That Was Short-lived

I need more pairs of Botoris. SO COMFORTABLE.

All of Eli’s extra energy last week was not totally unexpected — adding rice bran provided more energy to burn. The quality of that energy, however, was somewhat unpleasant. Where did my Summer Eli go? It’s 100° and I had a horse that felt as though he’d been stuck in a stall for 3 days in 40° weather. Every. Day. He just seemed very quick to overreact, including to my leg, especially at the canter. This flew right past Winter Eli into Eli of 2013.

And then I thought perhaps I am overreacting myself. Perhaps it’s all in my head … but I like the Eli of 2018 who lets me put my leg on without jumping sideways as if from electric shock. How could we possibly work on collection with him so worried and agitated? On Friday after another tension-filled ride, I gave Eli a tube of Quia-Cal, hoping he could at least relax a little in his stall. Best talk to my trainer before making any other decisions, though.

He did not spook at new construction, at least

Saturday morning, my trainer walked over while I was tacking up Eli and I said he’d been a not-nice word all week. She immediately agreed! She doesn’t really handle him except to turn him out. She said he usually nickers at her first thing in the morning and can’t get his head into the halter fast enough in anticipation of turn out. Except this past week, she said he would pin his ears and walk away from her (as much as that is possible while he’s in his stall). This wasn’t just that he had extra energy — he had extra grumpiness. He might have even seemed a bit uncomfortable, although that would be harder to say for sure.

We discussed how uncharacteristic this behavior was compared to the horse that Eli has been recently. He was acting like the horse he was 4-5 years ago. So … what was different? He had time off for his stifle injections, but when I rode him the following weekend, he felt very loose and relaxed. I didn’t ride Monday or Tuesday because of extreme heat, and Eli started getting rice bran on Monday. Not much — just a 1/2 scoop, about a pound, if that. I expected Eli to have the extra energy on Wednesday, but he came out of his stall ready to spook and throw himself around at a canter cue on Thursday and Friday, too. While it was nothing I couldn’t ride through, it felt like a huge regression when we had been steadily improving.

Thankfully on Saturday, perhaps in part because of the Quia-Cal, Eli felt a bit more rideable even though not totally back to himself. At least, through some flat work. My trainer and I had discussed the possibility that maybe the rice bran was the root of Eli’s behavior and that I did NOT want to jump him. She and the head trainer/barn owner set some canter poles for us instead.

Before this exercise, the most canter poles in a row Eli & I had done was probably 2 …

I don’t really like canter poles.

Eli threw a few temper tantrums; I’ll spare you the details. We managed to trot through everything a few times, and the trainers wanted me to work on the exercise over the next few days. I let Eli walk on a long rein through it a few times before calling it a day. I gave him another tube of Quia-Cal after lunch, and Eli would get a slightly increased ration of his regular grain. No more rice bran.

Sunday … the most canter poles we have ever done in a row

On Sunday, I had trotting through canter poles in my riding plan, maybe cantering each piece of the exercise separately. While tacking up Eli, I noted his docile and relaxed demeanor, back to the horse he has been lately. Still very bright and a bit nippy, but the sullenness had disappeared.

I worked on a loopy rein at first, then played with shortening and lengthening the trot: I asked and Eli complied. He felt much quieter than he had all week. I walked him through the canter poles once. I trotted him through the canter poles once. I cantered each piece of the exercise separately with a halt after each. I cantered the whole thing, somewhat awkwardly, but Eli happily accepted everything I asked. No head-flipping, no attempts at bucking, no blatantly ignoring my right leg entirely, no overreacting to any leg pressure, no squealing. He stayed on the same lopey pace for all of it. Eli of 2018 came back.

I can’t decide how relieved I should feel, because we can’t be certain the rice bran was what turned him into a bit of an ogre. It’s just the one thing we could tack down as being different, so we’re guessing that’s what did it. But maybe not. We could be overlooking something else, I don’t know. The next thing I may try to get some meat on him, other than the increased grain (the “grain” is a locally-made, alfalfa-based, fortified pellet) ration, will be supplements, but I’d like to give Eli a week before experimenting with that to see how he feels under saddle sans rice bran. And maybe the increased ration will be enough.

I have heard anecdotes of alfalfa making horses “hot” but rice bran? Anybody else have a similar experience?

For this week, I will try the canter poles stuff with Eli one more day and hopefully get it less awkward.

16 thoughts on “That Was Short-lived

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  1. Hmm I just did a google search and see a lot of people posting about rice bran making horses hotter but not sure if that would be enough to make you say EUREKA that is it.

    I am giving Remus and Tate (Small quantities) of alfalfa or alfalfa orchard mix just to help supplement the bermuda hay that they have. They aren’t on a huge pasture though and I want to make sure that their innards keep working 🙂 HA!

    I guess wait a while then try something else? I am glad 2018 Eli came back though 🙂 And the grumpiness is odd. I could see him being HOT but sullen and grumpy?? HMM its a pickle. Hope you figure it out!


  2. I’ve not heard of rice bran having that effect. Odd! I’ve used Cool Calories on Copper previously and he took to them well. If your grain is dry you may have to add an oil (or wet it slightly?) of some sort to get it to stick and not get left in the bottom of the bucket though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eli actually gets a very soupy, watery lunch, but would not eat the wet rice bran. Cool Calories is actually the next thing we will be trying, but I want to give him a week to see how he acts on more grain but no rice bran.


  3. How strange! I have never known rice bran to cause such grumpiness. I know Whisper was grumpy when not getting enough food, but once we switched her to a higher protein/fat grain and more alfalfa, she’s been doing really well ever since. I mean, I’m with you that the only thing you really changed was the rice bran so it’s very probable that that was the cause but… weird. Maybe he’s just special…? haha The only thing I can think of is that maybe the rice bran threw a few things off so maybe he needs something to help stabilize it? I have no clue lol. Sorry I’m of no help!


    1. I am just as much at a loss, because it doesn’t really make sense! But the difference between his behavior from Saturday to Sunday was significant, so I won’t be feeding him the rice bran any more. So weird.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t ever fed it, so I can’t offer an opinion, but sure sounds like a plausible theory to me. Hopefully that was the issue, and he’s back to his usual self for good!


  5. Karen, try the Cool Stance product. I’ve used it on Arabs without the extra ‘yee-haw’ effect. Same metabolic difference without the hyperactivity. Do watch the mineral balancing when you’re changing your feed mixes. I’ve found over the years that not only does adding calories to feeds affects the energy levels, but the minerals (electrolytes and other things that they do in the body) affects the horse’s irritability and excitability. Example: Alfalfa is much higher in calcium so more of that changes the calcium: phosphorus ratios. When I fed that to one of mine-he colicked. So be careful-it matters.


  6. That’s definitely strange! All 3 of mine get rice bran in their grain every day and I’ve never seen them get hot on it – its actually the biggest reason I use it, because they can get hot/weird on certain grains but seem to do really well on the RB. Hopefully that was it though, and then you can have 2018 Eli back permanently.


    1. It really is weird and all I can think is that is was super starchy rice bran or something else was going on that we couldn’t figure out. He was very much himself again today so I think we’ll just keep him away from the rice bran.


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