How Bonnie Got Her Groove Back – The Red Mare Diaries

The Red Mare Diaries are by Katherine Abel

I feel like I have written a lot about everything that has gone wrong with Bonnie since I’ve had her.  That’s a huge disservice to the poor Red Mare, because much of all of that was not her fault, and she’s a really wonderful horse.  She just went through some rough times.  Worst of all, though, is that the most recent issues went on much longer than they should have because I failed to recognize what was going on.

A few months ago, Bonnie returned to work after her splint injury healed.  She was sound and remaining so, and I pushed hard to get her training back on track.  She started out fabulously – on the aids, willing, and basically quiet.  As time went on, though, things got worse and worse.

The groovy Red Mare and her (giant) cob pasture mate

After the other horses in the barn had shed out every last remnant of winter coat and stood gleaming in the Spring sun, Bonnie looked ratty and too lean.  Alarmed by her weight loss, I dewormed her and had the vet take a quick look.  The vet also suspected worms, and suggested that I feed her more and do a fecal.  The fecal was negative.

Bonnie was spooking at everything.  It was so severe that I could barely ride her.  Or walk her out to the pasture.  Or hand graze her.  She would freak out and run in a panic when I turned her out.  She would even kick out frantically in the cross ties and would not stand safely for the farrier!  Stubbornly, I kept riding her 5 days a week, thinking that she just needed more work.

I was really worried, but still didn’t put it all together.  I know, you’re all thinking that I am a horrible horse owner now, aren’t you?

Well, it all came together when a friend’s horse colicked.  He, a thin-skinned and sensitive Trakehner, was diagnosed with severe ulcers.  Many of his symptoms were similar to Bonnie’s, and the two horses have a lot in common in general.  Both are cribbers with relatively hot and sensitive temperaments.   Finally, I put it all together.

I don’t really have the financial resources to give a horse omeprazole, the primo treatment for equine ulcers, so I did a ton of research and started Bonnie on a few supplements: U-gard in a SmarkPak, plus Slippery Elm and Aloe Vera.  Later, I added Magnesium 3000 and SmartHoof (which includes a pro-biotic) into her SmartPak.  I cut her grain in half and nearly doubled her roughage.  I increased her alfalfa intake.

The results were remarkable: within a week, the Red Mare’s haircoat was shedding.  She stood quietly for the farrier.  She stopped bolting pell-mell around the pasture when she was turned out.

After two weeks of rest, I started riding Bonnie again.  She stood quietly to be tacked up, didn’t flip out when I mounted, and only spooked a couple of times.  She was still hot and sensitive, but she was more attentive and able to accept the aids.

In a month, her weight was perfect.  Her coat had fully shed out and regained the copper-penny shine. The spooking had been reduced to pre-existing levels.  She was more relaxed to ride and her cribbing seemed to actually decrease.  I started turning her out overnight with a well-behaved cob gelding, which I though would further reduce her stress levels.

Today, a little over a month and a half after I changed Bonnie’s routine and put her on supplements, I had my best ride ever.  My trainer says that by the end of Summer, the mare will be a “solid first level horse.”  She does all of the first level movements now with beautiful contact on both reins.  Her trot is developing suspension and “schwung” and she is starting to really use her back and hind end.  Her canter transitions need a little more work, as do her leg yields, but she is progressing SO WELL.  Now, every ride is a good ride and Bonnie even seems to look forward to work.

I may have been slow, but at least I finally got this figured out.



Filed under Bon Appeal

5 responses to “How Bonnie Got Her Groove Back – The Red Mare Diaries

  1. I’ve had my own experiences with ulcers – the symptoms are there but non-specific and it’s easy to not get what the horse is trying to tell you. Just be glad you’ve got things fixed – I wish more people would pay attention to the horse as you have.

    • Kat

      Thanks Kate. I really wish that I had remedied this more quickly, though. She was obviously miserable, the poor thing. I am just so so glad that Bonnie recovered as quickly as she did and that nothing too horrible happened, like a bad colic or an injury from her wild behavior.

  2. Kat

    By the way, we call that Cob “The Cob Who Ate Manhattan” – he is a registered Section D Welsh Cob, but he’s, um, taller than Bonnie.

  3. She looks great, Kat. I worried a bit about ulcers with our Paint, Lena, so I’ll keep these symptoms in mind. Thanks! Glad she’s doing better, and I agree–at least you figured it out and didn’t blame her for her behavior the way some might.

    • Kat

      Ulcer symptoms vary so much from horse to horse! Such a challenge to finally get to the right diagnosis. I’m glad it clicked in this case. Why don’t you start your horse on something like U-gard or slippery elm as a preventative if you think she might be prone to ulcers?

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