Not really training, but dealing with a girthy horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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Not really training, but dealing with a girthy horse?

So, I'm not sure where to put this, but I ride two times a week, I've been riding a QH gelding named SunShine since last December, and I LOVE him to death. He has his flaws, as does every other horse. Here's the thing though, he is really girthy. When you go to put on his girth, he seems fine, he pins his ears when you do pt it on, but when you start to like check it, with sticking your fingers under it to check the tightness, he pins his ears and tries to bite, or he sticks his head by mine with his ears pinned, he's attempted to bite me, what do I do about this? Generally I push his head away and say No. I dont' really like to hit horses unless they are doing something really bad, advice?

I have given Sunshine a good smakc though on his neck when he is bad.
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post #2 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 01:12 PM
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Need to take your time putting the saddle on this horse, my horse is girthy sometimes. So when saddling up I put it on just snug not so he doesn't even normally flinch. Then as we are getting ready I do a hole either side till we are just about tight then walk to the mounting block final tighten and pull his front legs so nothing is pinching etc.
But on the manners side of it yeah pushing his head away is good idea, but certainly just take your time and for certain give his front legs a pull forward this just ensures no pinching which is often how a horse becomes a bit girthy or poor introduction to the saddle.
Good luck

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post #3 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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I take my time with Sunshine, I'll try pulling his legs forward though.
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post #4 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 03:39 PM
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Tie him up so he can't reach to bite, and then just be very gentle when you put the saddle and girth on.
Before you strap it too hard, pick up his front legs one at a time and''pull'' them up (like a horse does in those fancy trot photos), that will pull the skin right under the girth and make it more comfortable. Might help.

There isn't much else to do, if you know that he doesn't have a sore chest or illfitting saddle. Trying different girths can help, but since it's not your own horse...

Always keep your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.

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post #5 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 04:08 PM
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There might be some rubbing when you tighten the girth. This is usually the problem. Just pull both of your horses legs forward and then all of the skin that was cramped under there will come out, then you might see some sores better.
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post #6 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 04:34 PM
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well first, what type of girth?
If a western rope girth, I have known some horses to really dislike that type of girth...I used to ride one horse that was girthy when you used one of those, but was perfect with a regular styled girth.

Normally the habit starts because whomever broke the horse made the girth too tight too quickly. Best thing to do is put the bridle on first, then have a friend told the reins infront of the horse by the sides of his head so he can't turn his head. Also, check to make sure there are no sores on the girth area or nothing hard or pointy on the girth itself.
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post #7 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 06:12 PM
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My horse does this too. When I go to do the girth up she'll pin her ears and turn her head to look at me, sometimes bumping me with her nose. She never bites, but its like she's warning me or something. Haha. I find she doesn't mind so much if I do it slowly, like KiwiRyder said. Do it up just a few holes and then tighten it later.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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post #8 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 06:47 PM
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Here's the truth. He is not giving you permission to put the saddle on. When you ignore his feedback he gets more "big" by trying to bite. This is him saying, "Hey! You aren't listening to me!" So you can't blame him.

First check saddle fit. Have an experienced person do it who knows what they are looking at. Check for sore spots on his back, shoulders, and girth area. Make sure the girth isn't pinching, galling, etc. Make sure everything fits and is most comfortable for him.

Now here's what to do. I don't agree with tying the horse, this just limits him giving you feedback. So have a lunge line attached so you have more rope to work with. Have the saddle sitting out and ask him to sniff it. A lot of times people never let the horse investigate the saddle, so this alone will help change the tone. Pick up the saddle pad and let him sniff it. If he doesn't want to, don't try to make him. Pay attention to his expression. When does the behavior start? Does he tense up at the very beginning? The actual start of the issue might not start when you go to tighten the girth, it might start when you pick up the saddle. So pay attention. If his expression gets hard throw the pad on his back, then take it off, up, off, up, off, until he relaxes. Now, I hope you ride english! Now you need to do the same thing with the saddle. Put it on, take it off, etc. until he is okay with that. And it's SO important that when you put the saddle on you do it softly, like a hug. When he is okay with that, drop the girth and see if that causes any kind of reaction. If it does, keep doing that pattern until he's okay. When you reach for the girth if he pins his ears hold the girth and wait........and wait..........until he relaxes. When he does drop the girth. A sign of relaxing could even be one ear going forward. Reward the slightest try. Now here is a controversial idea....if he turns his head toward you with a nasty look on his face pop a treat in his mouth. This is actually NOT rewarding the negative behavior. He is expecting the experience to be bad. So when you unexpectedly make it a good thing, this will change his perception. I've done this with so many horses and it works like a charm. I would urge you to try that. If you decide not to, just continue with the desensitization and if he tries to bite block him with your elbow. Gradually hold the girth tighter and tighter until you can buckle it without him reacting. And when you do tighten the girth do it slowly, don't be jerky or fast. Use a lot of feel.

This will take time. So I would suggest that you make time in your schedule to be able to work on this without a time limit so you don't rush this. If you rush this the issue will not be resolved. Take the time it takes.
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post #9 of 20 Old 11-16-2008, 06:50 PM
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That could actually work, but only if everyone does it every time he'll be ridden.
Letting him sniff the saddle and see when he tense up is a good idea, but after that I'd still tie him for my own safety and to avoid getting angry or frustrated/scared by his behaviour.

Always keep your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.

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post #10 of 20 Old 11-17-2008, 10:09 AM
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A different perspective

Wow. I’ve walked away from this thread twice already but it’s like a drug, I keep coming back for a fix.
Sooooo,…. Remember that old Monty Python line about “and now for something completely different” ? How about allowing me to present a different perspective, not meant to offend anyone’s view? (This is somewhat rhetorical, ‘cause I'm not sure I don't want to run like heck after posting.) Just a crazy thought from decades of observing and training.

My first thought was the title “not really training but….” follows a common line of thought. Let’s back into that line of thought since it would be shared by the majority of horse owners today.

If horses and human are prey and predator critters, and horses have helped human civilization for some 5,000 years based on those characteristics, that might make a good starting point to find come common ground.
So, assuming some of the folks reading this would agree to that basic premise, some of the folks might also agree or even have observed that foals, when first approached by humans, are typically respectful of humans, most times to the point of being fearful.

If one can accept that horse are naturally respectful of humans (at least initially) at what point does a horse become disrespectful to the point of contemptuous enough to discipline, or at least threaten to discipline a human? I would suggest that this behavior is learned behavior. Not looking to start an argument, but if you buy the prey-predator theory supported by most behaviorists, and have observed, or at least accept the born-respectful-to-the-point-of-fear, then I don’t think suggesting the threats and intimidation by horses of humans is learned behavior is difficult to accept. (Wording is terrible, but I’m not terribly gifted.)

If you are still following my train of thought, then the question is “when/why did Sunshine change from being respectful, to being threatening (disrespectful)?”

Just to try to head off the reasons, or excuses for the (mis) behavior. If I take Sunshine to the vet and he needs some stitches are we going to have to double sedate him and twitch him or even lay him down to put in the stitches? I would suggest if your horse is always respectful and never believes it has a right to discipline me, I am a safer human because I have nurtured a safer (respectful) horse.

I try to get my students and clients thinking in terms that “they are responsible for everything their horse does or fails to do.” We teach that contemptuous disrespect is learned behavior, and the owner/handler is either going to nip the bad behavior in the bud when it starts to bud, or by allowing it, we are in fact encouraging the bad behavior. If the horse remains respectful, it is not going to try to discipline the human. I believe if we look at it as a training opportunity that needs immediate priority over sidepassing, changing leads, collecting etc we don’t have the bad behavior baggage with which to contend.

Again, where and when did this horse learn to disrespect the human? We could say we didn’t teach the behavior, but if the horse learned it, we humans must have abdicated our responsibility to prevent him for learning. I would conclude that this issue is very appropriate in the training section if you buy into that as the owner you are responsible for the health, welfare and training of your critter. If you are not responsible, who is?

I don’t want to waste the reader’s time, (or mine) by discussing how to handle behavioral issues, if we can’t even agree that this is a behavioral issue, or if we don’t agree that behavioral issues should be handled.

If I didn’t approve of that teenage kid threatening my teenage daughter’s if she didn’t do what he liked on prom night, I certainly don’t think anyone is being out of line expecting a horse not to threaten my daughter… or anyone else. In humans it is called consideration, respect, and good manners. I don’t see any reason to call it cute from a critter that instinctually feels a need to dominate (lead) his peers or be dominated by (follow) his peers.

Thanks for considering my view.
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