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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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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.

Fay
 

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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.
 

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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #8
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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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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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,
Yes, that's about the idea I got from what you wrote to start with, though maybe you made it sound a bit more abrupt than it was. And of course, I'm not there, I can't know, just from your words, the details of the horse's behaviour and specifics & timing of your trainer's responses.

OK, if you are experienced - and successful - at training like this, then you may have good reason to believe the trainer's method is not 'out of line'. I personally have different experience. Just because other people also advocate something, it is no reason to believe it's Good or Right though. You'll find 'several' at least people who advocate all manner of things. Many 'gurus' advocate using aggressive roundpenning for eg. Many people still 'break' horses... many people apparently still think the world is flat... etc.

As said, I think it's very important to be going slow enough to *avoid* pushing him to that point of 'practicing' his fear/reaction. Every single time you allow him to panic/react, bearing in mind immediate associations, especially if you then quit doing anything(allow him to have his 'dance'), you are a) giving him more 'practice' at this being a frightening event and b)his reacting works to get you to quit.

Basically put, if you are working to avoid causing fear/panic, but it happens, then you do what you can to minimise & reassure/calm the horse ASAP. BUT if there is no/little fear involved, and the horse *responds* to something with an explosion, in order to make you stop, then you keep pressure on(so long as it's safe to do so - your safety comes ahead of training) until the horse quits, to ensure the horse doesn't come to associate his behaviour with you quitting doing something he doesn't want you to.

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.
Yeah, but is 'not having panic attacks' because of, or despite doing what you're doing? And is he truly comfortable & confident with what you're doing? I don't believe so, if he's still antsy. And yes, as this has become a 'trained' thing, that he's now had LOTS of practice at, it will have ALSO become habitual. Doing the same thing over & over does tend to make for 'habits'.

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.
Yeah, remember horses learn from *instant* associations, so if you're giving him treats - or whatever positive(reward) or negative(removal of 'pressure') reinforcement - while he's reacting, then THAT(& the attitude/emotion) is what is being reinforced. So it's not about how many treats, releases of pressure, or whatever you do, but what behaviour/emotion is happening at the time you give them. And likewise, if he now only gets reinforcement/reward after the event, then whatever he is doing/feeling THEN is what you're rewarding. It will have no bearing on what happened previously, even many seconds previously.

Maybe there isnt much more I can do besides give it time. I was just hoping someone had a tip I hadnt tried.
There absolutely is 'more that you can do' and if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got! Hopefully you will think about doing things differently, as it seems you haven't tried that. Hope my explanations help!
 

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Ithus is a great place to use clicker training.
First , investigate how it is done, via videos. If your horse has never been exposed to clicker training, then you need to get the absolute basics down first

So, once he knows that a click means a treT is coming, your first goal is to train him that you stand at his shoulder, he on,y gets a click/. Treat when he puts his head straight forward. Get this good, then. Move to where you are standing at his girth line. You wait until he, puts his head forward. Click and treat. And make sure YOU. Reach forward to his head position rather then giving over the treat with him reaching back toward you.
You want him to go to that position. Wait for the click, and stay there for the reward.

Then you do this with your hand on the girth or billets. When he assumes the position you click and treat. Do this many times. Then after you've clicked, and treated, you immediately lift the girth a notch or two. He will be so busy with his treat he will hardly notice

Over time, the horse knows that he is trading off the treat for the discomfort of the saddle going up. But the small action of allowing him to choose to put his head in the correct, forward position for the treat is a way of getting him in involved in and accepting of the process

This is my normal procedure for girthing up my lease horse, who now has a love/hate relationship with it.
 

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I like that idea Tinyliny. I will get a clicker today. Bet I can put it to use with more behaviors too.

I also got a saddle pad with a cinch that is easier to throw on and off so that I can cinch him a couple more times a week than my one riding day. He did well yesterday with no pulling back or wary looks. He did calmly walk away a couple of times I was pulling up on it but I just walked over to fetch him and brought him back.
 

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just make a clicking sound with your mouth. It's too much to hold the treat forward to his mouth AND the girth buckles AND the little clicker.


So, is he tied when you tack up, or ground tied?


mine is tied to a hitching post. He can move around a bit, but not walk away. if he moves sideways away from me, I just move with him, so that he gets no relief from moving away. I don't speed up the process, nor halt it for his moving around. if a horse needs to move a little, during the process, I'm ok with that, as long as he isn't swinging INTO me. Having him stand still is a good goal, but if he moves away, and you stop the process, bring him back, make him stand, he has earned a respite from the process by moving away from you, so he may likely want to do that again.
 

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I like that idea Tinyliny. I will get a clicker today. Bet I can put it to use with more behaviors too.

I also got a saddle pad with a cinch that is easier to throw on and off so that I can cinch him a couple more times a week than my one riding day. He did well yesterday with no pulling back or wary looks. He did calmly walk away a couple of times I was pulling up on it but I just walked over to fetch him and brought him back.
What is the cinch like on the saddle pad? I ask because my Cob originally had a felt type girth and would act cinchy and pull back when I would cinch her. It was the correct size, but what I noticed was that it looked like it was laying flat, but it was actually pinching her right underneath between her legs.
I just wonder if your horse is being pinched somewhere.
 

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just make a clicking sound with your mouth. It's too much to hold the treat forward to his mouth AND the girth buckles AND the little clicker.
I don't use a clicker either, but... my tongue gets sore doing what you suggested Tiny :lol: I just use the word 'Good!!' in an enthusiastic manner...
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I see. I got afraid to try it with him tied because once I thought he was going to hurt himself when he pulled back (he didnt). And then once he was doing better I tried it again and he pulled back again and then when he couldnt find relief that time he just laid down. I thought maybe giving him the chance to see he could move away and not be "claustrophobic" would help with how excited he got. But I see what you are saying a well. I guess I could give it a few tries again and see what happens. ????

Oh and I have rings hooked about chest height into a couple of my trees.
 

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He did it with the trainer's very nice and broken in leather girth. Then I had one that came with a saddle pad, not sure what it was made of but kind of like the straps you strap down a load with, and he did it with that girth too. The saddle he came with had a fleece girth that wasnt that great but that I used until I got my new one and same thing. When I got my new Weaver felt girth in (nice, not too hard or soft, not too thin or thick, great reviews) we had the same outcome. I am positive it is not the girth.

I have started lifting their front legs a couple of times in between walking them out to make sure it is isnt pinching and is nestled well.

I will say that he is kind of a turd though... a loveable turd but still onery. He waits to sneak in the gate behind us. I have watched him bite his mate on the butt when his mate was tied up... just because he could. Things like that. So I have to wonder if Tiny is right and now he is leaning more towards I am doing it cause I get away with it rather than because I am scared.
 
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