared your friend. Things can and do happen with horses, we can only provide the best care possible and hope they still don't get into trouble. Scratches, bite marks, abcesses, weird unexplained lameness all happen, but they happen to just about any horse. Over time your friend will get used to these things.

OMG-- didn't mean to ramble.

Laura Crum said...

I've owned horses non-stop since I was 15 and I'm 51--I've also worked for lots of professional trainers, so I've got the experience. For the last twenty years I've kept my horses on my own small horse ranch. I am an anxious person by nature, and I totally understand that tendency to be paranoid that something is wrong with the beloved horse. What helped me was having a kid. It truly put things in a different light (yep, now I have something more important to worry about--and I am really working at not being too over-protective with the kid).

The best thing I can tell people who fuss over their horses is something I've learned over many years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I have seen more people make real problems by trying to fix problems that weren't there. I pay attention to the basics--safe fences, lots of room to move around, clean hay, constant fresh water, routine foot care, keep em the right weight...etc. I do not fuss if there is poop in the pen, the horse is muddy, his mane is tangled, or if horse has a scratch. They have to limp or be off their feed or the equivalent. This attitude has actually given my horses a better quality of life and less problems than they had when I worried endlessly about them. I have a really good track record (knock on wood) when it comes to keeping my horses healthy and sound. But I guess everybody has to learn this in their own time and their own way.

TheHorseGirl said...

one of my fillies pooped in her water bucket... lol i can just imagie what 1 of those new horse moms would have done...


oneidea said...

I've seen "NMS" in varying degrees... and IME, it's seldom limited to only the horse aspects of their lives.

I think in some people it's truly related to the magnitude of the responsibility coupled with limited horsekeeping knowledge. Luckily, this often disappears with experience. These folks don't bother me too much, because you can cure what ails them (usually) with some suggestions for self-education and some time.

Others I swear are just OCD in every aspect of their lives... they worry about everything and make everyone around them exasperated and/or miserable with their constant questions, worries, and drama. I don't think they can help it... but again, unless they are bothering me, I don't have a problem letting them fret around as long as they don't try to care for MY horses.

And then there are the folks that just thrive on drama and enjoy "sharing" their (unsolicited) opinions on how they (and everyone else!) should care for their horse. Nothing is ever good enough, they cause trouble in the barn, they often weren't taught to share as kindergarteners, and are generally PITA. You can always tell these divas a mile away, and IMO, they are bad, BAD news for a barn owner. They seldom change, and you can recognize them by the long list of barns they've been kicked out of!! :-)

Josie said...

This might sound totally off-the-wall... and it might be.

Well, before I get started, I just reread the blog and I can't rightly tell if the person you are posting for is the worrying horse owner or the besieged barn owner. I have NO advice for the barn owner, except patience.

But for the horse owner -- if the fears and worries are more than just persnickety, i.e. if they are interfering with your life and taking away your enjoyment of the horse... see your doctor.

I suffer from anxiety and depression. When I first moved my horses to self-care, I was a basket case. If they were in the barn, it was going to burn to the ground. If they were in the pasture, they were going to rip open a leg on the fence. This was not just new horse jitters. If I went out of town or just out for an evening, and my phone rang, it was surely someone telling me something awful had happened.

Medication can be your friend, LOL.

If this is totally off base and it really IS just new horse jitters, the best medication will be the "tincture of time". Also having to do it yourself (out of a full care boarding situation). It's amazing the things that would have made me question my horse's care (like the sloppy hay-filled water buckets -- my horses are almost all "dunkers" and if you can see to the bottom of the bucket, it's a miracle).

Jesse said...

My best advice would be to find someone who knows what their doing and that you can trust.

For me, that's my trainer. Over the years, I've asked her all sorts of dumb shit: Do horses have a bellybutton?

I'm away at college now, and I'll still call her when I'm worried about something. Like two weeks ago, when my mare stepped in a bee's nest.

On the other hand, I've always read a lot and tried to educate myself. I think it helped that I saw a lot with my mounted girl scout troop before I ever got my own horse.

Toycia said...

I did run a horse farm prior to owning my first horse and i STILL got the new Mom thing. I did however, KNOW that I was being paranoid and, fortunately, I was the person that was running things, so I didn't have anyone to go hassle every 5 minutes! Eventually I just exhausted it, and believe me it didn't take long!

MsFoxy said...

Oh god, are you talking about me? I was thinking so but I haven't switched barns at all other than MOVING cross country, so....

Ha ha ha, actually either way....I PERSONIFY this post. I am a paranoid "new horse owner" even though I have had this damn horse going on 3 years now. I blame her mostly, ha ha ha. Damn horse cannot be simple and easy it is always something going on with her.

I think a lot of it is my own personality (I'm a worrier, big suprise) and my completely accident prone horse. I actually did quite well up until the big colic and after that, well, its all been downhill.

I try to mellow out a bit.....lately I have just said F&^$% it, get over it already. She is still freaking out about the move and seriously, settle in because you're not going anywhere! I still worry constantly about her weight, omg is she too fat, is she too thin, what about her leg, and her hoof, does she have thrush, does she need some bute. Maybe *I* need some bute. Or some Xanax.

Now that she is home, I have at least gotten to where I go feed her every day and make sure she is up and moving and drinking.....blanket if it gets near 30 degrees or is raining and cold.....wha la. I have gotten over my obsessive compulsive grooming finally, she is dirty as can be and apparently thrilled about it (she never did like being groomed).

I need a chill pill! Or two or three....I think I am cresting the hill of paranoia and hopefully I will coast right onto the nice soft slope of...concern :) I had been doing well for months and then moving Ms Foxy home and being completely responsible for her with no help whatsoever...well, it got me all freaked out again. I've passed the one month mark and she is still in one piece so I am hoping I will melllllllow a bit. I do consider it a win that when I left this morning she got spooked at something as I was driving off and my only thought at the moment was to roll the window down and yell "get over it!". I didn't actually do it, but I thought about it!

thatQHgirl said...

I think I suffer from plain old "Mom Syndrome." I definitely keep a watchful eye, but I don't freak out and run to the vet everything something minor happens.

At our current barn my boy's stock tank isn't always filled, and that causes me to freak out. I check it daily, though, and if its ever empty I fill it myself. I think the BO got the point-- it is rarely empty now!

I think it is important to trust your own judgment, no matter how severe your NMS is. My gelding is prone to colic, and I will notice the signs before anyone else-- before my horse is in any amount of pain. He goes off feed, into a stall, gets his Banamine, and we start walking. I don't care if the barn owner is saying that its nothing, or they're snickering behind my back. I ended up calling the vet out the last time, as his pain was getting worse. The barn owner didn't believe me until the vet came out and confirmed.

Its better to trust your instincts-- no one knows your horse better than yourself.

robyn said...

think it is important to trust your own judgment, no matter how severe your NMS is. My gelding is prone to colic, and I will notice the signs before anyone else-- before my horse is in any amount of pain. He goes off feed, into a stall, gets his Banamine, and we start walking. I don't care if the barn owner is saying that its nothing, or they're snickering behind my back. I ended up calling the vet out the last time, as his pain was getting worse. The barn owner didn't believe me until the vet came out and confirmed.

Qhgirl, I don't see this as being NMS tho--I see this as being an advocate for your animal. Like you said, YOU know your horse better than anyone else. And you are standing up for him when he needs that from you. That's different from jumping at shadows like La Mexicana described.

athy said...

We have a saddlebred /appy cross gelding who is very sweet, very smart, a bit swaybacked - and a dunker.

He can't eat a bite of hay without a thorough washing in his tub. Usually this entails picking up an entire flake of hay, carrying it to the tub like a dog carrying a frisbee, and 'swishing' it in the tub - back and forth.

He then forcibly submerges the whole thing.

Then for the fun part - pursing the lips and sucking off the floaty bits like a vacuum sieve.

If I had ever had 'new mom syndrome' this guy would have broken me of it.

June Evers said...

Hay, I'm a 40 year horse person and if I didn't have NMS even now I wouldn't have caught a deadly colic so early 1 year ago. When we got the horse to surgery, the vet said this is the earliest surgery in a colic case he's ever done. Most come in in shock or so late that the intestines have to be cut and that's hard to survive. My horse had a relatively easy surgery, thanks to early detection and my freak-outed-ness. Also big thanks to my vet as well!!!!

Also, a big help is to work under someone who is knowlegdeable as a youngster. I worked as a show horse groom, race horse groom, breeding farm groom, trail hack stable, walked quarantined horses, school horses...I was never afraid to ask tons of questions of these people in the know.

I know young kids don't like to work or their parents are too busy shuttling them to soccer/piano/horses that there may not be time but those years working as a groom are INVALUABLE to me. And, never, never be afraid to ask questions.

When I was a kid, there really wasn't a thing called working student but boy would I love to quit work and be one of those at some big farm and learn the ins and outs of horse care now.

Good luck everyone and never stop having NMS.

sunfireranch said...

I had to laugh at Green Knights comment- we showed with a lady whose mare went down after she took her sheet off at a show. We were all freaking out thinking that the mare was colicking. The owner was nonchalant. "She's throwing a fit because she got a bath and a sheet" We thought she was the most callous horse person in the world until a few minutes later, the mare popped back up and went over and started munching her hay, but refusing to look at her owner. We all laughed at that one- she seriously threw a temper tantrum in the middle of the showgrounds.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Oh god, are you talking about me?<<

LOL, no, not you. And thanks for your comments, the person who read them said they really did help!

brat_and_a_half said...

I never went through this. Started off in lessons one year, and the next year I was free leasing a horse. He was 24/7 turnout, and even though he was buds with the herd leader, he was mr playful and came in from pasture almost everyday with a new nick SOMEWHERE. It was always just a surface scratch, most of the time didnt even break through the skin, just took the hair off. I just always included some sort of ointment in my grooming kit. Thats all.
I remember one girl having a fit about horse horse because it had a scratch on the front of one of its canons and it had puffed up a TINY bit. She was seriously half panicing. I asked her if the horse was off, no. Does he flinch when you touch it, no. Is it oozing at all, no. Is it hot, slightly warmer but not hot. Well then, leave it or hoze it if its really bugging you.
I hate the people who are totally convinced that their horse is happier in a stall or alone in the paddock. Most horses like this stand at the edge of the fence looking over at the other horses that are all huddled together, looking really dpressed. when in truth, that horse was out on 100 acres with 60 odd other horses before they bought it.

Double A Training said...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send me THESE clients! In my area I typically get the clients that don't care enough. Not all mind you but you wouldn't believe the horses I have turned away because of their owners.

I would MUCH rather calm a client down that is worried their horse isn't getting their hooves trimmed at exactly 6 weeks than the ones that can't remember the last time their horses were trimmed. That give ALL the shots rather than...."uhhhhh we don't give no shots". I want the owner that doesn't ride their horse until they are 100% sure their saddle fits their horse rather than the owner that has a horse with huge white marks and bloody girth areas.

I know NMS can be a pain......but it could be SO much worse.........

Shadow Rider said...

I had the NMS for years, until I finally was at a self care facility. I then realized, no horses don't colic if you don't feed them precisely at 7 am and 5 pm every day. Also that you can have the most horse proof fences and barns in the world, and they will still get out or get hurt. I found out you can scrub and fill a tub with sparkling water, only to have a horse within 5 min. put both muddy front feet in it to splash and play. I found out horses are houdini's when it comes to expensive blankets and halters, and invariably lose them in that brier patch that no amount of mowing will kill. I also realized how much work cleaning stalls were, how expensive and hard to haul bedding was, and that horses out 24/7 was just fine.

Yeah, serious reality check.

Now I understand the new horse owners fears, and do my best to help them realize what is critical, and what isn't. No matter what, horses will be horses.

Foxyluver said...

Ha! I didn't have any problems with the first horse.... It was the second one that still has me in a constant state of worry. The first horse was a patient and fairly understanding foxhunter. The second one was my show horse, a crazy highstrung tb.
Granted, he did have some weird issues, like refusing to stay in a pasture for over an hour. Over the course of several years he learned to stay outside, and even lived outside this summer, YES!!!! However, everytime I hear hoofbeats I run for the backdoor. Also he is a picky eater and some days turns up his nose at grain... He did a lot of trips to the vet in the beginning. It usually went something like, "he won't eat anything today? But he is eating now." Jeez....
He is terrified of cows (and my property is surounded). He was terrified of ponds (I have two in the large pasture). He didn't grow a coat the first winter, he is very sensitive to fly bites.

I thought I knew what I was getting into, afterall I had worked at barns for years and I had owned my own horse for several. Boy was I fooled. The second one was defineatly the hardest on my mental health

That being said, he is retired now, and still causes me way more stress then number 3 and 4. ;)

borderbratz said...

I can relate. I've had horses now for over 3 years and I've always done self care. Just last week I was told that I was "eccentric" about the care of my horses.

My horses live outside in paddocks with regular turnout. I don't allow them to be turned out with strange horses because the turn out at the barn is not much bigger than a riding arena and my boys are fairly brutal in how they play. So I deem it not safe. Hell, I deem it not safe to be changing the dynamics of a herd every 5 minutes by adding new horses without taking some precautions like having enough room for them to be able to get away from each other.

I also use psyllium 3 days a week instead of the 7 days per month every one else does because I read it on the Chino emergency vet web site. Since they treat most of the colics in my area of the sugar bowl desert I live in, I figure they must have a good reason to recommend that.

I insist on regular deworming which is every 3 months for my area as well as saddles that fit and regular farrier care. I use troughs for my paddocks and they get cleaned out (by me)once a week and maybe twice if Maximus insists on making oriental soup.

I drag them to the vet for things I can't explain like swollen lymph nodes. I do go over them with my hands every day, like a paid groom I suppose.

Maybe with more experience, I won't run to the vet so quickly but in the meantime, this is how I learn AND develop a good working relationship with my vet.

I suppose my entire point is that new mom syndrome is a rather subjective state. I'll bet many people would find my ideas of horsekeeping totally acceptable and others may find it lacking. Most people around here find me over the top and while they are certainly entitled to an opinion, as long as my horses are alive and healthy (mentally and physically) I have to wonder why in the world they waste their time by not minding their own business.

In other words, if the owner wants to spend valuable time fishing hay out of water buckets well then "ok lady, enjoy the hay fishing". Just figure that if she ever decides to enjoy her horse in a different way, then she'll make time for that by decreasing her time fussing over the hay in the water. People are adaptable that way, even the stubborn ones.

Mary K said...

I'm one of those "new moms" who has been trying like heck not to pester my barn owner/trainer to death. It's hard not to fret when this is your first horse and you want to do right by her. Trainer has been absolutely fabulous in the way she takes care of my horse, answers my questions, make suggestions, etc. I couldn't ask for a better person to keep my horse with!! I'm trying not to bug her about things, but it's hard not to ask a lot of questions, talk about things you've read in one of the horse mags to see what her opinion is, etc. (Our conversation often goes like this: Me: I just read an article that says.... Her: Oh God (eyes roll) Us: We laugh.)

What I'd suggest is that you just roll with your "new moms" if/when you can, and try to teach us as much as you can. I know there are some people out there who can be real pills, but many of us newbies want to learn and are looking to you for guidance and support. I know, I know, that isn't what you signed on for, but that's the reality. If something interesting will be happening at the barn, like dentistry or chiropractic or even shoeing, that the newbie hasn't seen yet, encourage her/him to come watch. If you'll be doing some training on someone else's horse, have them come watch. We newbies absorb info like a sponge. You know the old saying re knowledge is power? The sooner we are powerfully knowledgeable, the sooner we'll be self-confident and won't be on your back all the time!

Plus, you never know when that newbie will be at your barn telling prospective clients how great your barn is!

Fhtrkstr101 said...

God I already can tell you I am going to have the new-mom-syndrome when I get my first horse.

Slightly OT- but technically still onT-
I had never heard of hay dunking before, until my friends got a pair of belgians from Canada, and they both had to dunk their hay in the water before they would eat it. I never encountered a case so severe before. They had the change the water in the buckets soon as they finished eating.

Anonymous said...

i have had horses for a long time now as an adult. i still strip stalls daily, bring them in most nights, have really clean water buckets, etc. this is for 8 horses. i believe i am making up for the poor horse i owned for 3 years as a child. he was never wormed, lived in filth, fed alfalfa and corn and didn't have a blanket under his saddle when ridden. my grandfather "helped" me care for him and would beat him for acting too "hot". i doubt i will ever do enough to erase those horrible memories, but i sure have some lucky horses now!

Knitting Keeps Us Sane said...

LOL that is me!!

I constantly drag other people over "Is this fungus?" "Does he look swollen?" "Do you also think this saddle fits funky?" I call every day I am not at the barn to be SURE my guy behaved nice ;) He gets the best of the best, and if he missteps just once I am almost ready to hop off and inspect his legs!

I not only did not grow up in a barn, I did not get to ride/see a barn before I was 21, now 25, and I have only ridden lesson horses for three of those years. So yes, I have new mom syndrome - but not as bad as others, I think. I like to thinnk I was quite stoic when he came in from the pasture with two giant marks on his a**, and did not yell at the gelding that tried to eat his neck last week. But yes, protective.. like a hen of her chickens.

I think it is because we dont know stuff. We are not comfortable. I am scared doing wrong to my horse, and scared that other, more knowledgeable horse people wont tell me if I am doing something wrong. (Stems from my first horse, lots of bad experiences, navicular etc. that even the prev. owner (lesson barn) did not notice..). I feel pressed to teach myself really good because I know I cant rely on others, so I try to pump them as much as I can, so I wont have to rely on anybody in the times to come.
I do, too, check his legs every day, and try to know every part of his body like I know my own so I can see if he is ever "off" or having a bad day, swelled etc.

There is just one thing.. One itty bitty thing.. He is a GELDING.. I havent quite figured out yet what to do with his, uhm, "male parts". Do I wash them? or not? Will it hurt? I heard about a "bean".. IN the "Male part".
Ok, I stop now. Its a bit scary.

Knitting Keeps Us Sane said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that in the first week I had him I almost slept in the barn with him. Then I got him insured... and now I'm the "What the Heck, it rains, it pours, its cold, so what, they have their blankets, they are NOT staying inside!!"

I think he lives a nice horsey life, he just gets fussed a lot :-)

PS: I have never smeared something on my horses hooves. I thought about it, researched it, and decided against it. Same with a LOT of other things. "Your horse needs it", OK, I research, find out he doesent, and he doesent get it. Easy-peasy, and very money-saving.

Kat said...

Wow, I am glad to read this: you can actually outgrow the new mom stage and start sleeping again? I am the very new owner of two adorable Haflingers and I worry just about everything. Luckily they live with me so there are not other people involved with my anxiety (except my hubby, but he is very patient and actually supportive, phew). I really try to do my very best for them, daily hoof care, grooming, best hay in town (heck, it smells like you could brew geen tea from it), cleaning shelter and pasture three times a day, not kidding, washing halters, ropes and boots each other day...admittedly all this attention turned them from shy and uncatchable to really tame friendly people in a few weeks, so I guess I must be doing something right at least... but I still worry all the time if it is enough!
I am glad to read I amnot alone and it will pass!