Work in Progress



My horse Prudence is a six year old Anglo x Warmblood, sensitive mare - all the things that are said to be taboo in the horse world. Unfortunately she is what she is and I have had to learn to work with this. I made sure I had Pru on a balanced diet with the correct supplements using FeedXL. I was always getting help with her training from people whom I trusted and who understood her.


I also had to be more mindful about supporting her more and allowing her to become more confident in me also. I referred to her as my 'work in progress'. I chipped away at the groundwork, the ridden work and trying to help her to be 'less sensitive' about things. I had her on a magnesium supplement and on a diet which was fairly low energy, but I always felt that I was missing something somewhere.


Some of the things which didn't seem to improve were:


  • Spooking/bolting,
  • Focus,
  • Stiffness through muscles and body, head and poll,
  • Constant dropping of the shoulder,
  • Canter transitions rushed, unbalanced, sometimes humping as well and the canter itself was all over the place and on the forehand,
  • Horse shyness,
  • Tripping going down hills,
  • Stress yawn when being bridled,
  • Tail swishing,
  • Horribly herd bound and sensitive when in season.


I guess the easiest thing would be to explain our journey in the form of diary entries. I have been keeping a diary since the beginning of the year on Pru, so I can refer back to dates and situations.


January 2010.


06/01/10 - Took Pru for a trail ride. She was spooky and unfocussed and I had to unmount when we came across a dead wombat. She grew to 18hh, started prancing, piaffing and snorting and was trying her hardest not to flee. I was pretty scared, but I managed to slowly walk her past. Rest of the ride was fairly hairy.

26/01/10 - Took Pru to Upper Yarra Dressage competition for an outing. She was in season today, very looky, unfocussed and when I eventually did mount, she proceeded to let rip five massive humps. This was because I did no let her follow some horses to the arena. I did finally manage to get her relaxed, but she still felt like anything could set her off. I did get a standing ovation from onlookers for staying on though.

29/01/10 - the farrier came to do her feet today and she was very uptight and still in season. I had to do half an hour of groundwork before he arrived to make sure she would stand for him.


February 2010.


18/02/10 - In season again. Was very humpy/proppy into canter, her muscles were very tight. She was unfocussed, spooky and tense.

19/02/10 - Lesson with Ross Jacobs. Pru was still in season and was very distracted. She was more focused on the other horses around her than myself, extremely resistant in her back-ups, and unbalanced and rushy through the paces—especially in the canter.

20/02/10 - Moved the horses into different paddocks and Pru was running around in a panic because she couldn't see her mates. Don't get me wrong, there were some days when I had a smile from ear to ear. Pru would go really well, and then there were days when she was spooky, unfocussed, horse bound, non-forward, etc. She was definitely worse when in season but there were times when she wasn't in season, where she was so uncooperative and I couldn't figure out why.

24/02/10 - I rode Pru today and found her to have no energy/forward. She was very lethargic and she was knocking all the cavalettis as she trotted over them. It was like she had no strength to pick up her feet. I did not know weather it had something to do with her change of coat, but I knew I had to keep an eye on it.

25/02/10 - I called Lucy Prior from Gotcha Equine, as Pru was still 'off colour'. I had seen the articles in Chaff Chat about other people having problems with their horses on pasture and I wondered whether Pru may also be affected by our grass. We live on twenty acres, which previously was fertilised with superphosphate every year, as the guy who had the property cut hay. He also sowed the paddocks with a rye/clover mix. Lucy came out the next day, had a look at Pru and our paddocks, and suggested I put Pru on the Gotcha Feed Plan as she believed Pru may have been affected by the grass. She said that her symptoms were common amongst grass affected horses and that the plan would help rectify any imbalances. I must admit I was VERY worried about changing Pru's diet and more importantly her magnesium supplement as I knew how difficult she could be without it. But, I eventually agreed as it was only a three month trial and if things did not work out then I could go back to my old routine.


March 2010.


01/03/10 - Prudence commenced the Gotcha Feed Plan. This included a diet of oaten chaff, speedibeet, sunflower seeds, oil, salt and as much hay as she wanted. She was on a multivitamin supplement, a detox supplement for the toxicity in the pastures, and a magnesium supplement. Upon looking at the supplement labels closer, I found that they were far more 'potent' than the ones I was currently feeding. I had to feed far less of these to get the necessary daily allowance required. So basically what I have found, is that even though the supplements may be a little bit more expensive, they are of a higher quality and you have to use less.


Lucy wanted me to take Pru off all grass and put her in a yard on just hay, but I declined. I felt that the trial would be more realistic if Pru was left on the grass, as not everyone could take their horses off grass. I also wanted to make sure that the Gotcha Feed Plan worked on its own merits and not because Pru did not have grass in her system. I'm sure Pru's mental health would have declined being cooped up in a small yard with nothing but hay. I believe that horses need to be horses and grazing is part of their natural being. As things have turned out, the Gotcha Feed Plan now recommends to only take badly affected horses of grass at night.


05/03/10 - Pru was in season today. Still looking for her mates whilst I was riding her. Spooky, tense and shying at cavalettis which she has seen a million times before. She is getting used to the speedibeet and the supplements and now eating her meals with gusto.

11/03/10 - Had a lovely ride today in my five acre paddock. Pru was nice and forward, relaxed and I noticed did not trip once going down the big hill. She also seemed more focused on me.

17/03/10 - Noticed today that the canter seemed to have improved overnight. There was no humping into it and it was not as rushy or unbalanced. She was not anticipating the transitions as much as she normally does either.

19/03/10 - Pru was due to be in season now. I did not really see any of the obvious signs - no horse calling or sensitivity whilst brushing her. I can only assume that she either did not come in as it is the end of the season or the signs have disappeared. The farrier also came today to shoe her and he commented that she was so good today. She did not try to lean on him, nor did she try and snatch her back legs from him.

21/03/10 - Took her for a ride around at the Monbulk/Clematis dressage comp. She was VERY chilled from the moment she came off the float to the time we went home. I walked and trotted her in the warmup with a couple of other horses and walked her around the venue, in and around other horses, floats and the cross country. She was so relaxed and best of all, NO HUMPING!

23/03/10 - Lunged her today and noticed how much better her canter transitions were. I also noticed that she appeared to be swishing her tail a lot less.

28/03/10 - First rally at Seville in months. Was very happy at how she settled into the indoor and also how she handled working with the other horse in the arena. She only spooked once, but her recovery was very fast and I managed to get her back really quickly.

31/03/10 - I noticed for the first time that she did not yawn when I bridled her. Ever since Pru came back from the breaker, she has yawned when the bridle has gone on, sometimes more than once. Ross explained it as a form of tension. Today, NO YAWN!


April 2010.


08/04/10 - Started lessons with new instructor. She has an indoor and the first lesson was great!! I walked Pru to the lesson as the venue was half an hour walk away. When we got there, she only spooked once at some jumps in the corner and then she did some nice work and was quite focused on what I was asking. The only times when the tail was quite swishy was when I insisted with a followup with the tap of the whip.

13/04/10 - Had some sporting bloods done on Pru to get an idea of how the Gotcha Feed Plan was affecting her from a health perspective. She had now been on the plan for nearly six weeks, so any deficiencies should hopefully show up. On that particular day (remembering bloods can change daily) all her levels showed smack bang in the middle of normal. My vet was very happy and said that they were really good bloods.

29/04/10 - Today was a very windy, cold and miserable day, so I decided to see how Pru would cope with a ride in the big paddock. The wind did not seem to phase her and even though the ground was somewhat slippery, she managed to keep fairly balanced and even the canter was not too shabby. I was very excited by this ride, as the horses around us were going somewhat nutty, but Pru managed to keep focused.

30/04/10 - Farrier came again today and commented on how beautifully Pru stood and how relaxed she was. He said today was her best shoeing ever. He asked me what I had been doing with her and I explained about the Gotcha Feed Plan plan. He could definitely see a change in her demeanor.


May 2010.


01/05/10 - Had a lesson today. Had to contend with bulldozers and a mad donkey, but Pru was unfased. My instructor commented on how much freer she was and how more balanced the canter was getting, with FAR less head tossing.

09/05/10 - I noticed Pru had started leaving her feed. I tried to get her to eat it by adding apples and carrots, but to no avail. This was bad news, as I was not only wasting money by having to throw feeds out, but I was worried about Pru not getting her supplements. I called Lucy and she explained what was possibly happening. Grass has more potassium whilst it is going through a growing phase (namely spring and autumn). Unfortunately potassium and salt to horses tastes the same, so by adding the extra salt to Pru's feed, it became too salty for her. I omitted the extra salt and the next day Pru started eating all her feed again.

20/05/10 - We were on our way to have a lesson, when what should greet us on the road but a dead wombat. Well our last encounter with a dead wombat saw me having to get off and try and stop her from taking off. This time I couldn't believe it! She just walked past it (even though she did have a good look) and she did not spook or take off and at no point did I feel her worried by it. I was ecstatic. Coming back was the same, unfased but more inquisitive. A huge change from 06/01/10 when I thought I was going to die!

23/05/10 - Had a friend who had not seen Pru in about three months come and watch me ride. She was amazed at the change in her. The main changes she could see were a more balanced canter and her focus on me. She also picked up that there was far less tail swishing going on and a sense of calm about her.


June - September 2010.


01/06/10 - Today was the foggiest day I have ever experienced. I decided to really test Pru out and ride her in my big paddock. It took me twenty minutes to find her as I could not see a foot in front of me. She was quite alert once in the paddock, but I managed to keep her focused on me and stop her from worrying about what was in the fog. She could hear sounds but not see what they were, it was very tricky. I finally got her working quite nicely and most importantly, I did not get any spooking.

02/06/10 - I felt that Pru had turned a good corner, so today I wanted to push the envelope a little more. I decided to take her to the local pony club cross-country course and do some 'baby jumps' with her. We had done these before in-hand, but I had never felt confident enough to try them whilst mounted. So off we went. She was absolutely brilliant! Did not spook, did not stop and kept her balance quite well considering it was wet and slippery. If anything, she was the more confident of the two of us and if I had ridden her more positively and I was not such a scaredy cat, she could have jumped higher. She actually seemed to enjoy it!

19/06/10 - Oh I am over the moon and love my pony! We attended our first comp at the Nar Nar Goon Unofficial Dr and CT day today in the most abysmal conditions. It was wet, muddy, cold and blowing a gale. I could not even warm Pru up properly it was so muddy. We went to do the Level 5 test and I mentioned to the judge that I may not canter depending on how she went as it was her first outing. Well as we entered the ring, the heavens opened up in the most ferocious way and as we were going around I could barely see three feet in front of me. Poor Pru was trying SO hard to listen to me, whilst at the same time wanting to turn away from the pelting rain. I even got her cantering through the enormous puddles and she managed to keep it together. I know four months ago this would have not been the case. We finished the test and I decided to withdraw from the jumping phase as it was too wet and slippery and she had done so well. I was SO proud of her!

20/06/10 - 09/09/10 - I have not managed to be very consistent in my riding as the weather has been so wet, Pru copping a bad case of mud fever and my father passing away. Pru has remained on the Gotcha Feed Plan during this time and I have noticed two things:


  1. She has not gone silly when she came into season a few weeks ago for the first time. I did not even know she was in season, except when she squealed at the pony,
  2. The green grass (and believe me we have mountains of it) has not affected her in any way so far. I have doubled her dose of the toxin-binder and magnesium supplements and she has exhibited none of the 'spring fever' type behaviour she has shown in the past.


10/09/10 - Did a group jumping lesson. There was no rushing to catch up to the other horses, no resistances of going forward. Pru was settled and was really trying to listen to my aids. She actually seemed to enjoy the class and a couple of times when the other horses went silly, the worst she did was turn around to face them to see what was going on. I was ecstatic with that, as she felt settled enough not to over-react!

19/09/10 - Today I had my first lesson with Ross Jacobs since 16/05/10. I was quite worried about having a lesson with Ross, as I know he says what he thinks and if I was doing something wrong with Pru I would know about it! Ross watched us do our groundwork and Pru was SO focused on me and relaxed. Even though there were horses all around her causing distractions, she stayed with me and gave me heaps of try. Ross was virtually speechless. He saw such a difference. I got on and had a ride and again, Ross could see such a huge difference. Even when I had to get big with her, she did not have a meltdown, she refocused. He could see the softness coming through in the saddle work and was stoked. Ross said that there was still a lot of work to do, but I had made such a difference to her and how she felt. I was stoked!





So, what are my final thoughts about the Gotcha Feed Plan? Well, I know that my horse will be on it for the rest of her life. Some people may say that Pru's changes are due to the training, whilst others may attribute the changes to the fact that I myself have changed in the way I handle her. Some may say it is the change in her feed. I believe it is a culmination of all these things. I also believe that every person is responsible for their horse and their health. I believe we need to be a little open-minded sometimes, as we may miss opportunities which may make our horses lives better.


I was a bit sceptical at first to try the Gotcha Feed Plan as I was feeding a balanced feed and supplementing correctly as per FeedXL. I was especially worried about changing my magnesium supplement. I am ecstatic I did this trial. The plan has worked VERY well for my horse. This is not to say it will work for everyone's horse - I can not say that. I have to report what I have personally found. I do however encourage those seeking a complete plan for their horse to give the Gotcha Feed Plan a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was and if not, you can always go back to what you were using before.


Des Miller - Seville Equestrian Club for Adult Riders (SECAR).


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