Candy the normal horse

A couple of weeks ago, the vet was out to my neighbor’s for normal maintenance and spring vaccinations. I told my neighbor to put my horses on the list; I can’t overstate the convenience of living next door to a big boarding barn.

All three of my horses needed a Coggins test and vaccinations, and I wanted to have Candy adjusted. (My vet is also an equine chiropractor.) Candy slipped and fell in my barn aisle a few weeks ago when it was wet and very slippery. She’s been extremely stiff to the left when ridden. While that’s always been her tough direction, I thought the fall might have exacerbated the stiffness and figured an adjustment wouldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vet was running behind and couldn’t adjust Candy. She drew blood and vaccinated everyone, and asked me how Candy was doing. My vet hasn’t seen Candy much; for all that Candy is my problem child, she has yet to get injured or ill in a way that requires veterinary attention. I told her that Candy’s behavior hasn’t changed very much since she saw her last year- still anxious, still a little underweight, still not growing a winter coat. My vet suggested I treat her for ulcers with compounded omeprazole/ranitidine and sent me a link to the clinic’s online pharmacy.

I have not treated Candy for ulcers and she’s never been scoped for them. I’ve never been convinced her behavioral problems are ulcer-related. Her lifestyle includes plenty of turnout, lots of forage, other horses to interact with. It seems fairly low-stress, although her constant anxiety says otherwise; I don’t know what I could do to make it less stressful. Other than her anxious behavior, she exhibits no ulcer symptoms. Candy eats eagerly and well. She isn’t girthy or touchy. She doesn’t lay down any more often than the other horses do. While she doesn’t grow much of a winter coat, the hair she has is shiny and soft. And her hard-keeper tendencies aren’t unusual for a Thoroughbred. But I figured I’d bite the bullet and buy Candy the medication. It’s cheaper than the brand name stuff, and my vet said it had worked well for other clients.

Candy politely sniffing a friend without squealing or striking.

Candy’s been on the medication for a week and a half and the change in her behavior is remarkable. Little things that I assumed were part of her quirkiness have disappeared, like her tendency to rush through gates and doors. She’s been a totally different horse under saddle. Instead of vibrating with tension, she stands pretty quietly at the mounting block. She stopped the constant bit-chewing. She feels like a normal horse. Instead of feeling like a powder keg that could blow any second, she just feels like a horse. I mean, she feels like a kind of green, kind of forward, kind of ignorant horse, but without all the distracted anxiety underneath.

My vet was back at my neighbor’s on Monday and told me she could fit Candy in for an adjustment. I ducked out of work early to meet her. She asked how Candy was doing on the medication and commented that she thought Candy had already gained a little weight. She proceeded to adjust her, commenting that Candy’s hind end was stiff to the left while her front end was stiff to the right. Candy’s lumbar region was a bit sore, too. I was very happy about Candy’s behavior on Monday- she stood quietly while tied in the arena waiting for her turn with the vet. She’s usually wound up about being separated from Gina and Moe. She was good for her adjustment, too.

Candy being adjusted.

I am absolutely astonished at the change in her attitude. Part of me keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Are the pleasant rides and good behavior flukes? Is this horse actually still a banana? I suppose only time will tell. Right now, I’m going to enjoy my happy new horse.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

21 thoughts on “Candy the normal horse”

  1. Ulcers are crazy things!!! I had a horse that was the same way. Heck when I brought him to the scoping clinic the vets all commented on how shiny he was but when they scoped him he had grade 2 ulcers and after the month of Ulcerguard (the knock off wasn’t around when I went through it) he was a completely different horse! Still had random days of quirkiness but overall he was NEW horse! So I hope you find the same thing happens with Candy!!!! Glad she’s responding so well to the ulcer meds!!!!

    1. That’s wild about your horse’s ulcers! I have my fingers crossed that Candy’s attitude change is permanent. I can deal with a green or forward or even a kind of spooky horse, but I have never been able to deal with the anxiety.

  2. YES!! This is amazing. I’m so happy for you!

    And, hearing this experience makes my mind revisit the idea of putting Q on ulcer meds, too. I’d pondered it for awhile but she has a similar chill lifestyle like Candy and has overcome so much fussiness in the past 18 months. It just didn’t seem like it could possibly be ulcers. But now… Damn.

    1. It seems like people like to blame lots of stuff on ulcers- everything from spookiness to bucking to lameness. I’ve always been very skeptical that they could be causing any of Candy’s problems. I know I could have had her scoped (for about $500), but didn’t think it was worth it because why would she have ulcers??

      The compounded medicine was about $200 for 100 doses. The loading dose is 2 doses/day for two weeks and maintenance is 1 dose/day. My vet said some horses can go off the medicine entirely or just use it during travel or other stressful situations.

  3. I had very similar results with my mare. She had a few of the physical symptoms (but they could also have been attibutable to other things). Pysically she looked very healthy. After a bit on the meds she came back to being a normal horse. I’m excited to see how this carries into the work (once this snow and ice melts).

  4. I’ve had exactly the same thing happen… horses with not-very-stressful lifestyles, very few (if any) “normal” ulcer symptoms, but a month on the compounded stuff and they’re like completely new critters.

    Having had ulcers myself once I can tell you it’s extremely unpleasant. You feel like you’re going to throw up literally all the time. You sleep sitting up because it’s the only way you can reduce the discomfort. Eating makes it worse. It’s basically the only thing you can think about as you go through your day. You’re cranky from lack of sleep and constant discomfort – it’s REALLY miserable. If horses go through 1/10th of that I can 100% understand why they act the way they do. Omeprazole for the win!

  5. I dose Frankie for ulcers every so often- he never shows any signs, but he does live a more stressful life than some and I try to stay on top of it. I do think it really helps, a happy tummy makes a happy horse!

    1. I have such a hard time imagining Frankie ever being stressed out, haha! He always seems to relaxed and happy- probably because you’re taking proactive steps to help him stay that way!

  6. oh man, what a relief to see such a big difference! i’m always amazed at what works (and what doesn’t….) with horses. here’s hoping that now that she’s feeling more comfortable she’ll actually realize that the life you’re creating around her is designed to make her feel good and be happy, and she’ll be less likely to return to her previous state of anxiousness?

    1. It’s a HUGE relief! For the last couple of years, I was so down on myself- I mean, I’m the one who rides her and cares for her, so it must be my fault she is an anxious mess, right? My friends would point out that my other two horses are perfectly fine, but I just couldn’t let go of the thought that I was the cause of all of Candy’s problems. It’s such a relief to know that something else was causing her distress. (Not that I am the world’s best trainer/rider/equine caregiver who does everything perfectly, but you know what I mean.)

  7. It’s amazing what tummy discomfort can do! From my own experience (I don’t have ulcers, but do have acid reflux) treating my stomach has made me so much more relaxed in general. I have more energy, and am less angsty feeling. So hopefully no shoes are dropping and you finally got to the bottom of Candy’s issues! Fingers crossed anyway.

  8. I was always skeptical about treating for ulcers until I did. Bit the bullet and did the name brand stuff (cheaper didn’t work for me, I tried) and it made such a difference in Simon’s overall health. I’m totally a believer now and will be treating future horses.

  9. Great news! Treating the ulcers always helps so much — I learned from Solo who had to stay on ranitidine for the rest of his competitive career after a bad worm infestation tore up his belly (he’s good now). I likely need to do something soon for Echo, but am trying to few cheaper management/diet adjustments first.

    Also, agreed about living next door to a boarding facility — it is so handy having trainer neighbour, who brings in all sorts of clinicians and practitioners that I can watch and learn from and use when I need to!

  10. I love the compound omeprazole. We use it on horses here ALL the time. There’s an even cheaper place to buy tubes if you’re curious… Looks sketch, but it works. I seriously doubt you’re just dreaming that there’s a difference. I’ve seen the difference myself numerous times. I’m glad you found something that helps her!

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