He's had a pretty rough few months though. In January he tore open his leg and has spent months visiting the vet and having to have his leg re-bandaged every other day. He spent a month with the trainer up north and then moved here. He's had a lot on his plate.
I started out by supplementing his twenty pounds of alfalfa with three pounds of beet pulp and six pounds of rice bran. He was getting about thirty pounds of feed a day. Within two months, he was nice and round and had a badonkadonk that was quite sexy. The extra beet pulp and rice bran were expensive though, so I worked out a deal with my barn owner to increase his hay by ten pounds a day so that I could feed a lot less beet pulp and rice bran.
Over time though, Izzy started to get kind of naughty. He started digging holes in his paddock, banging on the fence, flipping the cross ties to make them clang, and on and on. For a while, I didn't notice any excess fidgeting under saddle. In fact, he was working really well until about a week and a half ago.
JL wondered if the alfalfa was simply providing way too much energy for Izzy's needs. I called Chemaine and she agreed. I did some research and discovered that while alfalfa doesn't actually make horses hot in a "clinical" sense, it can provide a ton of energy that the horse needs to burn off.
Izzy was being fed twenty pounds of alfalfa a day plus an additional ten pounds of alfalfa/oat cubes. He was also getting a bit of beet pulp and rice bran. Apparently, that's a lot of energy. Speedy gets the same cubes, although in a smaller portion, and a hay net that always has alfalfa in it. All of my horses have always eaten alfalfa without any problems. It never occurred to me that it might not be the best diet for Izzy.
Alfalfa is readily available here in the west and is relatively cheap. Other hays, such as timothy, bermuda, and oat can be difficult to find and are sometimes twice the price of alfalfa (I just paid $32 a bale for timothy). Because alfalfa is so plentiful, that's what most horses here eat.
Within twenty four hours, I noticed an immediate difference. It's now been about a week since we reduced Izzy's alfalfa to about ten pounds a day (in the cubes). These are things I've noticed:
- Within 24 hours he quit hollering for Speedy when I took Speedy out of sight. This was not a gradual change. It happened over night.
- He stopped digging holes (for now anyway).
- He stopped flinging the cross ties and pawing.
- He doesn't want to trot or canter on the lunge line. A week ago, he wouldn't stop cantering on the lunge line.
- I watched him roll in the arena and then just LIE THERE groaning in pleasure. In the more than six months that I've had him, I have seen him roll only one time.
- His whole demeanor seems less energetic. He's less spooky, less twitchy, and walking slower.
When I got on, I asked him to just stand. I patted his neck, and let him watch another horse being ridden. When I finally asked him to move forward, he hollowed his back, braced his jaw, and fussed. I waited, and asked again. Eventually he walked forward, but it was clear that he was worried. He gave a few little squeals, tried to duck and whirl, and tightened his back.
Following Chemaine's suggestion. I just sat there. I didn't react in any way other than to turn his head when he tried to bolt forward. I kept asking for a walk. Slowly, he started to think about it, and I felt his tension slip away. We finished the ride on a happy note.
The next day, I followed the same routine: a short lunge (he was so relaxed that I could barely get a trot out of him) followed by just walking. After some spooking and a small temper tantrum, he again thought about it, and I felt his whole body relax. We did some work over the poles which he seemed to enjoy. When we were finished, he was completely relaxed and walking on a loose rein.
I rode Speedy and then saddled Izzy for a second ride. I didn't bother to lunge him the second time. I got on, and he stood relaxed for a long while. When I asked him to walk forward, there was no resistance. We played around with the poles again, this time asking for 10-meter turns (at the walk). I made everything into a game and before long, he was holding the bend by himself.
He started looking for the poles. He was engaged, playful, and completely relaxed. he even offered to pick up a stride or two of trot. I encouraged it, but when he came back to the walk, I patted his neck and continued on. I again finished with a very happy and relaxed horse.
I pulled his saddle while still in the arena and hung out with him for a few minutes. He took a big drink and then ambled over for a roll and shake.
For now, I'm going to spend the next week or so getting my mellow horse back. We'll go back to walking for a bit and see if we can change his attitude to match his less-energized body.