But before that update, here's another: Sydney is on day 3 of Smartpak's SmartCalm Ultra Pellets. Smartpak says, Is your horse especially anxious, inattentive or spooky? SmartCalm Ultra Pellets are an herb-free formula designed to support proper nervous system function, helping to minimize skittishness. SmartCalm Ultra Pellets offer a comprehensive approach to calming by providing 10,000 mg of Magnesium, 550 mg of Vitamin B1, 2,000 mg of Inositol (a B vitamin relative), and 125 mg of L-Tryptophan. This essential amino acid is converted into serotonin, a hormone that may increase feelings of wellbeing and contentment, helping to calm and soothe.
I put zero stock in its efficacy, but hey, maybe it will do something productive. By the way, I did run it by Dr. B. first. Her response? Probably won't hurt, might help. Basically, she and I both feel that it just makes his poop a bit more expensve. In any case, I am giving it a try. It's not terribly expensive, and if it helps, then it's worth it.
Back to the hay discussion. Erica, over at Of Academia and Horses described Sydney's food anxiety perfectly. She referred to it as his food alarm. That's precisely what it has felt like! Tuesday's feeding schedule worked perfectly. I pulled Sydney out of his stall and plopped a hay bag in front of his nose. While his head was buried in the bag, the neighbor came by to feed the other three horses. Sydney never even looked up. He munched as I groomed and saddled which took at least fifteen minutes.
I headed out to the arena and was pleased that he already seemed slightly more relaxed. I hopped on and discovered that I still had a pretty naughty boy.
Me: Are you sure, Sydney?
Sydney: Yes, OMG let me RRRUUUUNNN
Me: Okay, If that's how you feel, but you're going to have to move a lot.
As I asked for the canter, I was rewarded with some small bucking, some small rearing, and a hell bent for leather gallop which I was forced to pulley halt. After that, I was able to keep him on something that resembled a circle as we galloped. Around, and around, and around. Little by little, he began to let up and the gallop became a softish canter. After asking nicely for a downward transition and getting no response, I pulled him to a hard halt. I immediately sent him the other direction which started out just as ferociously as the left circle had.
He finally asked to trot, but I put my leg on and pushed him with my seat forward into more canter. I could just hear him thinking, crap. Good! I finally asked for a trot, and got it! He gave me some pretty decent trot circles both directions and offered something similar to a stretch. Okay! This was something I could work with. We tried to finish the whole thing off with some stretchy free walk, but he decided to be a stinker in our far corner. This required some more Oh, crap! work, but it served the purpose. As soon as he walked by the corner without a freak out, I halted in the corner and hopped off. I hand walked him through the corner a few more times to really make my point and then we were done.
When we got back to the barn, I put the hay bag away, placed him on the cross ties, and took my time unsaddling and grooming. My point was to make getting finished not such a wildly rewarding experience. When Sydney went back to his stall, his feeder was empty. I could see the wheels turning as his eyes followed me to the hay stack. I grabbed his dinner and nonchalantly tossed it into the feeder. This may not sound all that encouraging, but last week I accomplished nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Goose egg. On Tuesday, I at least got some decent trotting and even achieved some stretch. I think we're on to something.
Did he learn anything? I don't know, but I am hoping he catches on to the idea that the afternoons mean LOTS of cantering if he's not relaxed.
And the testing continues.