William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital


From Lost Cause to Bright Future

Within weeks of purchasing my yearling, he injured himself badly enough to be confined to a box stall. As the days and weeks went by in confinement, he became tense, bored and increasingly aggressive. Treating his injury, hand-walking him, and cleaning his stall meant enduring his bold attempts to charge me, bite, strike and bolt. Because he was so dangerous, the UC Davis Veterinary Field Service had to come out two to three times a week to heavily sedate him just to change his leg wrap.

After 2 long months, I thought my horse was a lost cause. I wanted to treat the injury and get rid of him, thinking he would always have these behavior traits. I consulted several trainers who only encouraged me to increase the punishment using stud chains and whips, which in turn increased our level of confrontation, making my daily battle even worse.

Although I had been riding and competing on young horses for 20 years, I felt totally unequipped and helpless to work with this horse and change his behavior. I did not think it was possible. That was when I was referred to Dr. Jeannine Berger because of her extensive training and expertise as a veterinarian and equine behaviorist.

Dr. Berger was able to accurately assess and diagnose the behavior and offer me specific tools and techniques to change the behavior, focusing on positive reinforcement, repetition and reward. The first day I tried the behavioral plan I saw results! Each day I worked on the behavior plan Dr. Berger gave me, and each day it got better.

Today, my horse Loki and I have a bond that I once thought was unattainable— mutual respect, trust and a willing attitude. I feel safe and confident, able to groom, hand walk, bathe, treat injuries, stand for the farrier, longe, ground drive, and now I am weeks away from starting him under saddle. I am so thankful to the UC Davis Equine Behavioral Service for giving us the tools for success that no one else did. I could not have achieved this without Dr. Berger!

~ Sarah Dow