Temperament, training/riding or a diet issue?temperamental?

Ponder this: “You cannot judge a horses temperament until you get the diet right”.
Don’t waste hours or even years trying to train a horse who is ‘Grass Affected’. It can be time consuming because they are not in a learning frame of mind and risky when they are over-reactive and unpredictable.
Believe me I know from first-hand experience. For instance I have spent many hours over the years working to ‘desensitise’ various horses to things like rain-coats, ropes and flags.

Seeing it from the horse’s point of view I now appreciate that whole process is extremely unpleasant to a grass-affected horse (to say the least!). They weren’t feeling right and I was trying to ‘work’ on them!!





Our Advice....

Don’t even start until the horse is back to normal. After a change of diet (usually only 1-4 weeks, some take longer) you will find the whole process comparatively easy because the horse is no longer distracted, herd-bound, touchy or twitchy, muscle sore, agitated or has any other problem on the Calm Healthy Horses Checklist.
There are variations in temperament but it can be quite different to what you think. We have proved this time and time again by taking horses that others have given up on and doing absolutely nothing with them except changing their diet, no work on them, no treatments and they all become normal, amenable and trainable. So-called right-brain horses miraculously transform into left-brain ones.
You will save yourself so much time, money, heartache and risk. A lot of you guys are lucky to learn all this at a much younger age than us. Don’t battle these things in ignorance over the best years of your riding life like we did!

Why are some horses 'Grass Affected' while others are not?

This can really throw people. Every horse is different physiologically and they all have a different nutritional history. It is a matter of exposure.
On large acreages of unfertilised native grasses you really never hear of ANY horses affected, whereas on smaller acreages, particularly when over-grazed and/or full of rye-grass and clover and even more particularly on commercially fertilised pastures there are hardly any horses that AREN’T affected.

And on the latter - where there are multiple horses on the same paddock, it can show up differently in each horse. Some may get the staggers, some become metabolic and laminitic, some become head-flickers, some exhibit hormonal problems and some may do the ‘random bolting’!

Some may not show any signs at all while not in work but that can change when they are asked to do something.

Is there a genetic susceptibility? It doesn’t appear so but it would make a great subject for a study. There is certainly a genetically passed on proneness to metabolic syndrome in some ponies.

There is no pattern of breed, gender, age or handling history. There are so many grass-affected horses that belong to perfectly nice, competent people that have an excellent approach.

One thing is for sure, horses that are not over-loaded with high potassium feeds and are kept ‘up’ on ALL their minerals are WAY LESS SUSCEPTIBLE than horses who are minerally unbalanced.

Which is it?

How can you tell if it’s ‘Temperament’, ‘Training’ or ‘Diet’?
Being able to discern the difference will be one of the most useful things you will ever learn! It will save you so much time, money, stress and risk. Once you can see it , it is like someone gave you a new pair of glasses! Horses become comparatively ‘easy’.

The first thing to understand is that horses don’t want to be difficult, it is too much effort! They just want the easy road so as long as your approach isn’t offensive or scary to them they will soon learn what you mean and do their best to comply.

Even horses that have been abused come around to trusting people again quite quickly whereas there are plenty of ‘grass-affected’ horses that look like they can’t trust anyone no matter how well they’ve been handled.
Kaimanawa’s straight off the range can be easier than some ‘grass-affected’ horses!

Has there been a mysterious CHANGE in behaviour or personality? Or are they sometimes OK, sometimes not? Normal horses are pretty much the same all year round.
Are they showing any of the signs on the Checklist? Normal horses don’t show any of these.
It is not normal for horses to ‘twitch’ when you touch them

Are you making progress with your chosen discipline? With ‘grass-affected’ horses it is more like one step forward and two back.

Are you enjoying riding your horse or is he doing scary things? Remember it is normal for horses to look at unfamiliar objects but it is not normal for them to do a complete over-reaction that leaves you dumped on the ground.

It is normal for horses to want to go with other horses but not normal for them to be ridiculous about it.

It is normal for them to take a few days to settle into a new environment but not normal for the to fence-walk themselves into a lathered skeleton!

I could go on but if you are not sure then do what we have done many times: Make changes to the diet for at least a month and see the difference.

See Recommended Diet Changes

When NOT to ride...

There is a ‘culture’ we grew up with and that still exists in some circles that

  • Riding a difficult horse means you are a good rider
  • It is safer to be on board than on the ground!
    The horse has ‘won’ if you get off in a difficult situation
  • He never does anything really bad so I ride him anyway

    If you value yours or your child’s life and definitely don’t want to end up in hospital then think twice.
    If your horse ‘isn’t right’ ie shows signs of being ‘grass-affected’ then DON’T GET ON. It’s that simple.

    Why would you ride a horse who is mentally unstable? You wouldn’t ride in a car driven by someone on ‘P’!

    Part of good horsemanship is recognising when a horse is in the right frame of mind to be ridden. There are some great groundwork exercises that tell you whether he is OK or not. Gut feelings are valuable here too.

    The most dangerous time is when you have one foot in the stirrup and the other leg is swinging over. This is a very bad time to find out they are not OK ( if their head shoots up and they start looking behind them……………)

    Staying safe should be the # 1 priority. If you feel unsafe when riding there is no harm done by getting off. It is far preferable to being bucked off!

    Before we put 2 and 2 together about how the diet influenced our safety and enjoyment whilst riding, we had our share of unplanned dismounts, splats and ‘dumpings’. We still check our horses out on the ground before mounting but riding is such a pleasure now by comparison.

    More on ‘When NOT to ride' here