Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB

What Lurks in the Shadows


…nothing, C. Nothing does. Especially in your own shadow.

This post may come off a little rant-y and I swear it was totally intended that way. C has settled in really nicely to the new place in many aspects. He’s got his appetite, turnout, no vices, and seems to have adjusted somewhat to the high-traffic facility. The weather is pleasant and warm, and by all means he should be displaying some semblance of manners.

I’m going to preface this by saying I never expected C to stay the exact same way he was when I bought him. He wasn’t getting enough calories to have that ‘crazy’ TB spark, but sweet Jesus on a bicycle, he sure is now. Guys, my horse will not. Stop. Spooking.

Over the past couple weeks almost every ride has been punctuated repeatedly by sideways flying, little rears, mareish squeals, and the occasional bolt. I can sit these, that’s fine, but dear lord is it irritating. I’ll have him in steady, light contact, his trot will be rhythmic and floaty, and then a bird across the arena will take a hop and he loses his brain. The worst part is it’s only for flatwork, which is a solid 85% of my rides. I don’t know if I’m not challenging him enough to keep his attention, or if whatever semi-immobile bird/car/horse/trailer/tree is just genuinely terrifying in that moment, but it’s been something that has made some rides feel like chores instead of fun.

I don’t know if I coddle him too much and am “letting him get away with” these things, or if the ‘fear’ is real. Sometimes I’m convinced it’s an evasion, and others I’m like damn, well if a trailer was rattling behind me and went over a bump and the sun hit it juuuuust right I might think it was a monster too.

N and I are taking a closer look at his feed and we’re going to cut some things out and see what happens. Hopefully, he’ll regain some sense. If discipline, not sense, is the missing factor, then I’ll have N do a few training rides on him and see how she fares with the whole fiasco. It’s getting exhausting, and I hate saying that because I know people with horses who have been dealing with this sort of thing for years, and I know I’m lucky to have such a game, talented horse, and the spooks are well worth the rest of the ride, and all the rest.

So, while it’s nice to hear “You dealt with him well!” and “Nice job sitting through that!” I’d just, well…. rather not. 🙂

So in case anyone was wondering why posts have been pretty sparse so far in February, it’s just been me trying to deal with the extra frustration and trying not to write a whine-y post (oops?) about baby antics. Outside of the kajillion (read: ten) spooks per ride, we’re getting pretty solid work in, so I feel guilty for complaining. But, in the words of Selena Gomez, the heart wants what it wants and mine wants to whine right now (it also wants white XC boots, but unfortunately, the heart can’t always pay for what it wants).

Keep your fingers crossed for me that feed is the source and we can pin this down before we trailer out to our first event (which is, actually, on the schedule for late April. Eek!). If trees and birds at home are scary, I bet Fresno trees and birds are downright terrifying.

No photos because C’s cute face automatically exempts him from any fault.

Okay, just one.


but it’s a gross, drooly one, so who really wins here?

— M


11 thoughts on “What Lurks in the Shadows

  1. I would definitely consider a feed change. I fed Annie a senior feed when I got her to increase her weight but not make her wild.

    Does he act Ulcery at all? Sometimes that can cause spooky behavior as well. Best of luck figuring it out.


    • I haven’t felt anything that would imply ulcers except the spooking right and left, but I’m not going to rule anything out until I figure out what’s going on! Thanks for the comment, I’ll have another update when there’s (hopefully) a change! 🙂


  2. You also said it here — he’s still a baby! Give him a chance to see a few more things in the world, learn that pigeons flying across one’s path really aren’t life threatening, and he’ll get it together in no time. I swear, it feels like no time at all two years down the road. But in the mean time, looking at his feed probably wouldn’t hurt. You can always try magnesium too, it’s cheap and seems to decrease reactivity.


    • Yep, I’m pulling out the rolled barley (and donating the rest to NorCal OTTB, hehe) and hopefully that’ll do the trick. I don’t think he needs that part of his grain as much any more. I don’t mind a little spark– it makes him careful over fences and I never liked a ‘cold’ ride– but not as much as this, haha! I’ll give magnesium a shot if he’s not a reformed character, at least through spring. 🙂


  3. Yup yup. It’s spring. Horses are stupid in spring. Bane of my existence right now. Feed and ulcers (and turnout changes?) also good to look in to. Hang on!


  4. oh man, so frustrating. good luck with the closer look at his feed, etc. if you were on the east coast i’d say also to a lyme test, but idk if lyme is prevalent in your area…


    • Thanks! I don’t think it is, but definitely will be looking at some other things if feed gets ruled out. I’m fairly confident it’s feed related though since at the new place he gets 5 flakes/day, 3x/day, on top of a fairly sizable amount of grain. The extra flake probably eliminates the necessity of some of the grain!


  5. Some of the horses that are super spooky at home are super reliable at shows. Hopefully that will be the case? To me at least, it sounds like C just has a case of baby tb w/ maybe a few extra calories. Reevaluating feed may just help, and it may also be time for C to learn to be a bit more of a grownup. Of course, I’m not your trainer and I don’t know the horse personally, so take that with a grain of salt. In my experience with the many green horses I’ve worked with though, this is usually the case.


    • Yep, we’re completing ruling out the rolled barley to start, he doesn’t need those carbs! Hopefully that will help, and if not I’ll see what N thinks about everything. I think it should do the trick, though! Fingers crossed!


  6. Spooking is so tough to deal with! I struggle too with knowing when it’s an evasion and knowing when it’s real fear. Hope some feed changes help 🙂



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