top of page

Episode 60 // Behavioral Medication For Equines

In this episode I am joined by Janna Dewey! Janna Dewey is a Behavior Consultant for Behav

ior Vets located in Colorado where she specializes in working with animals who have behavioral sensitivities. Prior to working with pets, was a zoo keeper for 10 years at different facilities within show and education roles. She has always had a passion for working with equines and grew up working at different barns learning to ride various disciplines such as jumping, dressage, barrel racing, and polo. Janna loves to work with horses out on the trails and to help them feel comfortable in a variety of situations. She is earning her Master’s degree in Counseling through Regis University in order to help those with sensitive animals. She also has a graduate certificate as an Equine Assisted Mental Health Practitioner and is a Certified Professional Bird Trainer. Janna is currently accepting equine clients both virtually and ,within areas of Colorado, in person sessions.

This leads us into a great discussion about behavioral medication for equines, when to consider medication, how success is defined by the individual, where to find a behavior ve, the importance of having a team of equine professionals on your side, and so much more!

To learn more about Janna and the work that she does, you can reach out to her at, or head to the website.


Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:00] Welcome to Season Four of The Willing Equine Podcast, the podcast, where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.

[00:00:23] Hey everybody. Welcome to the TWE Podcast. Today I have very special guest, Janna Dewey. Janna Dewey is a behavior consultant for behavior vets located in Colorado, where she specializes in working with animals who have behavioral sensitivities. Prior to working with pets, Janna was a zookeeper for 10 years at different facilities within show and education roles. She has always had a passion for working with equines and grew up working at different barns, learning to ride various disciplines, such as jumping, dressage, barrel racing, and polo. Jana loves to work with horses out on the trails and to help them feel comfortable in a variety of situations. She's earning her master's degree in counseling, through Regis university, in order to help those with sensitive animals. She also has a graduate certificate as an equine assisted mental health practitioner, and is a certified professional bird trainer. Janna is currently accepting equine clients, both virtually and within the areas of Colorado in in-person sessions too.

[00:01:18] Well, thank you, Janna, so much for joining us today. If you could introduce yourself and share a little bit about yourself, we would love to hear just more about like who you are and what you do, and just kind of expanding on everything that I just shared.

[00:01:31] Sure. And, yeah, thanks so much for having me on here. I'm really excited to talk about this topic. So the reason why I'm really passionate about it is because I work for a company called Behavior Vets. And we specialize in working with animals with behavioral sensitivities. So that could be fear, aggression separation anxiety is really big right now, especially with dogs and we work with species all across the board, and so that's my job right now. I got into this type of training from working with zoo animals. So I was a zookeeper leading up to this for about 10 years and I was within show and education settings. So I got to do a lot of training for all these big behaviors and kind of showing off these animals natural behaviors. And within that, got to do a lot of other behaviors like cooperative care work. That was really big. And that's kind of where I got my love for positive reinforcement and how it translated to horses is that I grew up, like I'm sure many of us grew up, learning from different trainers at different barns. And I grew up with a few horses and I've always loved being around horses. And I delved into training from an early age. I've always loved behavior and training. And so I got my start working with horses and I had that started natural horsemanship and that pressure release mode. And so when I got into zoo keeping and saw the effect that positive reinforcement has and giving choice and empowerment can have on an animal, that's where I got really interested in, how can that work for horses? And it's all the same basics, but it hadn't really been applied as much. And so that's kind of where my passion is right now is working with horses, using choice and empowerment and positive reinforcement to help them feel more comfortable with their environment. So that's a little bit about where I've been and how I got to where I am.

[00:03:30] Well, very cool. How did you get involved with Behavior Vets and, you know, just diving into that side of things and how did that, how did your history and all the different things kind of lead you to that point where you wanted to start working with vets?

[00:03:47] Yeah. Good question. So I had a very reactive dog a few years ago and she was the one who got me really- she kind of threw my life in the spin a little bit because I never had a dog like her before. And she would see a dog from yards away and just start, you know, barking, lunging growling. And so I had to learn how to work with her and because she was a little different than the other dogs I've had, I really learned a lot from her with behavior modification.

[00:04:22] So that's where I got my love for working with more sensitive animals and I managed a boarding and training facility for dogs where we, we geared our whole program around dogs who couldn't really go to typical dog boarding facilities. And so I just got a passion for working with this population. And within that setting, that boarding setting, I saw the positive effects medication could have on an animal's behavior. So we would have an animal come in before medication who would just be over threshold the whole time, would be really cowering or on the opposite, be lungeing and growling. And they would start medication almost always along with training. And we would see such a major change in behavior, more so than the animals that weren't on medication. And so I just, I saw the benefit of it, and I'm in school right now to become a counselor. So I'm really passionate about helping people just as much as animals and I've seen medication help people as well. So I think seeing what the effects it has on animals, along with delving more with that side with people, I applied for Behavior Vets because I saw the benefit of working with vets who understood medication and how to help the animal with a combination of a behavior modification and positive reinforcement training. So having that collaborative work it's a really, really cool model and I'm, I absolutely love it now that I'm in it. And I loved it even when I heard about it. So that's kind of what led me to Behavior Vets is seeing the power of medication, proper medication, along with proper training and the power that it has and the effect it has on the animal.

[00:06:09] I love that. And you know, it's such a. This is becoming more, people are becoming more aware of the effects and the benefits and why we shouldn't be so, hesitant to utilize this really useful tool, for helping our dogs, but it's still such a new and underutilized area with horses. And there's so many horses that end up being sent to bad places, we'll just kind of define it as that, because it's either training or they can't be fixed and we send them off and there's this whole step that could be utilized. People don't even, sometimes we don't even realize it's there, or it has a lot of stigmatism or yes, stigma around it. And so we don't want to or, you know, there's lacking education and stuff and that, and, and even for myself, I've had behavior cases in the past before I did what I do now. And we went to euthanasia or selling the horses before, even it didn't even cross my mind that there would be another step that we could take, that we could try, you know, more than that. And it wasn't even a really available, not too long ago. So this is just a new area and I'm loving that. We're getting to talk about this and bring awareness to this option that is available to people. And we're going to dive more later into the specifics of like, when you might consider it, like how to find more information, et cetera later. But I would love to hear more now about what that kind of collaboration looks like between you and the vets, because you're not a vet, but you understand equine behavior and that's, you know, you have that passion for horses and you work with horses. So you're collaborating with vets to create this like the next stage for certain clients that needed to help these horses in a unique way. And so I'd love to hear more about that collaboration. And especially from, even from my perspective, I'm curious about it too, because a lot of times vets are don't know enough about it to even like, even if I were to ask for them to collaborate with me, they wouldn't know enough about this for horses and they're a little bit hesitant or even completely will just say no to even considering let's try, let's try things. So I would just love to hear about that process and like how it works for you guys and, and that learning journey you guys I'm sure have all been on working with horses.

[00:08:42] Yes. Yeah. And horses are still, I mean, like you're saying, this is all fairly new and I think with training in general, we just keep innovating and moving forward and trying things. And I think this is going to be one of those for horses, I hope. Because it's getting more widely used for dogs. And like you said, there's a stigmatization around it and it's the same with people. Right. You know, there's a stigma around medication. And this happens all the time with my clients. If I have a dog who I feel would benefit from seeing a behavior vet, sometimes there are those conversations where they're, they have this idea of what it'll look like and it's around, you know, having that discussion. That's kind of the first step, is having a discussion. And that's kinda how it goes with the behavior vets. So on my team, there are a few different routes to go in terms of how we work with the client collaboratively. So, one way is that they go specifically to see a behavior vet, because they're also primary vets. They're amazing. They know so much. So an animal comes in to see them and they're on behavioral medications and more than likely, they would also benefit with in conjunction with training. And so the behavior vet will reach out to one of the trainers and we will get them hooked up with, with both of us. And during that whole process, we're checking in with each other. So like, I'm trying to think of example. There's so many like I have a client right now who. They had an exam with their behavior vet. And I wanted to fill her in, on some of the behaviors I was seeing from the dog, because they don't check in with them as often as I'm seeing them. So I wanted to let her know these are the behaviors I'm seeing. Here's what is going on with this dog. Here's some improvements, here is where we can continue helping. And they also are a huge part of that training plan. And so they'll adjust medications according to that, as well, as well as the client's experience.

[00:10:42] And so the other way is kind of flip flopped where they sign up for just training. And then us as trainers will say, we're not seeing as much progress or we have criteria for when it's time to have that conversation of why we think would be beneficial for this dog to see a vet. So it can go both ways. But more than often, they're working with both of us. So we really try. Some dogs don't need that medication. But most of our clients do because again, we're seeing behaviorally sensitive animals. So if they are not seeing a behavior vet yet, we will reach out and say, let's have this conversation. And when they're ready, we'll get them on board with the behavior vet, so those are kind of the two big ways of how we work together.

[00:11:28] Yeah. And then, and to clarify, like you just said, you're, you're working with cases that already need, you know, they're sensitive animals and there's more going on. It's not just like basic obedience dogs are coming in and you know, we need to medicate. We're not talking about that. We're talking about the next, like we're going to a different level as far as the help that is needed for this animal to live its best life and to have a good quality of life. And that's really what this comes down to, at least from my side of things, is this whether, it doesn't matter the animal, but we're talking about, you know, this is a horse podcast, so we're going to talk mostly about horses, but I want that horse to have a really good quality of life. Like it's not enough that they're just surviving or, you know, we want them to thrive. Right. And sometimes there are things that are uniquely needed for that individual that will help them have that quality of life. And not every individual needs that it's not this thing that we're just dishing out for, you know, just for fun, like it's specifically needed to benefit that individual to help them live their best life.

[00:12:34] Yes, absolutely. And it's the same with any species there's, you know, some of us are born with certain more chemicals in our brain that create more stress or anxiety. And so it's very individual dependent and also we want to take into account the certain species. So, you know, hyper arousal looks a little different in horses than with dogs, right. And so having that criteria and knowing the species is really important. And like you said, it's very individualized. So that's why we really work, it's really good to have a trainer on board to kind of see their progress and kind of be able to translate those behaviors. So that way we can accurately tell the vets what we're seeing. So then we can change the medication to help each individual. And cause there's no concoction for each one, right. We have to really see what medication works with this animal, what amount works for this one? So it's a really, really individualized process, but I've seen it work wonders and really help the animals well being like you're saying, that's what it comes down to. We want the animal to feel comfortable and sometimes medication helps them get to the point where we can help them actually feel comfortable in a variety of situations that they might not be able to, without that.

[00:13:51] Yeah. And also, you know, there's so much research still happening in this area and it's so new in horses, especially it's going to be ever changing. And sometimes, you know, what starts off working for an individual, maybe there's new information. And later on down the road, it changes. So this is why I'm just bringing this up to express that, importance of working with a vet, but also like a behaviorist or a trainer, like really closely. So we're watching the individual, we're tailoring it to that individual. And it's not just this blanket, like we're just medicating, like it's such a precise and team based effort to help this individual learner, the horse feel comfortable and living its best life and thriving. Yeah, that's really cool. I love that.

[00:14:36] Yeah. 100%. Yeah, it's pretty. It's pretty cool deal.

[00:14:41] Have you found people to be really receptive to working with both a vet and a behaviorist or a trainer and just that conversation, or we can talk about in general, I feel like there's probably, you're going to say it's been a little bit easier with dog people. How's that been going with horse people?

[00:14:58] Yes. Well said, and I, as your, you know, it's been talked about, you know, the horse world is catching up a little bit. And so I think having those conversations is going to be the first step. So talking like this and getting word out there that this is an option that if you have a horse that you have had for years, and you've really done everything in your power to do what you feel is best for this horse, you've had training, chiropractor, bodywork, you know, a behavior vet might be a really good option for you. And to see if there's something medically that we can help this horse with, and that's where I kind of started. I mean, with any talk of medication, especially with the horse community, it's not out there. So people don't know. And so giving that information first and again, having these conversations, I'm going to keep saying it over and over is so, so important. And the more we talk about how it is a really good option is so helpful. And what is happening right now is we don't have as many horse case studies to go off of. Because again, it's just not as out there, but we've seen so many successful stories with other species. Like I have a client right now, again, a dog, not a horse who, she started medication and before the medication, she was scared of every noise, just scared of thunder wind, any noise really, you could think of, to where she was scared to go outside because of it. We started her medication and she is now not worried about noises. We could play any noise in the house and she is just like, ah, that's okay. And like, fireworks were going off the other day. And she was fine. And it was really because of that medication. And so the same could be said with horses and we just need to keep talking and keeps showing that it is a viable option for so many individuals. And it not only helps the animal, but it helps our wellbeing too, as working and living with these horses. Because if I go in and I have negative experiences with my horse, every time I'm going to get frustrated, it's not gonna be that much fun for anyone, but we can get medications, see these little successes and bring the horse to a point where they can think and learn. That's a cool moment. And we can have more of these if we see medication as a really good option to explore.

[00:17:26] Okay. You made multiple points that I want to come and visit here real quick. So one of them was, you know, the sound sensitivity. So I love that example. Okay. Because it made me think of, I actually know I have a client who's been using a veterinary behaviorist, and also a trainer and behaviorist with her dog who's reactive. And one she expressed to me that one of her concerns initially was that it was going to change the dog's personality, that the dog was going to be just like drugged. And I think people think of meds, especially when I'm thinking horses. Most people think of that as immediate, it's like sedation, right? So they see their horses dopey and like falling over and for like the dentist or the vet. Right. And they're thinking that's what we're talking about. And so I think it's so important to be getting that information out there that that's not the case. And I would love to hear more about your experience with it. And as far as it, how does it change temperament? How does it change personality? Is it going to transform the dog in any other way than what might be ideal, or horse in this case, but you know, your case study, you mentioned was the dogs, right?

[00:18:42] No, that's, that's the number one question I get every time this conversation happens is people are worried it's going to turn their animals into a zombie. And that is not the point of behavioral medication. There are instances, it is helpful for the animal to be sedated, like at the zoo, we had animals, that would get extremely stressed out under medical procedures. And we did not have time to train that through cooperative care. So it was more humane for them to be sedated, but that is an extreme example and extreme, very specific situations. Really the point of medication I tell people is to help your animal be able to be comfortable so they can think. When animals learn, they need to be under threshold. Right? So for a horse set, it's probably in their paddock or in the arena with nothing much going on, they are in their routine. There's no elevated behaviors being shown like kicking or bucking, things like that. And so what medication can do for a horse that is in that state more often than not, it helps them to stay under threshold so we can actually teach them behaviors and skills. So that is what medication can do for an animal.

[00:19:57] And a lot of times too, if we go to our primary vets, you, you talked about this a little bit. Some primary vets will prescribe medications, but they're not behavior vets. So sometimes we do get medications prescribed to our animals that do sedate them. And that's where behavior vet comes in because they are trained in medications and what each one does and how it can help the animal again, stay under threshold and feel more comfortable, so more learning can occur. That's one of the big reasons for it. One of the big, helpful aspects of having an animal on medication is we can actually have an animal who can think and learn and can retain information.

[00:20:40] Yeah. I love that. And that's such a really good way of explaining it where we're just trying to help them get to a point again where they're thriving so that they can actually learn, because if they're so fearful or so over threshold all the time, it's really hard to get them to that good learning place. And no, no real true or healthy or good learning happens from that place of like high stress and fear and all of that, except for probably more fear learning. And so getting them back to that place where they can be at peace, like in their own body and like in their environment, so they can learn something new, which brings me to the idea of, and this is kind of my interpretation of it, I'd love to hear your, you know how you go about doing this, but I tell people all the time that if we were going to use meds or in my case, it's, oftentimes I'm using some sort of other thing because I have a really hard time finding vets in my area that will do that. And so we're going to go into that topic later. But so for me, I'm going to, I'm using things that are more homeopathic or natural type, soothing type stuff. So like calming stuff. And even then I sometimes have trouble getting people on board with that, which surprises me. I'm like, why not help them out? Anyway, I'm always telling them it's, it's not a crutch. I'd imagine people probably think in their head, like we're going to sedate them. And then we're just going to like, pretend they're well-behaved now, like, that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about getting them to a good place so that learning and training can happen and potentially well, the goal would be ideally to be able to wean them off of it, if, if helpful, but some I'm sure some learners, some individuals will need it lifelong. And you can tell us more about your experience with that, but have you been able to be successful with weaning some of the individuals that you work with off of their meds that they're needing?

[00:22:38] Yeah, I, I have not because I've been with the company less than a year and these medications sometimes take some time. So I personally, we've talked about starting to wean off and again, that's a conversation with their behavior vets. So I'm seeing really good progress with this animal, we are at a good place, so we've been there for a while and we're at the point of maintaining, then we can say, all right, let's talk to your behavior vet and see what their thoughts are on weaning off medication. And, and you talked about this really well about, you know, we can only go so far with what we can offer people because I'm not a vet, I can't say you should be on this, this and this. Right. That's where that collaborative nature of working with a behavior vet and being able to call or email them and be like, hey, this is the behavior I'm seeing now. What are your thoughts? And can we do anything with their medication? Some animals, like you said, do have to be on medication for their life, but maybe we can lower the dosage at some point. But I've definitely had like the other trainers on the team have shared successes about, I wouldn't say a success because it's an individual, an animal needing to be on a medication, but them feeling comfortable. That's a success in itself. And so success is different on each animal, but there have been definitely cases where we get an animal to where they're comfortable, they can think, they have these skills, they are practicing it. We're getting good repetition. Now we can wean off. And that absolutely happens. And I do want to say too with medication, especially with horses, it's very individualized. Sometimes we do get side effects. So it's not saying we know we might have a horse, who's tired, but then we talked to our behavior vet and we say our our horse is too tired, can we change this and we look and see what we can alter so we can actually have a horse who's awake because over threshold can also mean they're too tired and we can't get learning to occur when they're too tired, either sedated. And so we need an animal, like you're saying, medication is here to help an animal stay under threshold and awake and aware, but we need them to be in a state where they can retain information. And if they are too heightened or too tired, that's not going to work. And so behavior medication, once we get a good repetition of behaviors and we have the right dosage and we got them going, once we get them doing that behavior, we want to see, and we have some repetition, then we're going to go to our behavior vet, I'd be like as a trainer, this is what I'm seeing. Here's the behavior I'm seeing. We've been doing this. We've seen this behavior consistently for three months. What are your thoughts? Can we try to wean off? And they're going to let us know if that's a possibility, what they think and if they can do that. And again, it's very collaborative. So they're going to let me know as the trainer, oh, we lowered this down, let's watch their behavior. And so we're really checking in the whole time to see what is happening to the animal as we're changing medication as well.

[00:25:44] I love that you mentioned that an animal having to stay on medication for their life, isn't less of a success. It's actually a success in itself if it's working. Because prior to that, we were obviously having a lot of problems and the animal was not doing well. They weren't thriving. And so just being able to find something that helps that individual is a success. Like it doesn't matter whether it's a training protocol or a change in diet, or, you know, maybe the body work that they needed or a different saddle or some meds. Like it, it, doesn't, all of those are on the same level. And if they help your individual learner, your horse be able to thrive that is in itself, the success like that is a success. So it's awesome though, if we can wean off of it and they can still be thriving. Cool. But if not, that's okay. Like that's what they need.

[00:26:38] Right. Exactly. Yeah. And it's just, medication is such a touchy subject, even for humans. Right? We have our own conversation around behavioral medications, but it comes down to genetics a lot of times, you know, we just, some, some of us have different chemicals than others, and it really affects us. The medication can help with that. So if it's a long-term behavioral medication case, but we have an animal who is thriving on it I feel like that's a huge win. Like you said, it would be amazing if we can wean them off. But it's also amazing if the animal has to stay on that medication, but they're, you know, showing really positive behaviors and they're able to engage in sessions and they're living their best life. Again, it comes down to that, the wellbeing of the animal.

[00:27:26] And going back to what you mentioned earlier, which I also love, is the wellbeing and the experience of the other individual in the, in the relationship. So the human you know, we, we too are part of the relationship and have our life with our animals. So whether that's your dog or your horse or your cat or any animal, just like we have with other people. And it's important to value our experience in that too, in that, in that relationship. And so it's not just about the animals thriving, it's also about us thriving too, in that relationship. And sometimes one of us in that relationship needs a little bit of help to be able to make that happen. Whether it's the human or the human learner, the other animal or like the horse. And so I love that part of it too, that such a huge aspect to it and looking at the whole picture and as trainers and behaviorists, this is what we do, right. We come in and it's not just, I think a lot of people think of it, they probably think that I show up and I'm just training the horses and then it's, you know, success go home. Right. My, my job is so much more complicated than that. There's so many more variables, cause it's not just about the horse. Like I can show up at your barn tomorrow and we can be having, you know, problem A or problem B, but I'm, you know, talking to the owner caregiver, like, okay, what are your needs? Like what's the environment like, now who else is in this individual's life? You know, what's going on? What's the antecedent arrangement, what's the management protocol. Like what behaviors are we seeing? You know, how are you feeling today too? Because sometimes what the behaviors I'm seeing are actually stemming from, or a lot of times they're stemming from the the caregiver and their actions or how they're feeling and so on and so forth. So it's so important to look at that big picture before we narrow, completely down to like, it's this behavior and something's wrong with the horse or, you know what it is.

[00:29:23] Yeah, no, you said that beautifully. And that's actually why I'm getting my master's in counseling because being in this, working in this population, I've seen so many, it brings out a lot in the people. It's very emotional for the people and very taxing and I've seen burnout. And so it is a real thing. And what happens to I've seen people get completely burnt out from training their animal is still over threshold, 99% of the time. And whether that's a horse or dog, I seen it in both. And you know, these done all this training, they've invested all this money in training or other remedies or tools, whatever that looks like. And we try them on medication and they see a change for the first time and they're like, oh, okay. I can breathe a little because we have something, we can, we have success somewhere.

[00:30:18] Right. And sometimes that's what it takes is there's a chemical imbalance somewhere is what it comes down to. And if we can help that chemical imbalance and get that dog or horse or bird or cat, whatever that species is to think again and learn, it's just a huge sigh of relief for a lot of people.

[00:30:37] Yeah. It's like you, it's giving you some breathing room, so you guys can actually like co-exist and having an, an, a good experience and a good relationship together, and why people are so resistant to that. It's a little bit of a, a question mark, but I mean, I get it too, cause I've actually, I'm not going to go too, too deep into it, but on the human side of things I've had this same discussion come up, the same hesitation, the same worries, the same, like it's going to change the personality. There's so much unknown about it that I think it triggers some fear in us and It's powerful stuff too. So it can't be done lightly. Like you're doing it with the vet and there's lots of collaboration and talking and discussing and modifying and we're working. It's not a lighthearted subject. It's not a, like, it's not like you just go to the feed store and pick it up. Like, it's, this is a big topic. It's a big thing. But it is so useful and so powerful and necessary in so many cases.

[00:31:34] Yes. And like he said, you know, it is a big topic and people have a lot of fear of that unknown, but when you have a team behind you, and that's what I tell my clients too, like you have a whole team behind you, you have not only me, you have other consultants. Cause if I have question marks about any training, I mean, I have a whole team of trainers behind me, right? Who we can all bounce ideas off of each other and say, let's try this or that. I have the behavior vets behind me. You have your vet with you. And if anything happens in a session. I reach out to the vet say, this is what I saw. What are your thoughts? So you have a whole team of support behind you. And I tell the clients too, to let me know how they're feeling throughout the process. And, you know, our team is really good at being sensitive to the human's emotion. Just as much as the animals, because if I have a person who's really worried about it as well, we're going to take time to talk about it. And the behavior vet is going to take time to talk about that. And so we want to really think about every, like you've been saying, and you're saying it's not well, like everyone involved with the individual. So the whole family system, basically we want to think of.

[00:32:45] Yeah, it's a lot. It's lots of overwhelming, which is again, where that team comes into play. And for people who listen to my podcast regularly, you know, I'm big on having your team that works with you and your horses. That's the farrier, the vets, the bodyworkers, your trainer, maybe behaviors, maybe the veterinary behaviorist too. And. It's you need that team. It takes a village to, to help the horse thrive. And it can seem overwhelming, but I think when you establish that good team, I know I've experienced this myself. It feels so much more doable. And it's not just you, you're not on an island by yourself trying to figure this out. There's so much out there and there's so many people out there trying to help you because you've established that relationship and that team to work together. And it can be less, it's less isolating. But all, I think a lot of people, horse people, can feel very isolated and overwhelmed with their horses behavior. And you know, I'm, I'm a trainer, I'm a behaviorist and I'm going to say, even though this is my profession, this is what I do. There are limits to what I can, I'm pretty open about this. Like, I can't fix pain. Like I can't fix pain with training. This was not going to work. I can't fix dietary deficiencies with training and, you know, all and behavior consulting. I can't fix, you know, so many things. I'm also not gonna be able to fix a chemical imbalance in the brain with training. It's not going to happen. It's just not possible. And so there are limitations to each of those areas of expertise and, and it's so important that we're collaborative in this and that we're respectful of other people's specialties. And that we know when we've hit a low we've hit a point where we need to bring another professional onboard to our team. And which leads me into that, this next question I have for you, which is, you know, how can we. I guess, what do you, what are kind of those marker points when you would say, okay, we need to talk to a veterinary behaviorist and you know, how can we help horse owners and caregivers know through your experience and what you would say? Like when is it time to look at veterinary help assistance in this?

[00:34:54] Sure. That's a great question. And it can look again, can look a little different depending on the individual where I say, I think it is time to see a behavior vet or seek behavioral medication advice is when we have done training, a lot of people go into this saying, I want to try training first, and then maybe we can talk about medication. I get that a lot. They might be recommended to get behavioral medication from their vet, their primary vet, and they've referred them to us, but they, a lot of times they'll get clients and say, I want to try training first and then let's see how it goes. I have had a few clients we've had to stop training because their animal cannot think and learn. And that is the point where I cut it. And I say, think it's time to, to seek out behavioral medication. So when an animal is too over threshold, to be able to retain information in a setting where they should typically be under threshold. So like, so for example, I have a friend right now who we've had this discussion and she has had a horse for about two years now. He was a Mustang a little bit on the fearful side. So he's a little nervous of people. So people come up to him, he'll move away. Which is a new, young worried horse. Where it's been getting atypical is she has been using positive reinforcement to try to get him from the pasture for two years. And he still runs away every time. And he is still very hypervigilant, even in his paddock. If anything changes in his environment, even if he's in, he's been in the same spot for two years, he hasn't moved. If there's a little bit of wind, he is extremely hypervigilant. He just goes from zero to a hundred really quickly, where over time he should have been able to adjust to that, especially with the type of work the owner has been doing with him. So that is a case where I say the horse seems to be a little too hypervigilant. He is not adjusting. He we've been using positive methods with him to provide choice to him. And he still acts like every time he has never seen us before. So that is a horse who, from what I've seen is too over threshold, to be able to think and learn, and I've done training with him and he can retain information sometimes. But for the most part, he has a really hard time settling and relaxing. And that is where he is a case where I told my friend, medication might be a cool option for him. We've had this discussion again, there's that hesitancy. But it's about that discussion and it's about helping him to stay under threshold longer so we can get him to think and learn skills and feel more comfortable. And then if we come to a point where we can go get him with some treats and he's not running away from us every time, or I can walk him around his pasture and we are not freaking out at a branch that fell the night before things like that kind of cue me into it's time to seek behavioral medication.

[00:38:06] And it seems like for horses in particular, but I know this applies to other species too. And this is kind of where my brain went with it too. Like if I was going to visit that idea, these are the types of horses I would probably visit it with, is horses that are hypervigilant and just, they almost seem like they're uncomfortable in their own skin. Like all the time, even when it's not in a training session, when they're just trying to live their lives, they just can't just live life. Like it's just not possible for them to do that. And that's such a terrible way to live. And I, sometimes that type of behavior does come from, or a lot of times it can come from physical pain. So they've got like chronic pain somewhere that's causing them to be hypervigilant. And I've seen that a lot sometimes though with horses like that, you know, You can't help them with the pain though, because of what's going on behaviourally and so it becomes this chicken or the egg like cycle. It's a very stressful because you're like trying to help them physically, but you can't provide them everything they need because of how they're living their lives and they can't be comfortable. And then they're so protective of their bodies and just goes round and round and round.

[00:39:16] Right. And it affects so many other aspects of, I go get that horse and he sees a new person I'm holding him. He has this halter on safe. It's a veterinary visit. And we're trying to look for pain. If this horse is hypersensitive to touch and he is. Let's say he, every place the vet touches, he is just moving away or he's starting to kick out or try to bite because he's already over threshold and it's just getting him more and more over. It's going to be really hard to find out what that pain point is. Right. Because everywhere he's just so sensitive to. And so if we can't get a horse to relax, like you're saying, if they can't be comfortable in their own skin, behaviorally, that will effect other aspects of care and that collaborative care to where the vet would might be. It will be like we are seeing pain here, the vet, or, you know, that's the example I'm thinking of is that it affects other terms of care. And so that behavioral aspect is so, so important.

[00:40:17] Another type of case that might, that kind of comes to mind might be one where the horse is goes over threshold. So fast and it's not truly spontaneous, but it almost seems spontaneous and it's highly dangerous when it happens. And it's, it's such a, there's so many different variables that could trigger the horse to go over threshold. And so it's hard to manage. It's, it's gotten to the point where managing the environment and the training is so restrictive and it's so. It's not even possible anymore. Like you could be the best of the best as far as management goes of the environment, but it's just not physically possible with the amount of variables that come with just living life. It's too, that might be another one. I mean, does that sound about on track?

[00:41:08] Yeah, absolutely. If I have a horse to get so nervous so quickly and they just go over threshold again, we can't get learning to occur. And that's the really important piece is I need an animal to be able to relax and be under threshold so that they can think and learn skills. And it's really important because once the animal gets over threshold, it's really hard for them to think. So we need to practice behavior where they're comfortable. So when they're over threshold, they actually know what we're asking. It happens all the time. You see, you know, it happens all the time with dogs. You know, we see dogs barking and lunging and the owners trying to get their attention and the dog literally zones out. And this the same thing with horses. When I have a horse who my horse did this, when I first got him we would go into the round pen and he immediately would start running circles. And so he wouldn't listen to me. He had no idea what I was trying to ask him because he really couldn't and I just gotten him. So he didn't know me very well. I didn't know him. So we had to take us a lot of steps back so we could, so I could teach him skills. So when he got to that point, he knew what I was asking, what I kind of compare to. And this is what I tell my clients is, So like right now, my office I'm under threshold. If you asked me what two plus two is, I can answer that really quick. I have a lot of practice with it. And so if I'm over threshold for me, that's an airport. So we're running through an airport and you're like, Hey quick, what's two plus two. I can get there because I've so much rehearsal with it. If you asked me to do a Cartwheel while we're running through an airport, which I never ever do, I can't do it because I've never practiced it. So that's where we need that behavioral medication for horses. Like you're describing that might be hypervigilant or get too worried about a variety of things and go from zero to a hundred. So we can just get them to learn those skills. So when they get to that point, they know what we're asking.

[00:43:13] What do you think about. And, you know, I'm kind of asking for my own benefit here, too. All of this, this has all been very beneficial for me as well. Some horses and I work with a couple of these, a couple of cases like this, where it's not a, well, let's put it this way. I think a lot of horse people are very familiar with the horse runs into the arena and just starts running circles or the round pen and they just won't stop. Right. There's also the other thing that can happen, which is less common, cause horses tend to be a flight animal and they tend to opt for flight over fight, but some horses will redirect or direct onto you like a rage type aggression or response. We're going to kind of label it aggression. Should they be, we'll just use the word triggered. I don't know what, you know, it could be a variety of things and I've worked with a couple horses like that, where that's what I mean, as far as, yes, we're managing the triggers for fear for those types of horses, but then there's the other type of horse where we're having to manage the environment so carefully. And so. But oftentimes the triggers are inconsistent and then the horse reacts with a self-defense type behavior and it's fairly dangerous towards people. So that's, I kind of bringing this up as a, another possible time that it's time to call on in a veterinary assistance here for behavioral stuff.

[00:44:32] Yes. 100%. And I've seen cases like this to where if I walk up and I, you know, even in protected contact, if I walk up to this horse and every time I see them, I give them a treat, not going in their space. I'm going to doing anything, but say, they've, they still want to, they're like lunging, their mouth is opened or they're showing their hind. But if every time I go in there and I give them a treat, that behavior should change over time. If that behavior does not change, then absolutely we should call it a behavior vet. Or if it's a very dramatic response, Then it might be time be like, all right, we just need this horse to relax, even if it's just for like a month. So we can just get a different response happening and stop that rehearsal, help them feel comfortable. That's really what it comes down to. Because if I have a horse, that's showing that big of a behavior towards me, they're really uncomfortable, really, really uncomfortable. And so if I can help that horse in that way too, that's a great gauge for when it's time.

[00:45:37] Yeah. And I, the cases that are coming to mind that I'm just visualizing almost always it's pain based behavior, like, but the problem is getting them to the point where we could help. Physically cause they were in pain, but you can't, if you can't approach the horse and work with them, then you can't help them feel better. That's like an intervention to get them to that place where they can even think and learn so that you can help them with their pain.

[00:46:05] Yes, that is huge, huge, huge, huge. And I just had a client the other day, the horse goes into learn helplessness when there veterinary procedures, it's really common. But the horse just shuts down and that is where we don't want a horse that's sedated or knocked out for trying to find pain. Cause then we're not going to see those pain responses either. So if our priority is to figure out a pain response, then behavioral medication for that horse is definitely a really good option. And then once we get the vet in and able to figure out if there's something else going on, then we go to our behavior vet and say, Hey, we found this, or we didn't, what should we do with medication? What do you recommend?

[00:46:50] Yeah, that's all really good. And this is so it's making me excited for where we're going. Like the path going forward, I hope we start seeing a whole lot more of this. It would make my job a whole lot easier too,

[00:47:02] it is very helpful and I'm so excited to be able to be having these conversations. And I know our clinic is really excited to be talking about horses. I came on and we've really delved into trying to get more horse clients to show it as an option. So I am so excited to be having these discussions and really, I hope people hear that this is a really good option for your individual horse, if this resonates with you.

[00:47:35] Yeah, I agree. I second that, but this brings us to kind of the big question. The kind of the, one of the final ones I have, but like a really big one. This is not available to most people. It's just not available in their area. I have lots of vets in my area, but none of them do behavior vet work unless, they ha there are a few that do dogs. And I could talk to them about crossing over, into working with horses. But just as far as like your average vets who are wonderful at their job, but they don't specialize in this area. So what do people do? What are some of your recommendations and, you know, I'm going to say this, there just might not be an option for it, unfortunately, but maybe there's some ideas you have, like how could people start to either encourage this or find it, or just kind of some suggestions you have.

[00:48:31] Yeah. So there are two websites you could check out to see, they have search engines for veterinary behaviorist. So you could see if there are any in your area. So one is the American college of veterinary behaviorists, and that is a There is also the American veterinary science of animal behavior, and that is So they both have search engines. So you can see if you have any veterinary behaviorist in your area. If you don't, which could be possible because there aren't many out there unfortunately, I hope there will be more, but it is limited right now. So something to do is you can check with your vet and see what their thoughts are. Your primary vet. Again, a lot of vets will have more of this sedation, but some are knowledgeable so they can help you. Even if it's just temporary help. I think that the thing is, is work as, I guess this is more so for trainers and consultants is we should be having conversations with vets and having a team like yours and saying, and I also agree as having a team behind us and it seemed that works together and communicates together because the sign of a good practitioner or a good farrier or vet is that. They're going to refer you out to other people who have different expertise. You know, we're not going to go outside our limits of expertise, right. So me as a trainer, I'm not going to give you medical advice because I don't know that side of it well enough. Same thing with farrier work. I know the basics, but I can't give you in depth information, like a good farrier. So us as trainers and consultants into, even if you're not in that category, go ahead and have these conversations with your vet around you and say, do you have experience with equines? How do you feel about behavioral medications and trying to have some people we can add to our team that can help us with behavioral medication and help us with other aspects? I think that's going to be the biggest thing. Trying to network with vets and find resources for our clients who might not know where to go. Maybe it might not be a veterinary behaviorist. So maybe we find a really good equine vet who has some knowledge of behavioral medications. Or we have a dog vet who is really, who does have more knowledge of behavioral medications, but not as much equine but if we work together then we kind of filling those gaps. That's kind of my recommendation.

[00:51:10] Yeah, those are all really good suggestions. And I think too, just like you said, continuing to have these conversations and even just asking like the demand of the supply kind of idea here is going to be an effect. Like the more we start asking, like as care horse caregivers and owners, we start asking for more information on this and we start asking for our vets and, you know, people to, to dive into their education and to provide us with more information. It just, it's just going to start to grow. And the more we talk about it, it's going to continue to grow. And my hope too, a lot of times, when I talk about stuff like this is people who are listening, maybe they're young and aspiring professional equine professionals, but they're not sure which area they're going to go yet. Maybe this peaks their interest. And we start to see this next generation grow up with and start to dive into these areas that we're just barely touching on right now. And so the next generation of, you know, equine professionals and stuff is going to be far more educated in this area and more interested and make it more readily available, which will be very exciting.

[00:52:17] Yes. Yes. Especially as we're seeing such good results happening with other species. I'm hoping it's a matter of time before horses enter this conversation as a major aspect. And I'm hoping maybe this conversation or other conversations in the future, like you said, well, inspire other people to pursue this. Cause it is such a helpful tool for us to have are these behavioral medications.

[00:52:44] And even for people who are not particularly interested in, you know, becoming vets themselves, or I dunno, maybe they have a different investment into this, or, you know. This area is going to be pivotal and it's going to be so important in helping overall improve equine welfare. And, you know, we can talk about things like reducing the number of unwanted horses or the horses that are just floating, you know, in the system or, or abandoned or sent to auctions or even sent to slaughter. We can talk about that all day long, but if we don't have solutions for the horses that don't fit the mold, we're, we're gonna keep hitting dead ends. Like there's just, there's nothing. We need this type of stuff. We need more of this. We need more understanding of equine behavior. We need improved. There's so many different areas, so we need an improved understanding of equine behavior across the board. We need improved understanding of equine like biomechanics and body care and just all the body work and all that. We need improved nutrition. We need improved training standards and ethics and training and all that. So like, that's, those are all areas that we need specialists, and then we need improved education and we need to be pumping out that information just like more and more and more, but this is another area because even when you just like, we were just talking about, you can be going through all of those things and there's, there's still a problem. And that's because we haven't even really touched the brain yet. And the chemicals and all of that going on, and this is this area and we need it to fit into that puzzle, to improve the greater, overall equine welfare and reduce the number of horses that are going to not so good places and ending, ending up living terrible lives because of no fault of their own. They, they didn't choose to be that way.

[00:54:37] Right. Right. Oh, I love everything you're saying, I know it's overwhelming to think about where we're at with the horse community and like where, it's really inspiring. And I'm really excited. I think this is like you're saying this is a really cool point. I'm really excited to be a part of this time. Cause I think we are, we're learning so much about horse everything and I think we're recognizing that there are there there's more out there that we can utilize if we just keep exploring and talking and questioning. And I think this is such a cool time. And I think if we just keep having conversations and discussions, we're going to keep innovating and we're going to get to a good place.

[00:55:21] Yeah, we're we're trailblazing right now. And we've been in the horse world that has been trailblazing. I try and remind people too. I mean, a hundred years ago, 200 years ago, we were not anywhere near where we are now. So it's going and keeps getting better in so many ways. So I'm really excited about where we're going from here.

[00:55:37] Yeah. Training is just always changing and like, I always tell people who knows what we're going to say, looking back 50 years from now, you know, like it's just one of those fields training in general, but especially horse training right now. We are just, it just keeps moving along. So I'm really excited and I'm really excited to be having these conversations.

[00:55:58] Well, very cool. Well, I have loved having this conversation with you is so many fantastic points and just jumping off points, really like people I hope are listening and then are able to go and go talk to their vet and go talk to their trainers and just start having the conversation. Even if you don't have a, vet behaviorist in your area. Just having that conversation is just really important for moving forward and knowing what to do next, and just realize that this is an area. This is another option for people. And anyway, I just loved having this whole conversation. So thank you so much for that.

[00:56:32] Thank you. This has been so wonderful and I'm, I'm just so excited. Like I keep saying I'm just excited to have these conversations, so I really appreciate this. This has been awesome.

[00:56:42] Well, great. I loved having you on the podcast and how could my listeners, you know, reach out to you if they want to ask more questions or learn more, or just basically get in touch with you.

[00:56:54] Sure. So if you would like to get in touch with me, you can email me at Janna, J A N N I do offer services, in person services in Colorado and virtual. So if you want to talk more about veterinary factors, or if you want to talk about behavior vets or get set up, just feel free to reach out with questions. And there's more info on the behavior vet's website about me and our services. So you can reach me or that And there is a free webinar on our website for learning about positive reinforcement horse training. Cause if you followed all, you're probably interested. So if you want a little bit other basic info, that's another resource for you.

[00:57:37] Yeah. I'm actually looking at your website now because I tend to multitask and there's really cool. Are these all free presentations, like yeah. Okay.

[00:57:47] And we did just put one up and it is about behavioral medications and specific ones. So if you want to really learn about some popular or not popular, but widely used behavioral medications, we did just do a webinar on that.

[00:58:03] Is that the, A Dose of Hope Part One and Two? Yes. Okay, cool. I'm going to be watching that. So, yeah, it's pretty cool.

[00:58:11] And you can find all of our webinars on behavior We do have quite a few free ones, but we have a few ones that you pay a little extra for and they go more in depth on those topics.

[00:58:23] Okay. Well, very cool. Well, thank you so much. I will be putting all this information in the show notes. So please, if you're listening, feel free to check out that so you don't have to try and listen and copy it into the search bar at the same time. Thank you so much, Janna for joining us today and I look forward to talking to you soon.

[00:58:42] Yes. Thank you so much. This has been amazing. And yeah. Looking forward to chatting with you more.

[00:58:47] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you'd like to learn more head to our website, the willing, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram, Tiktok YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything.

[00:59:11] We also have our blog, our training services and the TWE Academy where you can enroll in the Foundation Course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening and I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode. .

136 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page