Biting after girthing - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 72 Old 02-18-2016, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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Biting after girthing

I mentioned this a while back... and was told to check saddle fit and ulcers. I had the vet in, had a saddle fitter in, even an equine massage therapist. I do appreciate those suggestions and I'm glad I've eliminated those things, but Harley still doesn't like to be girthed. He'll now tolerate a rubber curry under his belly (before, he would swish his tail wildly, but I've told him firmly to hold still a few times and he seems to accept it - mind you, I'm also careful not to be too rough on his belly).

My coach suggested I only tighten the girth in the arena. That works well on the cross ties, when I'm only pulling it enough so the saddle doesn't slip, but once we get to the arena, it becomes an issue again, only, he's not tied so he keeps moving around. I do hold the reins by putting an arm through them as I tighten the girth, but he still keeps moving.

Finally, he nips at me after I put on his girth. As I walk him out to the arena, and especially when I turn my back to him slightly, he lunges at me as if to nip. Now I don't feel any teeth - but that's probably because I expect it and catch him in the act so then he pulls away. It's like he's telling me he's annoyed at me. And after I tighten it in the arena, he tries to nip at me again, sometimes grabbing my coat sleeve a bit. I'm not trying to minimize the behavior, I take it very seriously, especially because he's also my 10 yr old daughter's horse. He needs to be totally kid safe.

So I tried carrying a nail between my knuckles and ***** him slightly when he tries to bite - silly horse things it's a new game and tries to pick the nail out by pulling on it with his teeth. Very agile and clever, his teeth do not even touch my skin, but he is able to get them around a tiny nail and pull on it. He is seriously such a goofball sometimes that it's hard to be mad at him. But the whole nail thing is not working. Slapping at him doesn't work either, obviously. I actually started saying "no" whenever he looks like he wants to nip and he kind of looks down like he got caught red-handed, very much like a dog would. In fact, my tendency to say "no" comes from having two dogs. But he still tries to do it.

Oh, and FYI, after I ride him and get off, even if it's just for a couple of turns around the arena, I can pat him, snuggle with him, and he looks happy and affectionate and wouldn't think of nipping. He is still wearing the girth but it doesn't bother him anymore. He likes to work, likes to be ridden, so that isn't the issue. It really seems tied specifically to the tightening of the girth.

Ideas?
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post #2 of 72 Old 02-18-2016, 08:55 PM
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is he wearing a blanket at night? and the saddle is not pushing down on his withers, and you are careful to lift the saddle pad up into the gullet before you tighten up , right? my friend's horse is STILL girthy, years after the source of the pain (saddle too wide that put downward pressure on his wither bones. ). the saddle fit was fixed, but the blanket he wore kept enough pressure downward on the wither bones that it aggravated him. all you had to do was shift the blanket a little and he'd really give you a stink eye.
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post #3 of 72 Old 02-18-2016, 10:30 PM
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You have a sharp elbow, use it. When girthing in the arena and he starts to walk away, let him as long as you keep him bent and follow him. Because his hind end will be making a larger circle than the front I doubt he'll make a complete circle as it's more tiring. Then finish tightening. It may take a few more times for it to sink in that he works harder when moving and it's easier to stand still. Now, while at his side, flap your elbow once toward his muzzle. Then as you adjust things do it again. If he turns his head to bite, clip him a good one with your elbow. He won't be in such a hurry to do it again. Even as you lead him give it a flap.



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post #4 of 72 Old 02-18-2016, 10:39 PM
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One of our barns horses hated to be girthed- he'd make faces and bite the air. If you were standing in front of him while someone else girthed him, he'd nip at you. This horse, Sam, was girthed rather harshly prior to my B/O owning him.

Now, I don't know all that you have tried, so if I make some suggestions that you tried already, just pardon me. What worked best for the horse I was talking about was to girth very slowly- like, for english saddle, one hole at a time. ( Not too sure how you can really girth a western saddle as slowly as we girthed this horse...) You can also try doing some tellington touch in between tightening the girth. If you see the horse starting to get upset, do some firm circular movements with your hand on the horses neck ( find some vids of the tellington touch- it sounds silly, but I use it on my horse and it helps calm her down) Once the horse calms down, slowly tighten the girth one more hole.

Now, when you are tightening the girth up at the ring- how are you holding the reins? If you are standing on the left side to tighten the girth- have the reins over the horses head as they would if you are riding, and hold the right rein- not super tight, but tight enough if he tries to swing his head around to bite it will prevent that. It can be a little hard tightening a girth with one hand focused on holding a rein to restrain the horses head, but you'll eventually figure it out.

These suggestions are just to help prevent the horse from biting if it is just the horse being jerky about being girthed. Naturally, if it is pain related, solving that would be the best remedy- however, I myself am not sure what else it could be. Maybe he remembers being girthed up quickly and painfully and he just fears it happening again?


Best of luck!
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post #5 of 72 Old 02-18-2016, 11:01 PM
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My horse is the same way. He only occasionally seems as he is going to try to nip, but only if it's been a while. I struggle a lot with my saddle and cinch because the saddle is way too heavy for me to handle gracefully and the cinch has no rollers so it's really hard to get snug enough so I tighten a little at a time. He does the whole dancing and hard to keep still. He acts impatient, not like he's reacting out of pain. He was mishandled at the last place he was at, and he actually bit someone (two separate occasions) when they tightened the cinch too fast at that place as well. He has not actually nipped me. He has no sensitivity on his belly, back, etc. he just simply doesn't want to work despite him being a gentleman once I'm on lol. I am convinced if I had a saddle I can get on him easily and not clumsily, it would be a little better. Whenever he sees that saddle blanket, that's when he starts to act up.

I am very curious what will end up eventually working for you. Just chiming in the share frustrations with our little lovable butthead geldings lol. Sometimes I think I am the issue, but whenever my instructor deals with him, it's the same story.
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post #6 of 72 Old 02-19-2016, 12:04 AM
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I'm sorry I have nothing useful to add, just that I can't read this thread title as anything other than Birthing after Girthing

I'm sorry it's the drugs.....

“Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity”
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post #7 of 72 Old 02-19-2016, 02:21 AM
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Out of curiosity, what did the vet say? It's very hard to diagnose ulcers definitively without a scope (which I found that none of my local vets have... you have to drive 2 hours to the university for that!) so I find that vets generally treat anything that could be an ulcer as an ulcer. Did your vet just not think it could be ulcers at all? Did he offer any guess as to a diagnosis?

The loud protesting while grooming seems a lot like what my horse was doing after being on NSAIDs for 6 weeks and then moving barns- he had a lot of risk factors for ulcers so I opted not to trailer out to get a scope done, but added some digestive support to his feed (LMF Digest 911 and an herb mixture.) Within a couple weeks the sensitivity in the belly area was completely gone while grooming and significantly improved his girthiness (he's always been a little bit girthy so I don't expect it to go away completely)
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post #8 of 72 Old 02-19-2016, 02:30 AM
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my friend said to use clicker type training for this.

stand in the girthing up position with your hand on the latigo/billet ready to pull up. have a treat in hand, and wait. when your horse puts his head forward, click (you can do a 'cluck' sound in your own mouth) and immediately give him the treat. do nothing at the girth, yet.

do this until just your standing by the girht will signal him to move his head forward (out of biting range) and earn his treat (make them very small).

then, keep this up, but when he goes forward, and you cluck and treat, then pull up the girth an inch or two while he is getting his treat.

eventually, the horse knows that you are waiting for him to "get ready" for you do do up the girth, but that there is something in it for him.

I did this for a bit, but I confess that clicker training takes real attention from the human to watch and reward consistently at just the right point. I am lazy and often inattentive. but, with patience, it may work. you have to have a bunch of treats on hand , so things like carrot bits. and do NOT feed him ever when his head is back. only when he has it forward.
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post #9 of 72 Old 02-19-2016, 03:27 AM
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If there is nothing medically wrong, he's being a jerk.

I rode a mare for a lady who she'd shower with treats so she could get the saddle on. The horse was getting so bad that she was rearing to tip the saddle off so the only safe place was to put the saddle on in the arena.

I fixed this.

I put her bridle on first. The saddle was close by, the horse was taught to ground tie. I then picked up the saddle, and the right side rein was made taught and in my hand as I put the saddle on. She turned to bite me and pulled against herself on the rein and nearly pooped herself. As she did this I made a loud AH noise at her. As soon as she relaxed, I relaxed the rein. The next time I rode, I did it again. No problems.

Further to this, the horse was completely stiff and uncomfortable through the back and I told the owner she needed the vet out. As soon as she went back to the horse it started misbehaving again and she was screeching round the yard about how badly I train and ride.

Two weeks later she got the vet out and the poor horse was diagnosed with ovarian cysts.

Another cold backed horse I had would chomp the air. He'd never be in cross ties, but I allowed him the chomping in front and down, so long as it never turned to me. He did once when I was grooming and he hit the wooden brush harder than he obviously thought he would.

You have an elbow, as mentioned, use it. Get help from someone if you need it, someone to hold him in a bridle whilst you put the saddle on.
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post #10 of 72 Old 02-19-2016, 04:34 AM
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Usually, if there is no physical reason for being girthy, the reason for this is because th girth is drawn up to tight to quickly and it can take ages before it stops.

Put the saddle on and girth so it is just held in place.

When you lead the horse out tighten another hole and when you do this hold the far rein slightly tighter so he cannot get his head around to bite. Then do the final tighten which should only be another hole, and do the same with the rein. Mount and then after a few minutes check whilst mounted the girth is tight enough.

A well fitting saddle does not need over girthing. I like to be able to get a couple of fingers between the girth and horse.
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