Girthy QH/TB - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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Question Girthy QH/TB

I have had my horses since before Christmas, they went to a trainer for a month and a half for a tune up since they had not been ridden in a year (were my neighbors horses). They are 13 years old and very sweet but my QH/TB has anxiety when being cinched. When I first saw him have a panic attack at the trainer's place I was a bit shocked. He threw himself back ward, danced around and his eyes were wide and he was breathing hard. She told me to just let him throw his fit. Then she pulled him back (didnt tie him), tightened him some more, let him do his dance again, lunged him out, final tighten and then put me on him. He rode great!

So I continue this with him. It has been 2 months now and I have developed some steel nerves working through this with him (considering I am an amateur horsewoman). He is doing better and we are bonding but he still does this diluted form of the dance. I treat him after saddling for positive reinforcement and sometimes rub his nose with EQ before starting... trying to make the whole experience as positive and calming as possible. I dont let his behavior win out and always carry through with saddling. I know this could take time.

But I was hoping someone may have experience with this and have some tips I havent thought of or been told yet. By the time I am done saddling, Ive lost ten minutes and gained a layer of sweat.
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post #2 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 08:48 PM
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I haven't had experience dealing with this, so hopefully some folks who have will post soon. If it were me, I'd first and foremost make sure his reaction isn't from pain. Horse's who are 'girthy' can have painful ulcers, or something is pinching him in the process, ie do you, or did the trainer make sure no folds of skin behind the legs are being pinched by the girth ? If you suspect that could be happening, then there are ways to lift and move the leg forward and then feel under the girth in that area to make sure no folds being compressed. Does he get girth galls if ridden very long? If he is associating having the girth tightened with pain, whether currently or from memory, that could cause an emotional reaction as you've described.

I'd take it slower, breaking the steps down, and honestly, I think success will happen sooner by taking as much time as he needs to sort it all out and work on it. Since he is continuing to react this way after 2 months, it seems pretty obvious that he isnt going to be able to improve if you just keep doing it the same way.

If it were me, I'd put the saddle on, bring the girth under his belly , then let it go and remove the saddle. However, if you think he will shoot backwards before you can remove the saddle then I woudnt do that as it could cause a worse train wreck when the saddle falls off. If he can remain calm and not go backwards then I'd do that a few times and call it a win for that session. Next session , I'd buckle it loosely (again not if you think he will shoot backwards before you can unfasten it and remove the saddle. Build slowly from that, however many sessions it takes, until you can achieve the first of 3 'regular' tightenings, move him around a bit, then remove the saddle. Next time (right then , or next session) after moving him around, tightned to the normal second tightening,,,rinse and repeat untill you can do the final tightening and he is fine with it. I do always take 3 times to tighten the girth , even with a non-girthy horse.

If you don't think you can get the saddle off each time before he shoots backwards, then I use a bareback pad for much less of a train wreck. If you don't have one, then I'd make a simulation with a rope. Make a small loop in one end of the rope, toss it over his back, then put the other end thru it and pull the end thru the loop to simulate tightening a girth,,,,do have a lead rope on the halter so if he needs to move, you can allow that without him getting away. Again, don't make it tight the first time and make sure that if you let go, it will loosen on it's own (in case he freaks out and manages to get away from you)

That's what makes sense to me, hope it's helpful.

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post #3 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by PaganRider View Post
He threw himself back ward, danced around and his eyes were wide and he was breathing hard. She told me to just let him throw his fit. Then she pulled him back (didnt tie him), tightened him some more, let him do his dance again,
I very much disagree with your trainer's attitude/actions/advice. It's the kind of old fashion 'buck 'em out & break 'em' style of 'training'. Just do it, force it, regardless of the horse's feelings, until they quit fighting, can indeed work to teach a horse to 'put up & shut up' - and many horses are still trained in the manner of 'learned helplessness'. I don't like it personally though.

If you want to do it this way, for him to learn to stop fighting, you need to keep up the scary or hurtful thing until the horse actually gives up & settles fully, rather than just doing a bit & quitting while he's fighting - that will only cause him to keep thinking fighting it is the best course of action(not that a horse reacting in fear is really thinking anyway). Breaking a horse to something he's afraid of doesn't get him over the fear, just teaches him there's no point fighting it.

What I'd do is first & foremost, establish whether there is any pain/discomfort from the saddle, girth, ulcers, whatever, and ensure I eliminated that first.

Then, if it's 'just' training/fear, I'd introduce it in such a way as to minimise that fear & definitely stop well short of panic, if I could possibly help it. So if the horse was not happy with having the saddle on his back, I'd gradually get him *comfortable* with that first. If he wasn't comfortable with having things around his girth, I'd start with ropes & get him used to that, then get him comfortable with being *touched* with a saddle girth before doing it up. Then I'd ensure he was happy with it just going thru the buckle loosely, before getting him happy with it being tightened.

I treat him after saddling for positive reinforcement and sometimes rub his nose with EQ
Don't know what EO is, but horses learn from *instant* association, so if you're intending to use positive reinforcement(I do & think it's really valuable), you need to reward him *during* saddling, not after. And, remembering the learning by association, careful not to associate those treats with him stressing - being tense, holding his breath, etc, even if it's not big reactions.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]
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post #4 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 10:20 PM
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You can't force it on them it just doesn't work. I have a cinchy horse and if I did as you have been doing. He would have killed me or himself.

I go slowly with tightening cinch and use reward for the behavior I want. No cranking up cinch letting him fight pull back and throw a fit. That just reinforces bad behavior.

I do up cinch at first just barely snug then a little tighter. Then walk him in a circle give him a pet tell him good boy. Then tighten it again he will pin his ears a bit but no kicking no fighting. Once ears go up I pet him and give a treat. Then finish tightening cinch.

He has learned over the months I've been working on his being cinchy. That I won't crank it up fast and I reward him, whether its a treat or some scratches in his favorite spot.

He was horrible about being cinched up, would kick ,bite and if tied up would break what he was tied to.
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post #5 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 10:58 PM
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As a rule, I tighten my cinch about 5 times in the course of tacking up. I provide reassurance at each step, with a kind word and a soft touch on the nose if necessary.

My boys are good, but every horse at our old lesson barn were cinchy to some degree due to impatient oafs wrenching on their cheap neoprene cinches to tighten them all in one go.
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post #6 of 23 Old 04-12-2019, 11:27 PM
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In conjunction to what others have said:

Make sure that it isn't a health problem.

I highly suggest doing up the girth very, very slowly. The horse'll tell you the speed and if you are going too fast. I also suggest that you mix it up when you go over to him - occasionally tighten and loosen the girth. Play around with him. For example: tighten, tighten, loosen, tighten, loosen, loosen, tighten, loosen, etc... Be random. Although they say, "tighten so slowly that horse doesn't realize it", I'm pretty sure the horse can notice even slight tightenings. If every time you go over there and tighten the girth, he may start to anticipate it and (depending on the severity of girthyness) "bloat", tense up, get antsy, pull back (avoidance), or get head tossy, etc....

Also, make sure that when you can tighten the girth, you don't over tighten. That is very uncomfortable for a horse and can make they girthy (again).
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post #7 of 23 Old 04-15-2019, 05:19 PM
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Any idea why he may be as girthy as he is? Saddle fit properly? Ulcers?

Start slow, with him. Don't make tacking up a fight for him. Tighten it slowly, and if he doesn't react, reward him. Then try again, etc. Walk him around a bit with it a bit loose (not super loose), then tighten it up a bit more, etc. Make it positive for him.

But as the others said, definitely rule out any pain first.
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post #8 of 23 Old 04-17-2019, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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I think some misread my trainers approach. I dont think the trainer's method is out of line at all. In fact, several trainers and videos have backed her up. You go slow, let him throw his fit, bring him back, try again, walk him around, try again, let him do his dance, tighten it up more, eventually you get it there... He does not have ulcers. And he doesnt have panic attacks anymore like he did when she first started working with him. He gets the slightest bit worked up but I dont see him really panicking. Sometimes now, I wonder if he is just continuing a habit.

I stopped giving him as many treats through out the process because I felt he was more acting up at that point to get a treat after I brought him back to try again. So he gets reassurance and a steady hand in the process and treats after.

I am using a good weaver felt cinch on him. It feels nice and is the right size. Confidence EQ is a mare pheromone that is released for their foals. They claim that it is supposed to calm horses of all ages. So I tried that alongside some treats to make it as stressfree as possible. Maybe there isnt much more I can do besides give it time. I was just hoping someone had a tip I hadnt tried.

Thanks yall!
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post #9 of 23 Old 04-17-2019, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Whew! Glad he never did all that. So it took you months?
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post #10 of 23 Old 04-17-2019, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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I was told that it should be tight but I should be able to insert my first three fingers up to the middle digit without having to force them in. I am open to advice on this.
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