100301Singapore racehorse mare bites her belly pet health and welfare educational for animal lovers, excerpts from The Glamorous Vets, Singapore, sponsored by  AsiaHomes Internet.

The temperamental mare

"She bites her belly many times, as if there was something painful," said the Owner, Ms Richdale. "She will sometimes throw me off during riding but at other times, she will be happy to go to the track. What do you think is wrong with her? Are there any drugs to cure her?"

After the 7 a.m. track work, the mare was put in a paddock.  She enjoyed being in the paddock, the fresh air, the leafy surroundings distanced from the high rise apartments, an oasis of countryside seldom found in metropolis Singapore. Your worldly worries leave you  here as the fragrance of the wild flowers floated to your nostrils on this bright and cool equatorial October morning with light blue skies.  

She nibbled the short grass, splattered me with traces of mud as she rolled herself on the muddy patch covered by a zinc-sheeted roof.  Her left side became brown with mud but it was fun. She stood up and walked to the far side of the fence away from me.

Well, the mare would be behaving normally when the vet is around.
Mare unhappy with lower flankHowever, this was one rare instance where I saw her biting her belly. It happened in a flash. Her muzzle went for the left underside of her belly, as if trying to bite this part to relieve herself of her pain for around five seconds.  

She came over to meet me to see if she would get a carrot. She did not bite me as I patted her nose.  She looked slim and compact in grey, fourteen hands tall, had good fetlock joints and tendons and fine legs characteristic of any thoroughbred.  She behaved as normal as any racehorse would be. 

What was the cause of this behaviour?  Would it be only the left ovaries causing the pain and the aggressive behaviour of throwing off the rider? What if she had ovarian tumours?   

Should she be retired in a riding stable where there would be lots of love and no high pressure to win races? The question remains as to whether she would be safe for the amateur riders?  What would you do if you were the Owner who loves racehorses as a sport of kings rather than as a means to make money?  To retire her or to ask the vet to put a bullet to her forehead?

The Owner decided to retire her to a riding establishment. There were new complaints. 

"She would just stop abruptly and refused to jump," the new Owner said.  "This would affect her chances of winning as she was to clear several hurdles in as short a time as possible."

An experienced jockey said, "During riding, she would just extend her neck up suddenly as if she has a balance problem or a back pain.  Then she would flex her neck so that her head touches the ground."

I thought that was all to know about this temperamental mare.
"Sometimes, she will rear up to an upright position on two hind legs." said the jockey.  "At other times, she did not like the bit, but her molars have been filed, so there would be no pain at the cheeks during exercise."  Could this mare be playing with her tongue during exercise?    

This behaviour would be risky for any rider.  "How come she didn't throw you off?" I asked the experienced jockey.

"I could anticipate her actions. Loosening the reins, gripping her flank my heels." the horseman said.  

"Have you encountered such mares in the past twenty years?" I asked. He could not recall one immediately.  "Yes, there was one in England. Full of testosterone."  His eyes opened widely as he remembered this lady.  

"She does bite if you enter her stall while she is eating," commented the groomer and confirmed by the jockey.

This would be a difficult problem to solve.  I had to find out more history from  stable manager.  It would not be so easy to solve a behavourial problem without more history. 

"It started around 3 years ago when she was retired from racing and given to the riding establishment.  She was put into a pool of riding horses where individuals paid $30 to ride any horse.  It was possible that she was mishandled and spurs were used.   

This mare was much loved.  There was no question of euthanasia.  What was wrong with her and what drugs would be useful to treat her?

Could there be an abnormal production of the male and female hormones too?   

Palpation of the ovaries to check for ovarian tumours.  Scanning of the ovaries may be done.  

Biting one's flank is a compulsive disorder recorded in stabled horses. It could be due to the lack of free access to pastures.   How about throwing off riders and behaving erratically?  

There are cases of guard dogs that can be handled only by one person.   Could this be a one-rider mare?  Or a mare who only respect firm riders?

"Would it be possible to re-educate this mare not to throw the new owner, a young rider, off suddenly?"  There was no answer to this question. This mare's problem was difficult to resolve.


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Last updated: 25 Oct 2001

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