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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

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 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Spooky yearling

I'm not sure what to do for my yearling, she was born April 2007, but she's always been a spooky horse even as a baby.

She was weaned in October, and I've been handling her every day, and I'm not sure how to get her over her spookiness. She acts like she hates to be touched. She spooks at the littlest things, like me flicking my fingers, moving my arm, walking etc.

I started working with her in the stall, rubbing her, and touching her all over, and waving my arms, until she relaxes. But if I move, she spooks, and tries to get away from me. So I do it over and over until she relaxes.

Yesterday, she tried to bite me when I touched her, and I popped her on the withers, and I know that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do to a spooky horse, but I did go and pet her until she tolerated it.

Could it be a dominance issue? Or a health problem like poor eyesight? How does the vet test for eyesight?

She's on Safe Choice for feed, and free choice hay.

Where are you from? nebraska

How did you locate this forum? google

Re: Spooky yearling

Hello Kris,

It's difficult to tell if this is a behavioral problem, a physiological problem, a nutritional issue, or a combination of everything.

However, from a nutritional perspective, I would suggest a couple of rememdies that you can try. First give her a vitamin/mineral supplement that is designed for her growth needs such as Mare/Foal IIP.

Second, have your hay analyzed for lysine content since she is growing and this amino acid is very important. She needs to have approximately 40 grams of Lysine per day.

Third, try adding a small amount of Quiessence to her diet -- 1 scoop per 250 lbs of body weight -- this will provide additional magnesium to her diet, which will calm her nervous system if she is experiencing a borderline deficiency.

From a behavioral perspective, a buddy is critical, so I hope she has another horse to pal around with. Stressful weaning is also a problem, though you had mentioned that she was always this way.

Your vet can assess how her eyesight is doing and it would be worthwhile to have your vet do a thorough evaluation of her health, in general.

I hope this is helpful. Keep me posted.

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO

Thank you Dr Getty!

I was on here before with a mare that I bought with a broken hip, and she has turned out wonderfully, we even ride her lightly.

But she's always been a spooky baby, she out of my mare, that even plastic bags whipping in the wind doesn't even bat a eye, and from a very quiet disposition stud. When I would go and play with the foals while they were still on the mares, she was always skittish, and trying to flee away from me, and tried to crawl under the mare to get away from me. We started them on creep feed before weaning them, so they would eat grain, and gradually kept them away from the mares. She never went off her feed, and wasn't really upset. She was born in April, and we didn't wean until October. Is that to old? The breeder said they wean at 4 months of age but I thought that was to young? I've been working with them since October.

We have two other yearling buddies with her, and they were her pasture mates too. I read that foals should have buddies so they learn how to socialize.

We had the hay tested in the fall, I'll have to ask to see the report and see about the Lysine.

They were just at the vet's for shots last month, and I asked the vet about her eyesight and spookiness, and he looked at her eyes, and thought that it was just her disposition. She does show a little white when she is scared. Is it true that horses that show white in there eyes are spookier or is that a old wives tail?

I'm interested in starting her on the Quiessence. Can I give it to her while still on the Safe Choice?

She's terrified of the hot pink brush, and I mean terrified, like snorts and tries to pull away from it, and won't even let me brush her with it. She doesn't like the feel of the rubber curry comb, it doesn't have teeth but round numbs. She will let me brush her with the very soft brush, it's like a fake horse hair. She doesn't tolerate me scratching her but will tolerate me rubbing her gently. The minute I quit she steps away from me.

I've trained spooky horses before but never to this degree. I was told to really reassure her when she does get scared, and panics.

Where are you from? nebraska

How did you locate this forum? google

Re: Spooky yearling

Hi Kris,

I like to wean as late as possible and there is plenty of evidence that shows how horses who are weaned younger than 6 months of age, grow up to have all sorts of behavioral issues as an adult. So, 6 months in the youngest I would wean a foal. I prefer to let it occur naturally, which generally happens at 9 to 12 months. This way, the horse has a chance to develop into a much calmer adult.

Yes, you can give Quiessence with Safe Choice -- not a problem.

So, addressing your situation from a nutrition perspective will be helpful but also behavioral conditioning is also called for -- be patient -- it takes a lot of time to desensitize a horse toward everyday objects that cause fear. And, showing the whites of eyes, when the eyes are relaxed, is just the horse's physical characteristics, nothing more.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO