As Zelda and start preparing for the spring hunt season, the specter of ulcers looms over us. Zelda has been pissy — sometimes kicking out when I asked her to move forward, sometimes flattening her ears at me, sometimes refusing to leg yield, but only to the left.
It leaves me wondering if she is being resistant because she’s feeling stiff? Because she is always a bit testy in the spring? Or because her stomach is hurting? I don’t want to push her if she’s uncomfortable, but I also know that after some time off, she “forgets” that part of her deal is that I get to choose where we go and at what speed.
That’s the problem with ulcers. They can cause a horse to be sluggish, irritable or “unwilling to work”. The signs can be ambiguous, and Zelda showed none of the more traditional signs that can be associated with ulcers.
In truth, I spend every spring re-establishing Zelda’s work ethic. She fully enjoys her time off and needs to be convinced that it’s fun to come on adventures with me. She reminds me of the coin-operated mechanical horse, the kind that used to be in front of grocery stores. Put a dime — or later a quarter — into the slot and you got a set amount of time. Zelda has that down to the second. When she first came to me, we spent the first three months locked in a battle of dominance. She was used to getting her own way and sometimes she reverts back to that attitude. After all, I’m her slave. I am supposed to feed her, scratch her itchy spots and bribe her with treats.
Usually, she can be coaxed into fifth gear, with a minimum of squeals and bucks. She’s much better when we’re hacking out, than in the ring, so that may answer my question. Still, I’m being tentative because the last thing I want is a recurrence of the ulcers. I’m already concerned about trailering and hunting, so perhaps I’m just looking for problems.
To keep her tummy happy, before I’ve been giving her Purina Outlast before every ride, and usually a handful or two of alfalfa hay or a few cubes. We’ve been warming up slowly, and I’ve been trying to “oil” her joints with lateral work, coaxing her a few more steps every day. Slipping leg yields and circles when working in big fields so they don’t feel like “work.” We have two more weeks until hunt season starts and I’m hoping that she continues to feel good. Just not too good.
If you’ve had a horse with ulcers, how did you feel when you started them back to work?