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Colt saddling difficulty after ill-fitting saddle

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I'm sure most of you know about my colt. But if you don't, here's a little info. He's a two year old (2 1/2 to be technical), green broke Quarter Horse gelding.
Anyway, I'm having some problems with saddling (and even blanketing) him now after an ill-fitting saddle was used on him. The very first time I saddled him (and blanketed him) after getting him, he was totally chill with both. Now, if I approach him with even just the saddle blanket, he backs up, hits the end of the rope (not hard), and freaks out. Not big, just a little fit. His two fronts leave the ground and he just trembles, snorts, and jerks his head. It's worse with the winter blanket.
If you manage to get him saddled, he's completely fine and well-behaved. It's just the problem of getting the saddle on him.
The other day, I did manage by bribing him with some treats.
I tied him very loose, so that if he jerked away it would just come undone but I could still grab him. Then I got my saddle pad and just gently brushed him with it. He trembled and backed away, so I tried again. As soon as he accepted it I gave him a treat. When he knew treats were involved, the situation definitely changed.
The saddle was harder, as it's an extremely heavy roping saddle, so I can't put it on very easily. He was definitely less freaked out now, but still backed away. So I put my bucket on the ground with the few remaining treats in it, and he let me saddle him. After I got it on he was completely fine and is not in the least bit cinchy or anything.
But I am not one that likes to bribe a horse to do something. I expect them to behave without a bribe. How do I fix this?
I will add it was completely my fault in the first place because I assumed my Billy Cook was fitting him fine, since it fit any horse. I know, stupid me and big mistake. After the second time with it on him he showed me he was uncomfortable and did so by bucking and being tense. As soon as I took it off him, those behaviors dissolved. I put it back on without the pad and sure enough, terrible fit. I feel so bad about it.
I found a saddle that does fit him very well, but now I have this problem. How do I fix it? Will he just find that this new saddle doesn't bother him and stop doing this?
Thanks ahead of time and sorry for the lengthy post.
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Eventually he should. It’s a frustrating dilemma I know. You can go back to desensitizing, but sometimes I find making a big deal out of it just makes a bigger deal out of it.

I’ve had this happen with two colts. The first I shocked with the blanket, oh well, try again, except I shocked him again, and it went on like this an unbelievable number of times, like probably five times! So, he was very unhappy about being saddled. It was something he never completely forgot, and even as a broke horse you could kind of gauge his mood over if he was a little watchy about the saddle blanket. I know that’s not a positive story, but usually horses don’t quite hold that level of grudge. Lol

The second was Queen. I don’t know what happened when husband saddled her for me for work, but he certainly upset her. I guess the saddle bags got caught under the saddle for a second… I’m not exactly sure what all went down. So, she was upset for a week or so of saddlings, but she got over it. I didn’t make it a big deal. I don’t know how she would feel about husband saddling her, but she doesn’t look at me doing it anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Eventually he should. It’s a frustrating dilemma I know. You can go back to desensitizing, but sometimes I find making a big deal out of it just makes a bigger deal out of it.

I’ve had this happen with two colts. The first I shocked with the blanket, oh well, try again, except I shocked him again, and it went on like this an unbelievable number of times, like probably five times! So, he was very unhappy about being saddled. It was something he never completely forgot, and even as a broke horse you could kind of gauge his mood over if he was a little watchy about the saddle blanket. I know that’s not a positive story, but usually horses don’t quite hold that level of grudge. Lol

The second was Queen. I don’t know what happened when husband saddled her for me for work, but he certainly upset her. I guess the saddle bags got caught under the saddle for a second… I’m not exactly sure what all went down. So, she was upset for a week or so of saddlings, but she got over it. I didn’t make it a big deal. I don’t know how she would feel about husband saddling her, but she doesn’t look at me doing it anymore.
Thanks @Knave! Then it sounds like he'll probably just get over it sooner or later.
 

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I try to ignore the dramatics, if I know one can be saddled then I go about business treating them like they can be saddled. The most I may do if one is truly trying to start a bad habit like pulling back over it, is go back to a pen/round pen or small arena have them haltered and just sit there and toss the pad up and over, tap them etc no calculated movements just willy nilly. Once they are good there repeat with the saddle. Again I won't make it a big deal, let them move but only release pressure (stop tossing the pad etc) when they stop moving.
Once they aren't moving around when untied I will start looping the lead and then tying repeating the above steps

As for the blanket, most young horses I have put a blanket on for the first time will be weird about it. I 'roll' mine so the it doesn't make as much noise/movement and eventually I can just fold the back up and pull it up over their head leaving the chest buckled then pull it back over vs tossing it over. I don't know if the blanket part makes sense but basically I don't toss them on unfolded.
 

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Eventually he should. It’s a frustrating dilemma I know. You can go back to desensitizing, but sometimes I find making a big deal out of it just makes a bigger deal out of it.

I don't know why anyone would not utilize treats as a tool, if that's what helps a young horse get over something emotional. It isn't a bribe, not really. Such negative connotations have no place in horse training . It's a way of distracting the horse's negative thinking, of bringing in a POSITIVE association to rub out the negative one. I suggest you use treats liberally for awhile, and then taper down to just one when you first approach with the saddle. you can associate that with horse having to put their head forward, and wait, 'click' and treat, and lay saddle pad on back. Repeat with saddle itself. Repeat with bringing girth up. Eventually, treat once only when the gear is first brought near horse.
 

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If it were me I'd either feed something really nice, like alfalfa hay, while I get him saddled, or I'd continue like you were doing with the treats. I agree with @tinyliny that it's not bribery, not if you use them correctly. I'd have him loose in the round pen and just reintroduce everything to him really slowly, giving him a treat every time he makes a step in the right direction (e.g. smells the saddle, lets you put the saddle pad on, etc.). I'd take it really slowly, as slow as he needed, knowing that it might take days before I could get the saddle on him.

Eventually he will most likely forget that the situation ever bothered him, but I think he'll get there sooner if you can give him some positive associations with saddling.
 

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I would just let him check out the saddle a few times and then just set it on his back a few times with out cinching up and let it sit there and then remove it do some brushing and do it again remove brush some more, Do this for a few days and see how it gos from there.
 

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I've used treats to get blankets on a scared horse. Also have used treats for my can be extremely cinchy boy. Once they become more comfortable with the situation I start fazing out the treats.

Had a very difficult horse to saddle getting saddle on was not easy. Would side step dance around an even pull back if tied. I used feed had everything out an ready, just before putting saddle pad on I'd give him a bucket of feed. Saddling went much easier if he could eat ,kept him busy an saddling became a none issue. I have no problem using treats or feed to get a horse over a saddling issue it works...
 

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I’ve nothing against feeding. I throw a flake of hay to my horses every time I saddle. It’s just common. On work days they need the calories, and I try to saddle with enough time for them to really get some hay down. When it’s not a work day it is still just habit, they just don’t get the extended time to eat. Sometimes I throw them grain, depending on how hard they are working, but I like that they are happy without it for times like now, when they are in little work and starting to look a bit pudgy.
 

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Since he's allowing you to saddle him if you "bribe" him, he's probably no longer afraid of the saddle. I'm only just now realizing how easy it is for a horse to learn that pretending to be afraid can get them out of a lot of stuff! Don't ask me what to do about it though :ROFLMAO:.
 

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I agree that rather than thinking of treats as "bribes," you can think of them as helping the horse replace negative associations with positive ones.

I give out treats whenever I think a horse might feel negatively about something. I've never had a horse that acted like they would only agree to something if they had a treat. That to me would be a bribe.
 

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I only give treats after I put in in pasture after we are done. Horses are creatures of habit and if you don't have the treat you won't get the result. Not only that you will have a horse grabbing at your pockets and hands and nudging you for what they expect.

I hate training horses and dogs with treats. Reward with love and praise and release of pressure. It creates willing, trusting companions. Just my opinion of course.
 

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I don't know why anyone would not utilize treats as a tool, if that's what helps a young horse get over something emotional. It isn't a bribe, not really. Such negative connotations have no place in horse training . It's a way of distracting the horse's negative thinking, of bringing in a POSITIVE association to rub out the negative one. I suggest you use treats liberally for awhile, and then taper down to just one when you first approach with the saddle. you can associate that with horse having to put their head forward, and wait, 'click' and treat, and lay saddle pad on back. Repeat with saddle itself. Repeat with bringing girth up. Eventually, treat once only when the gear is first brought near horse.
I don't think knave saying not making a big deal of it meant feeding during saddling was frowned upon.
I don't know how many times I've watched people freak out and start screaming "whoa, whoa, whoa!" when a horse pulls back or scares himself intentionally or not intentionally. The only thing that does is confirm the horse needs to be scared because the human reacts.
Most of time if the behavior in these instances are ignored the horse figures out its not an issue whether he was creating the boogie man himself or not.
That's how I read, not making a big deal of it.
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I was taught to feed our horses as they were caught and saddled. When we had an honest saddle house with tie stalls, the manger was filled with hay and horses were given a big coffe can of grain in the morning as we saddled and another can as we unsaddled in the evening.
To this day, I saddle at my trailer, my horses get a nosebag of grain when I tie to the trailer.
I'm not a big "treat" person and don't hand feed cookies. I dont understand the treat/clicker training concepts, not bad mouthing, it's just not something I'm intetested in learning. But I see the benefit of graining everytime I catch my horses and tie them to the trailer.

I don't consider feeding my horses at the trailer/tie stall bribery because I'm not begging the horse to do as I want. He simply learns that he gets fed as he gets saddled or unsaddled.
Bribery would be if I begged a horse to step into the trailer and kept the grain can just out of reach to get him to step in.


If I was the OP I'd consider saddling untied like I do with my colts the first few saddlings until the matter was resolved. Having a horse that was chronic at pulling back, I'd rather not let the habit form rather than try to break it.
 

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@COWCHICK77 defined what I meant. I simply meant not act like it was that big a deal. Don’t stress or do any specific training for a bit, just ignore it and do what you always do.

I like to watch my father when a horse panics over some random thing on the ground. He always gives them this flabbergasted and annoyed look and says something particularly insulting to the horse, but he does it in a kind voice and shakes his head like they are just being childish.

I feel like his little mannerism of doing so actually keeps the whole thing from being a big deal. I mean, we all might struggle not to jump or react when a horse blows up next to us over something. That man can use that trick he has of saying something rude, like he were talking to a human, to keep himself calm I think. He won’t panic at all if a horse throws himself over even, but only step a step over out of the way and say whatever he has to say and shake his head, where I tend to scramble out of the way.

His calm keeps a horse calm, and his refusal to react to such things a horse should already know keeps it from becoming a bigger issue than some passing thing that it usually is. It’s like how your kid could say something that makes you think “what?!,” and if you say that and make a big deal out of it they cling to it. It becomes a part of them, a hill to die on, where if you just kind of acknowledge it and move on, often they do to.
 

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@Knave wow I wish I could be like your father. I think one of the worst things about me, around horses, is that I always freak out over every little thing. I know it's not helpful. I really try not to. I mean, OK, I guess not every little thing. But even the thought of a horse, for instance, pulling back fills me with anxiety.
 

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@Knave wow I wish I could be like your father. I think one of the worst things about me, around horses, is that I always freak out over every little thing. I know it's not helpful. I really try not to. I mean, OK, I guess not every little thing. But even the thought of a horse, for instance, pulling back fills me with anxiety.
That's why I'm going to take up my invitation to go ride with them this summer..lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Regarding feeding when saddling, it's also just good practice for ulcer prevention to make sure horses have feed in their stomach before a ride.
Huh, I was taught never to feed before or immediately after riding because it will cause colic. I didn't know about that!
 
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