New lesson experience: girthy horse
The pony I ride wears a neoprene (I think that's what the trainer said) girth. It's kind of stretchy all over. I had asked her why a few lessons ago, and she explained that it worked better because the pony is "girthy" and explained what the term meant.
Yesterday I got to see it for myself. I always do the girth loosely at first, and then tighten it a little more in the arena. Yesterday I fastened it loosely as usual and pony started side-walking and h body looked like the saddle was impossibly heavy - almost like she was dipping down and ready to collapse (or kind of staggering like a drunk person, having a hard time describing it). She went forward a little and I started to get scared that she would then start to freak out about the cross ties. So, I told her whoa very gently and quickly loosened the girth even more and she calmed down. But wow, it all happened so quickly and was kind of scary!
I'm glad we had discussed it earlier, or I would have had no idea what the cause was. I'm also really proud of myself for staying calm and thinking quickly. It's so apparent to me that when you're new there is so very much to learn.
I'm having a hard time understanding your description of what happened, but drunken walking? I might be picturing this wrong but droopiness doesn't sound like girthy ness to me. But again, I could be picturing this wrong.
Anyways, yes neoprene is the word, and it's a very comfy girth for a horse. It's also not uncommon for lesson horses to be girthy due to a multitude of reasons basically boiling down to they get used a lot by many different people. If the tack fits correctly and it's a behavioral issue, you probably aren't going to be able to fix it on a lesson horse yourself.
But for future reference and if you ever get a horse of your own that is girthy, loosening the girth when they display this behavior is basically rewarding it. Next time, they know that if they start wigging out in the cross ties when you begin to cinch the girth up, all will be solved because you loosen it and take that pressure off. I wouldn't worry about correcting the issue with the lesson horse, but just so you know :)
I'm glad that you stayed calm in that situation though, as that's the best thing to do in any situation with a horse! Great job!
Don't worry about it too much right now- sounds like your lesson horse is already girthy so I'm sure you didn't do any damage ;)
I've saddled girthy horses many times and what you're describing doesn't sound familiar to that vice. A girthy horse will usually attempt to bite the handler when being girthed up...it's a sudden head turn towards the person with mouth open and ready to bite. Sometimes it's accompanied by a kick as the horse's flight instincts take over. The best thing the handler can do is stay in the safe zone (out of the range of a kick) and continue girthing the horse as if there's been no reaction from it. There is also nothing wrong with a short, sharp correction with the voice either.
I agree with what's said above. The term "girthy" does usually refer to a horse that will try to bite its rider/make ugly faces/cow kick while tightening the girth.
I will say, though, that I did ride a retired OTTB many years ago who would literally fall asleep (and fall over, for that matter) if you tightened his girth too quickly. I was young (maybe around 10 or 11?) so I don't remember the term that they used, not did I understand the dynamics of the thing... Interesting, for sure.
It something that is rare, but I have seen a few times. Both my own horse and my friend's mare did this. When getting saddled they bow down, walk stiff, or limp after being saddled. If carelessly saddled both horses would mentally shut down. Vets had no idea and couldn't find anything wrong, and after the horse walked it out could not find any signs of pain. Saddles were fitted properly, backs were checked, no sores from the girth and so on. I had a page on here about it a while ago. Click here to see what people said
Video of what my horse did : Turn off the sound I'm annoying with clucking. He was having a good day so I had to provoke him into showing the issue by lifting his legs and backing up. I also show that he was fine lifting his legs and backing normally.
Jake's Saddle Issue [[Subbers Ignore]] - YouTube
A lot of people had ideas and thoughts on it, but I was never able to pinpoint what set off my own horse. I know my friend's mare was just sensitive and claustrophobic.
Word of advice to the OP, be careful around this horse. Every now and then these horses will completely collapse and are prone to panicking once they hit the ground. Never ask a horse that is acting like that to back up, always make them walk forward and stay out of their way. It can be very dangerous.
Zex, from what the OP described this was my first thought, but I feel like if a horse did this the students would be informed by the instructors and helped if inexperienced as it's a pretty traumatic thing to watch if you don't understand what is going on.
I've known two horses to pass out in the crossties if their girth was tight and they had to stand for a minute, but never with a loose girth. Hmmm... I would tell your instructor about what happened and maybe have her watch you tack up. When I first started riding, my instructor watched me tack up every so often even after I was able to do it correctly. It not only kept me from forgetting little things but she would give me pointers.
It was good that you stayed calm and acted quickly. You also drew a good conclusion from the experience - there is always so much to learn!
We have a few girthy horses in my barn, and I agree with the above, normal reactions are to bite, kick, backup, rear, etc. A few months ago, one of them had a similar reaction as described above (collapsed back, drunken walking) when their girth was done up, ended up being some back soreness issues.
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