Two weeks ago I asked you guys what you would do in my stead, since my horse is kindof a monster. Thank you everyone for your comments. I really appreciate them, and the time you took to read and comment on my plight. After all of your comments, and a long talk with my barn manager, I have a plan.
An adorable Murray video for you. Turn the volume up to appreciate his vocalization.
Murray’s problems are multi-fold. First, as many of you pointed out, it seems like there’s something physically (or physiologically) going on with him, most likely ulcers. Another part of it is that, at times, he being straight up rude. As many of you, and my barn manager, said, there is no excuse for repeatedly running away or rearing or generally being dangerous out in public, especially when it’s clear that Murray can behave appropriately (as evidenced by his behavior after our classes at the show). Associated with this, my handling of these situations is probably not the best it could be, because I’m struggling with trying to do other things (get Murray’s tack on in time to make it to my jumper class, for example).
So, first things first: the probable ulcers. I am quite sure that Murray has had ulcers in the past, he is part of the greatest risk group (race horses), after all. Unfortunately, I’ve never had him scoped, and unless I grab a leprechaun and shake him down, I won’t be scoping Murray any time soon. The evidence that he did have ulcers is that a month of ulcer treatment in the past did him a world of good, and that he was very sensitive in all of the ulcer acupressure spots, if you believe in that kind of thing. Unfortunately, a blogger I respect deeply doesn’t. I don’t follow all of Dr. Ramey’s beliefs on alternative therapies, though, so I’m not too torn up about that.
The good news, regarding ulcers, is that it’s really easy for me to get my hands on compounded omeprazole. Our vet has a pharmacy that does it for him regularly. But wait, there’s more! It turns out that 1/4 the typically prescribed dose of ulcer medication gets rid of ulcers just as well as the full dose. Yep! Science says so! But wait, there’s more! A little vet birdie tells me that UlcerGuard’s patent runs out in April, which means that ulcer medication is going to get a LOT cheaper for us unwashed masses really soon. Yes, free market economy! Work for me!
Okay so that’s step one. Murray will be getting a full month of 1/2 dose omeprazole, and will then be weaned off it over a following 2 weeks. I will then have plenty left to give him when we travel. I will continue to address this problem with maintenance — never riding on an empty stomach, feeding alfalfa especially in the trailer — and look into a long term gut health supplement (which will probably warrant its own whole blog post!)
To address problem number two, that he’s just being rude, will require a little more direct intervention from me. There are three main rude things Murray does: 1) break away from the trailer, 2) constantly back away/run away while girthing, 3) have zero regard for human safety and personal space. Emma linked me to some horsemanship videos that addressed all of these things in basically one video. Of course they weren’t addressed for good, but it was a start.
Murray is smart. It’s true, both wonderfully and irritatingly so. The same smarts that let him learn so quickly that jumps won’t eat him means that he knows — he knows — that if he pulls back hard enough from the trailer something will break (baling twine, break-away tie, or his halter) and he will be free. I really don’t care about his motivations in this regard, whether he’s scared or just wants to run away or simply being an asshole, he needs to learn that, actually, he can’t just break away from the trailer. Furthermore, Murray needs to learn to respect my personal space and the personal space of every human ever. He is far too comfortable entering a person’s space when he’s scared, annoyed, or even just looking for some loving. Enter: ground work.
No carrots here you little shit.
I’m also going to buy myself a blocker ring for travel. This will let Murray pull back, but with any luck I’ll be able to get to him before he breaks free of the ring. I could also tie a knot in the end of his lead, and once he gets to the knot he’ll be stuck. Not sure which is a better idea at this point.
If you have a horse that spooks easily, these ties can really save you from ripping parts off your trailer!
In terms of his girthiness, there’s not much more I can do other than continue as I have been. I will keep working with him at home to change his feelings towards girthing in general, but with any hope, this will the omeprazole improve with the implementation of step three…
So, on to step three! For step three, I need to up my Laying Down The Law game. My barn manager, and I, and some of you, think that it’s high time Murray learned to respect me a little more. The side benefit of this is that respect on the ground will lead to more respect under saddle! BM’s suggestion is to take Murray for a rules-establishing walk as soon as we get to a new place to remind him exactly what the situation is.
This would include reprimanding him for poor behavior as well as rewarding him for good. (You can’t go all-punishment on Murray, he starts to shut down.) I have needed to set some firmer rules with Murray for a long time. I’m more than capable of doing it with strange horses and other peoples’ horses, but somehow (huh, nobody else experiences this problem at all, I’m sure) I struggle with it a lot when it comes to Murray. These firmer rules will be in place at home as well as away from home, this means no more wandering around while we’re grooming, no more pawing (and definitely no more pawing on MY FOOT like he did yesterday), and no more threatening, or even thinking of threatening, to bite. Ever.
So there it is. My plan. Should I probably have known to do these things before? Yes. Am I an imperfect human? Yeah. Will I struggle to keep up with steps two and three? Probably. But try we shall!