Horse went mouthy and girthy. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 03-15-2010, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Horse went mouthy and girthy.

My horse has always "made the how dare you!" face when I tighten his girth, but lately he's gotten worse about me girthing him and has picked up some new habits.

The first one is when I'm brushing him he'll be all over my space, not with his whole body but with his head and neck. He constantly turns his head and neck at me when I'm brushing him, If someone has to go by him and he's cross tied he'll virtually molest them, he'll be all over them with his face looking for snacks. If I have to go by him with something he's all over it. At first I thought it was cute but I quickly learned that it's incredibly annoying!

The second habit, related to the first, is if I ignore this behavior, or sometimes when I'm hard brushing him at the top of his neck, , or adjusting his blanket on him, he'll turn his head and snap at me. He has never actually bitten me but he snaps at me sometimes in those situations.

Saddling him he's gotten really fresh about, putting the saddle pad and foam pad on he gets alert and starts to slowly put his ears back. Putting the saddle on his ear go back. I give him a pat and tell him he's alright. When I girth him though, it's a hole different story. He [ins his ears flat and everytime I bring it slightly tighter he snaps his teeth in my direction, over and over till I'm done putting the girth on. When I go to put it up another hole or two [so the saddle doesn't slide off on my way to the ring] he'll flick his tail, pick up his back foot, and slam it into the ground. It's very threatening.

When I go to put the reins over his head to bridle him he'll nip to the side and grab the reins in his mouth, I have to tug-of-war to get the reins back from him. And with my mom who isn't as sneaky as me with the bridle he'll usually grab the nose band or throat latch with his teeth before she can get the bit in his mouth.

Do to this behavior we have stopped giving him treats, and we haven't been giving him treats for a little over a week now and we haven't seen any improvement in this rude behavior. If he goes to nip at me I'll usually give him a loud, abrupt "HEY!" or a thwap on the shoulder. But it doesn't really work.

Does anyone know any tricks to getting my horses manners back? He wasn't always like this.
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-16-2010, 10:35 AM
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I would first check so see if he is sore in any places where the saddle goes. Sometimes that can cause a horse to become girthy. Push with your hand around his wither area & along his back & watch his reaction.
If he doesn't have any soreness issues, try this: When you go to tighten the saddle, bring a crop with you. Hold the crop downward in your right hand & proceed to tighten the saddle. If he nips or kicks, quickly flick the crop into his belly. Eventually he might learn that each time he nips or kicks, your going to nip or kick back. He should learn this quickly & the nipping & kicking will stop because hes too afraid to get smacked again. (Trust me... this will not hurt the horse... hes 1000 pounds of muscle.)
I have used this method on a old mare of mine who was always girthy (She had no soreness issues.). Now she has never nipped or kicked me... just puts her ears back a little... as long as she doesn't threaten to hurt me thats ok.
He seems like he is a pushy horse... heres a technique I use: Go buy a long crop, training stick, dressage whip, or something that is a good extension of your arm. Fix your horse up in the halter & lead, grab your whip, & go for a long walk. During your walk, stop your horse. Say whoa & stop in your tracks. If he doesnt stop with you, add halter pressure. Next, reach your arm out with the whip & imagine drawing a huge circle around you the distance of your arm & whip together. That is YOUR bubble. Your horse should not be in that space. If he is, push him out of it. Don't use the halter, use the whip. With rhythm, smack his chest until he moves out of your bubble. If he is not responding increase the pressure of the smacks every four hits until he moves back. Keep repeating: Walk, stop, back him out of your bubble (If he is in it) & repeat. Eventually, when you stop he should stop immediatly with you & out of your personal space. Some horses take to this pretty fast. If you make this a regular thing to work on, he'll learn to always stay out of your space. Make sure you reward him by YOU walking into HIS space & giving him a pat on the forehead. Make sure you really pay attention to rewarding him & YOU moving into his space so that he learns he doesn't always have to move away from you as you get closer.
Consistancy & Patience.
Good luck.
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post #3 of 6 Old 03-16-2010, 03:38 PM Thread Starter
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I'm gonna start carrying my whip when I girth him, thanks for the idea!
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post #4 of 6 Old 03-16-2010, 06:05 PM
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when horses change behaviors, there is almost always a good reason for it and a lot of times it is that they hurt. I think your first step should be to have him looked by a vet or even a good chiropractor. My horse gets really girthy when his ulcers are acting up and another girl at the barn can tell when her pony needs to be adjusted by the chiro because she gets fussy about saddling and blanketing. Before you punish too much, be sure you're not missing signs he's giving you about pain.

As far as the walking in front of him and getting molested for treats, maybe it worked once or twice for him and now he's learned it's worth a try? Make sure you don't ever reward that behavior or it is bound to get worse. I hate lippy, nippy horses, especially when they are someone else's and you can't do anything about it (because if it were mine he'd get popped in the nose but some people FREAK when you strike at their horse even if it just bit the heck out of you).
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post #5 of 6 Old 03-16-2010, 06:47 PM
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Well, I agree that the change in behavior could be pain related, but since you also said that he was girthy before it could just be escalating his behavior because he is getting away with it. I, personally, would use a little whip as described, and for your issues with him snapping I would do the same thing.

Just remember that with any punishment it should be fast, short, and don't hold a grudge or stay all tight once its done. :)
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post #6 of 6 Old 03-16-2010, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by SmoothTrails View Post
Well, I agree that the change in behavior could be pain related, but since you also said that he was girthy before it could just be escalating his behavior because he is getting away with it. I, personally, would use a little whip as described, and for your issues with him snapping I would do the same thing.

Just remember that with any punishment it should be fast, short, and don't hold a grudge or stay all tight once its done. :)
Good advice. I also like to set a horse like this up. Start tightening the girth with your elbow at the ready. As soon as his head swings aroung jut your elbow out so he "accidentally" runs into it. Brush him in those spots that you know he's going to turn and snip, let him meet your elbow instead. If I know a horse is nippy and I have to turn away from their head I keep one hand on their neck so I can feel if they turn toward me and can react. And as ST said do it fast short and forget it.
Also if he can turn and nip at you while in cross ties, maybe your ties need to be tighter.

"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened..."
- Anatole France
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