Head flipping and nervousness in young colt

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Head flipping and nervousness in young colt

Postby rcordova » Fri Jul 06, 2007 3:36 pm

Hello, I wasn't sure where to post this so I'll put it here.

I have an Andalusian colt, ungelded, who just turned a year old. Starting from weaning I believe (at 5 months) he started flipping his head. It was a very un-traumatic weaning as far as I could tell. I put him in the corral (all my corrals are covered and have long paddocks they freely come and go into) next to his mom and in with a 5 year old pregnant mare who he'd grown up next to and who liked him. He seemed to settle right in and showed no concern about being separated from his mom. He was very respectful to his new "auntie" and they'd stand and groom each other.

However, I suspect he got ulcers from the weaning anyway, maybe simply from the change in diet (?) Anyway, he became uncharacteristically nervous (about being handled for example) and started flipping his head when he was just loose in the corral/paddock. It always increased with exercise, especially if I turned him and his "surrogate mom" out in the arena. It got to the point where he was doing it every few seconds. He'd flip it straight up, with his nose pointed at the sky, twist it, and let it fall.

I tried treating him with ranitidine and about a week later noticed he was almost not doing it anymore, just occasionally. He also seemed calmer and more his "old self." He still did flip his head some, though, and I think I had him on ranitidine for about 3 weeks and noticed he started doing it more again.

Then I switched him to a Chinese herb blend called Stomach Happy. At first it really seemed to help but after 2 mos. on it he was flipping his head more again. I stopped that and started him on slippery elm, aloe vera and papaya and have had him on that pretty much ever since. A month ago I added marshmallow and licorice.

He flips his head less now, but still does it. He seems to do it more when he's nervous and/or exercising. I figured it was ulcer-related (maybe an endorphin release caused by the adjustment of his poll?) but now after all this treatment I'm starting to wonder. I've had the chiro out three times and she's said he was very out in his poll/atlas, but she didn't know if it was the head flipping that was causing him to be out or vice versa. None of the chiro treatments seemed to make much difference.

As far as his nervousness, I finally have resorted to a vitamin B/tryptophan supplement (Vita Calm) and just recently added Wendell's Herbs calmer. Without it he is very nervous and insecure, to the point that when I am working with him in the horse yard (facing the corrals and about 30 feet away from the other horses, in view of them, he is snorty and jumpy and hard to handle. Now on the calmers he is back to his old self, friendly and calm, at least when he feels there are other horses nearby (sometimes I will take one out and tie them to the tie rail so they are very close to him while I work with him.) As a foal he never struck me as a horse who would be nervous.

The head flipping really worries me. I know it must be a sign of something wrong but I don't know what.

About two and a half months ago I had to put him in a corral/paddock adjacent to his surrogate mom's because she was close to foaling. He is still adjacent to her and her filly, but not in with them of course. I did turn them out together the other day and he quickly learned to keep his distance from "mom" but sniffed noses and was very gentle with the 2 month old filly, which I think is surprising for a yearling stud colt. He really is a gentle soul and I don't think his nervousness is normal for him. He loves people, and is very much a clown and a show-off.

His diet consists of free choice bermuda, 1/2 flake of alfalfa/orchard grass once a day, a half dose of Platinum performance, 3/4 tsp twice a day of APA Blend, 3 cups dried shredded beat pulp, a handful of Safe Choice pellets, and divided between a.m. and p.m.: a cup of papaya puree, 7 tbsp. slippery elm/marshmallow blend, and 1-2 tsp. of licorice. I've also added about 3 tbsp canola oil, vitamin B/tryptophan (usually at the maintenance dose but for "events" I double it to the max dose) and about 3/4 of an adult dose of the Wendels Calmer herbs.

I hate to keep him on calming stuff all the time, but it really seems to "bring out his old self". I trailered him to another ranch (along with his dad for company) where my friend gave him a ponying lesson off her gelding and he was very good and took it well without acting anxious.

If anyone has any ideas, especially about the head flipping, (and nervousness) I'd really appreciate any advice. I could get his tummy scoped, but it just seems so invasive and I'd really hate to have to fast him.

thanks,

Rebeca P.S. he is an Andalusian and both his parents (who I own) are extremely calm, sensible horses. His full sister (surrogate mom) is placid and almost bombproof and none of his other full brothers and sisters have been nervous horses.
rcordova
 

Postby rcordova » Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:29 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention (small detail!) that I also treated my colt Novelero with 8 weeks of Gastrogard after the ranitidine and Stomach Happy didn't seem to work. The first month was at a half adult dose (which was probably too low) and the last half was at a 3/4 dose with ranitidine also.

Now that I understand that these acid-blocking drugs can be harmful (I dind't know that then), I'm sticking to herbs and hope that if there was any damage (e.g. colonic ulcers) the herbs are addressing that...

I suppose that the head flipping may be just behavioral at this point (as cribbing continues after the ulcers are healed) but in case he DOES have an issue that is still causing it, I'd really like to be able to help him! (Besides, the nervousness when he's not on calming herbs leads me to believe there is still an issue.)

Rebeca
rcordova
 

Postby mward » Sat Jul 07, 2007 12:18 pm

Rebeca,
this is a tough case. I suspect you are right that the head flipping gives an endorphin release like cribbing does. Is there any way you can get him out in pasture perhaps with some older geldings to play with. I suspect he has large amounts of energy and being a stud he needs a way to interact with other horses in a natural way. It sounds like you have done everything to address his physical needs but his emotional needs may need more attention. Madalyn
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Postby rcordova » Tue Jul 10, 2007 3:18 pm

Hi Madalyn, he had a long paddock adjoining his covered corral (about 100 feet long) which is right alongside my mare and her baby. He can stick his head through the pipe corral and socialize with them some (he is very sweet.) I agree though, what he really needs is other colts to play with. I've tried turning him out with his dad, and also with his 3 year old half brother (also not gelded and the two of them play together) but they were both too aggressive with him. Now I'm turning him out ocasionally with the mare and 2 month old filly and believe it or not that works out well (though he still doesn't have anyone to play with.) He is extremely respectful and deferential, not only to the mare but even to the filly (he does the baby submissive mouthing thing to her.)

He's still not getting much physical equine contact, but it's all I can do. I'm trying to sell him, but it's been hard because I'm very picky about who gets him. I've gotten lots of interest from charros but I don't want him to go to that kind of life. I want to find someone who wants an equine friend to really bond with, because he is very special. He especially has a great sense of humor :-)

In the meantime I hope I can resolve his issues. He IS flipping his head a lot less these days, so maybe it's good for him to not be feeling so nervous. Today I'm going to have the vet check his teeth, though at his age I doubt he has any teeth problems. You never know, though.

Rebeca
rcordova
 

Postby mward » Thu Jul 12, 2007 6:41 am

Rebeca,
Your colt's gentle nature with the filly makes me suspect he has some Fire in him. Perhaps even a Fire/Water cross and this type thrives on companionship. Would it be possible to have him gelded so he could be with a herd. I am worried that the head tossing could get worse as he gets older and you may be able to place him into the right home more easily if he is not a stud. Madalyn
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Postby rcordova » Thu Jul 12, 2007 9:36 am

Hi Madalyn, that's a good point and something to think about. My stallion (his dad) was raised with mares until he was three, and I think that's why he's so well-adjusted and socialized. For now I'm going to start turning him out more with Naya and her baby, and I'm working on getting a saddle with a horn so I can pony him on the trail off his dad. If it wasn't for Naya being such a glutton I could leave them turned out together, but she'd vacuum up all his food.
rcordova
 

Postby mward » Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:45 pm

Rebeca,
The ponying and extra turnout is a great idea. I bet he will enjoy some time with mom and dad. Also anytime you are working horses or doing barn chores could he be tied from an overhanging tree or line where he could walk around some and still see all the activities going on. Madalyn
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