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Discussion on Afraid of the Snow?

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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 17
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 11:49 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have what appears to be an uncommon problem. My 11-year-old Kentucky Mountain gelding "panics" when the snow covers the ground. Until the time the pasture is completely covered, he's fine. Once the pasture disappears, he will start to run the fence line and go off all grain and hay. This can go on for days, until the snow starts to melt. This is our 3rd Winter with him, and he's the same each year. If we have a particularly nasty Winter (New Jersey), he loses weight and is terribly nervous. The cold doesn't seem to bother him (we blanket), just when the snow obscures the ground. He is pastured with another gelding (who is very calm) for about 10 hours/day. Each night they are brought in to the barn, but if it's snowing, this horse will not eat and will not want to stay in his stall. Any ideas?
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 2438
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 12:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I've had young horses be afraid of the snow at first; but once they see other horses in it and walk in it themselves they are fine.

Is there any chance the reflected light from the snow could be hurting his eyes? Maybe put a fly mask on him and see if it makes any difference. Just a wild thought.
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Angie J.
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 1073
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 12:51 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I had the same thought as Sara that maybe his eyes are really sensitive. Has he been hurt in the snow? Fell on ice at sometime in his life?
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Holly Wood
Member
Username: hwood

Post Number: 1881
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 2:47 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

du, du, du-du,
du, du, du-du . . .
woooooo . . .
That's eerie . . . almost like the Twilight Zone . . .
No kidding, Angie and Sara . . . that was my first thought, too . . . Maybe the white is just too white for this horse.
I've seen snow sculpture rallies in which the artists colored their sculptures with food coloring mixed up in spray bottles or squirt bottles . . . It would be interesting to see if the horse reacted the same way if the snow was colored green.
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 2439
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 3:09 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Great minds think alike?

And who's going to go around spraying the snow green, Holly? I can just see you out there with your empty windex bottle filled with green food coloring! You'd have to do it after dark so Tina's neighbor's won't see you, or they might send for the men in white coats!

It would be interesting, though. I'm curious as to what difference the fly mask would make; or even those goggles some of the race horses wear that are like sun glasses. (The sun glasses sold for dogs are called "doggles" so would that make the horsey version "hoggles?" Ohhh...I think I was out in the sun too long this morning!)
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 18
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 3:23 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Very interesting thought about the "white" of the snow. Don't laugh... if my husband thought that's what the problem was, he would be out there spray-painting it right now. I can't try a fly mask because this guy won't tolerate it (won't even wear one in the Summer time). But it may be worth the time and effort to get him used to one this year. BTW, he will walk through the snow without hesitation, roll in it, run in it, etc. Right now he is still pacing the fence line, looking out for the boogey man, while my other gelding eats both their hay!
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 2441
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 3:42 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

If he will run in it, etc. maybe he's not afraid of it. Maybe there is something else going on. Are you sure it's the "boogey man" he's looking out for and not another horse or other animal that's he's friend? I know horses that will pace the fence when they can't see a friend, or when they think it is time to come in, feeding time, etc. Can you think of anything else that could be bothering him?

What if you fed in the barn, then turned him out for awhile? Does he pace the fenceline the entire time he's out regardless of what time of day it is? Hmmmm....very strange.
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 19
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 4:42 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks Sara. If there is no snow on the ground, or if there is pasture showing through the snow, he is a calm and happy boy! He will munch his hay, fall asleep, groom his buddy, etc. Once the snow covers the ground, his entire personality changes. He becomes nervous and excitable. We had 8" of snow yesterday and today he is spooky and won't eat. He begins to look around and pace immediately upon turn-out and on-and-off throughout the day (of course, my other gelding loves this because then he gets all the hay). He might take a mouthful of hay, then walks off and stares out over the fence, going back-and-forth and back-and-forth. If this weren't the third Winter in a row that he's exhibited this behavior, I'd think he was looking for someone/something, etc. But once the snow melts, he is back to his old self. I should mention, I bought him up from Florida. Seriously.
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Angie J.
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 1075
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 5:40 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Well, there ya go!! He's just in the wrong state, lol!!! Just like I get crabby & moody when it's "white" for too long. I know I was meant to live in the green year long!

Maybe he gets cold feet easily and needs some thick wool socks???? Knitting socks would be easier than spray painting the snow.
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 20
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 9:14 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I was giving this more thought during dinner tonight. Angie's comments made me think... this horse HATES having the farrier nail shoes on him, especially his hinds. He is good for the trim and rasping, but when the nailing starts, he jerks his feet away, or tucks them way up underneath himself. My farrier has to do two nails at a time, then let him rest. Could there be a correlation, or is this a stretch? He has (4) white hooves. I keep him barefoot during the Winter.
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Carolyn A Burton
Member
Username: mcbizz

Post Number: 155
Registered: 9-2006
Posted on Saturday, Mar 17, 2007 - 10:09 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Tina, I am wondering, what is your geldings coloring? Are his eyes light or dark? Maybe he has "floaters" or a cataract? I know both are more pronounced ( I have "floaters") on a white background. A horse might get nervous about these "shadows" that appear and distort things that he is otherwise familiar with...just a thought.
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 2445
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 12:53 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I don't know, I think the "cold feet" idea is a little far fetched; or sensitive feet either. Snow would make the feet a little more tender, however. Do you keep shoes on him in the winter?

Carolyn's idea might be worth checking out. I have "floaters" too, and she's right; against a white wall I keep seeing "bugs." (and birds flying in a clear sky) The running along the fence is definitly a frantic, nervous behavior. Very strange.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 18039
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 6:37 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Tina what is the longest you have seen the behavior to go on. Does it improve as the days go by with snow on the ground?
DrO
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Angie J.
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 1077
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 8:27 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I was only half serious about the cold feet but he could have extreme sensitivity to the cold on his feet, just as easily as he could be sensitive to the snow blinding his eyes. I think you will have to do some detective work and play the elimination game here. Try again to keep a fly mask on him or maybe there is something else? Goggles of some kind? What about a big fleecy noseband, would that reflect the light a little bit? (will also keep his head down as he has to lower his head to see over it)

What about "hearing the snow"? Maybe he is freaking out over the sound it makes. We can hear snow crunch and he can most likely hear more than we can.

Can you lead him with some kind of blind fold that he can see through but that would give his eyes a rest? Just walk him around on the snow then and see if there is any change.

I feel so sorry for this horse, he's not happy at all is he?

DrO,

Is there a kind of eye drop she could put in his eyes, temp of course, that would help to determine if the eyes are the problem? Like what you'd use to check a horses eye for scratches? Would that dull his vision a little bit and help to tell if it is his eyes being overly sensitive?
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 21
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 8:42 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

He is black and white, with dark eyes and white hooves. He's been barefoot all Winter but I just put shoes on him again last week. The behavior continues as long as the snow covers the ground, although some days he is more nervous/excited than others. During a particularly snowy Winter, he will become terribly thin. This year we've been lucky (not much snow), and this latest snow should melt throughout the week. I can have the vet check his eyes for floaters, cataracts, etc. It would make sense that these shadows would cause him alarm, except that he remains nervous/high-headed, even in the barn at night. From his stall, he can see the snow from his window (until night falls), so I could try covering the window... to see if that helps. I very much appreciate all the suggestions! This is a real mystery to me...
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 22
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 8:49 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Here is a picture of "the boys" in the snow:

Dashing through the snow!
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Holly Wood
Member
Username: hwood

Post Number: 1882
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 8:59 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Very nice picture. Love your fence, and that looks like good snow-cover.
Well, you could try some Old Macs or Simple Boots on him, and maybe put those little heaters inside (the little disposable packets) . . . just to see. If he is that sensitive to pressure on his feet, maybe the cold is just too much for him . . . and Carolyn's suggestion makes sense and will be interesting to see if it makes a difference. Are the paints/pintos related?
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Cheryl Kallenbach
Member
Username: cheryl

Post Number: 297
Registered: 2-2000
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 9:35 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Have you tried clearing off a patch of snow? If he settles down when the snow starts melting - maybe a clear patch of ground would ease his fears??? Gorgeous horses -
Cheryl
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 23
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 10:55 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thank you! They are great horses. They're un-related Holly. Both are gaited, but different breeds. Cheryl, I like the idea of clearing a patch of ground. My husband can do this quite easily with his snowblower. I don't know why we didn't think of this - thanks! Today he is much calmer, but still ignoring his food. When we turned them out, he just sniffed his hay, walked over to the fence, and is standing there (a few hours now). It seems that he is very sensitive to anything that is different in his environment. Perhaps all the white stuff is just too much for him to cope with! Only if all else fails, I may try a "calmer" supplement next year to help with the anxiety.
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 2448
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Sunday, Mar 18, 2007 - 11:02 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Beautiful picture! Ah duh...Cheryl you should us all up with the common sense idea! It would be good to find out what his problem is though. It's intriguing.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 18040
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Mar 19, 2007 - 6:03 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Tina,
Perhaps a bigger pile of hay, or putting out a lot of small piles, and put a pile of hay where it is he likes to stare off from. I would also make sure the hay is out before you turn him out, so the hay is there when he is let out. And don't let the hay run out while he is out.

I know putting out a lot of hay can be wasteful but one of the possibilities that occurs to me is he is getting worked up over the lack of ability to graze. Obviously in the wild this would be a life threatening situation and a real cause for "moving on". It may be this guy just has not got the message he will still get fed even if there is no place to graze. I wonder how much hay it will take before he gets the message but you can buy a lot of hay for the cost of daily calming paste.
DrO
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Linda Lashley
Member
Username: lhenning

Post Number: 197
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Mar 20, 2007 - 11:31 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I had the same thought as DrO. He feels the need to flee from snow, like horses in the wild do. Otherwise, they can't graze. Perhaps he is afraid since he didn't experience it while he was a youngster. I see our horses get "wired" when we have big storms. They act as if they want to leave, but can't get out.

What if you built a shelter or lean to in the pasture? Someplace he can be fed that never gets snowed on.

Linda
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Tina Caldara
Member
Username: martina

Post Number: 24
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 21, 2007 - 7:34 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks again for all the great advice! There is a big, beautiful run-in shed in the pasture, with hay racks inside, specifically for inclement weather. It is large enough to hold 3 or 4 horses comfortably, and they can get far into the shed and away from the elements. We've tried putting his hay in the shed, but to no avail (he prefers to be walking the fence line, staring off into space). I will try to put a lot of smaller piles of hay around the field; he might like that approach (the "waste" doesn't bother me because I'll have bigger problems if he doesn't eat)! The snow has now melted here sufficiently that he is back to his "old self." He is back on his grain and hay, and very laid-back. I think we're probably done with snow for this season, but I have lots of good ideas to carry me into next season. Thanks again to all!
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