The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:23 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
I wasn't quite sure where to put this, but I feel really scarred by what one of the mules at work is going through at the moment. :sad: It's making me cry to think of her. I'm not sure whether this topic is in the right place, as the nature of the problem is partly because of her nerves, but I almost put it in the 'Lifestyle' forum because I partly just wanted comfort after being so upset at this poor girl's trauma.

To paint a picture of her, she is called Sally and is a white Shetland cross three year old, who came to the sanctuary with her Shetland pony mother who bites anybody who comes near, and her mule sister who is only two years old and is scared of people (her sister looks very much like Romy's baby Bacardy, but with a black nose :f: ). Sally is the most nervous of all, and will jump huge feed troughs to get away from scary humans.

Anyway, the poor thing keeps on colicing!

What makes this difficult is that she is so scared that she manages to with-hold her symptoms until most of us go home, and then she starts rolling and being really uncomfortable again. I watched her all day on Sunday, and she was even out eating grass. I didn't call the vet, or the guy who was on call, because she seemed well and even passed droppings. But as soon as I got home, my boss called me and said that she was colicing badly and why hadn't we done anything!

On friday she was run her into the stocks that we have, and the vet had her head tied down and had her twitched, then drenched her with water and gave her pain killers. Apparently she was kicking so much that she broke the wooden panels around her and they were surprised she didn't break her own legs :sad:. All of this because she is completely terrified and unhandled. She has a scar down her face now from bashing her head as well.

The vet was so unhelpful and refused to come out to see her when she was ill again on Saturday night and Sunday night, saying to us to just give her more pain killers, and the only time he would come out would be with his gun :sad:

Yesterday my boss got a different vet to take a blood sample off her, and my boss had her head tied down and one of the tractor drivers held her nose like a twitch. The poor mule will take so long to trust humans after this, and I really hope that she gets better and then I will try to make friends with her. What a slow process this will be thought, and how difficult it is going to be to show her that she can trust at least some of us... I did discover that she absolutely adores polos, and after all this trauma, her lips went wild when she discovered I had polos in my hands.

I hope it's not out of place to post this here, I just wanted to let it all out and talk to somebody because it upsets me to see her in such terror and to be treated so roughly because she is wild and it is the only way of giving her emergency treatment. We still have no idea what the problem is though. I hope the poor girl comes out of it alive :sad:


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:45 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
Shame that really is terrible. What she thinks of humans really is so in her mind and of course every time she is ill, that is exactly what happens and so it re-inforces her to stay away from them :ieks: :sad:
I don't know what to suggest other than the usual for colic which 90% of the time is stress related. So check that she has access to plenty of fresh water (ie humans or other horses are not standing near it stopping her from approaching and drinking when she wants), plenty of fresh fodder (by this I mean a good supply of hay all the time). This means she doesn't have empty times in her stomach to allow build up of acid and that she is not bolting down any "hard' feed. Is it possible she has teeth issues (this will also cause her to not chew properly).
Eliminate all stress. Move her somewhere safe away from human activity where she can actually relax for part of the day WITH her buddies/buddy.
Unfortunately offspring of nervous mares are generally imprinted with this nervousness as they learn it from day one from their mothers who won't allow access by the human. So if you can find a friendly horse or mule to put with her who doesn't react to human presence she will watch and become less so. In my experience (and we often had very stressed people hating horses dropped off) we would leave the horse to the herd for a few months before attempting any kind of interaction. The moving away would become less over time (human presence coming and going with food and water and not attempting to interact). If you really need to do something stressful like they already did, I would always sedate the horse so it's less traumatic (but of course that does cost more!!!). Most horses like this can be rehabilitated eventually but nearly always end up with one or two issues you may not be able to solve. Over time and with some thinking out of the box there is normally a way around it. One horse we had would NEVER give you his back legs (he was rescued with his brother having been found at 3 in a chicken coop!!!). He would never let you approach at liberty (I could after 4 years of trust), so had to be caught when in his paddock and he was ridden up the mountain at least once a week to keep his back feet trimmed). He is still alive today and in his late 20's. Another horse had the same head holding/twitching overkill and came from the spca. As long as she was never tied to anything she was fine.
So she is young and can be helped. Some things may stay with her forever but that doesn't mean she won't ever trust humans for other stuff. Keep doing what you are doing, being there and talking softly and offering something on her terms. :D

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:10 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 206
Location: Devon, United Kingdom
Thank you x x x x

I'm not at work for a few days so need to phone the other staff and find out how she is doing. That is an interesting point about her mother, who certainly doesn't help them to get used to humans. I think providing she gets better, I may suggest that she and her sister, and possibly mum, join one of our friendly groups of mules. See whether the overall group mindset helps them at all.

The fact that colic is so often stress related makes so much sense to me when I think of how Sally is... I don't know what triggered it in the first place, but i'm sure her repeat episodes have something to do with the stress of this sort of handling as well.

I will make sure that she gets out on grazing as much as possible, and always has supply of hay and fresh water.

It's so sad to hear about some of the horses you've rescued - kept in a chicken coop! :pale:. Thanks for your reply, it has really helped and I hope that I can help this lovely girl with renewed strength and positivity.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:52 am 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
The herd always was the best place for these horses and often what they had not experienced in the past (weird keeping/handling). The stress is immediately helped by safety in the herd and the fact that the others are calm when something does happen. Over time they learn to relax and integrate and then it's just a matter of exposing them to gentle handling on their terms. I watched this process happen over and again, very few did not come right eventually, some just took longer than others depending on their past. The guy that owned the horses would fetch horses when the owners told him that if he didn't come the horse would be shot. So we never had any idea what the issues were previously or what had happened but always the first thing was to let the herd do it's job. The horse would be fed and watered in a seperate camp and slowly let out with one or two and then the full herd. Only when the horse was fully integrated and calm would we start to spend time grooming and halter/leading etc.
In some ways although traumatic you have at least seen what they have done with her, so you know ears and muzzle will be trigger spots. So when she does let you touch her go for shoulders or neck or somewhere not associated with previous handling.
Good luck and remember her reactions are not personal to you and those trust moments she does give you are massive so take your time and stay safe :D

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Annette O'Sullivan

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon


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