The Horse Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 156 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I’m new to the horse forum but here goes nothing. I partially lease this pony named Betty. She’s a pony and a mare so she has quite the attitude. When I put her saddle and girth on (I don’t slam the saddle down or tighten the girth all at once or too fast) she “bites”. What I mean, is she pins her ears, throws her head back and bites the air next close to you but not close enough to actually bite (most of the time anyways). The only advise I’ve gotten is to whack her but it (understandably) makes her want to bite me more and puts her in a bad mood for a few minutes. I’ve also tried ignoring it and pushing her head away but she still does it. The last thing I’ve tried is something I read. Kicking her leg lightly to redirect her attention (not to cause pain) and then making her walk for a bit. That hasn’t done anything either, it doesn’t redirect her attention unless I kick her really hard (which puts her in a bad mood).

She’s not by any means a biter, this is the only thing she “bites” at. She’s a healthy 11 year old pony and doesn’t have anything medically wrong with her. Does anybody know how to deal with this? Any and all help is appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
741 Posts
The response you're describing is called being "girthy." This response is an indication of pain or could be a habit that was created out of past pain. This is not an attitude, this is not being mean - this is her trying to tell you "that hurts!!" The most common cause of a girthy horse is gastric ulcers, and when you tighten the girth, you're irritating those ulcers in her stomach. You should talk to the leaser about how long this behavior has been going on and ask if she/he could call a vet out to tell you what the best steps forward are in regards to diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,398 Posts
I know you say she is medically sound, but it sounds like pain: back pain (possibly due to poor saddle fit) or maybe ulcers. Does she bit both when you put the saddle on her back and when you girth her up?

I am a cheater. When I had a lesson horse that had a reputation for biting when tacking up or hoof picking, I gave him hay while I was tacking him up. So I didn't have any problems.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,421 Posts
My gelding does the same thing but he will try and bite me. I've been using treats like a peice of carrot. He gets dancing around after saddle is on.

When I hook up cinch he starts tossing head pinning ears bitting at lead rope. Before I even try to do up cinch I give him a peice of carrot.

Grab cinch put strap through cinch ring,give another peice of carrot. Then slowly tighten cinch. I'll give him another peice of carrot in-between tightening keeps him busy. He still has his ears flat back, but doesn't toss head and bite at stuff.

I also use alfalfa cubes broken into smaller pieces.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
The response you're describing is called being "girthy." This response is an indication of pain or could be a habit that was created out of past pain. This is not an attitude, this is not being mean - this is her trying to tell you "that hurts!!" The most common cause of a girthy horse is gastric ulcers, and when you tighten the girth, you're irritating those ulcers in her stomach. You should talk to the leaser about how long this behavior has been going on and ask if she/he could call a vet out to tell you what the best steps forward are in regards to diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention.
The person I’m leasing her owns the barn and is the riding instructor. Since I only partial lease I don’t deal with the vet, farrier, etc. The owner/instructor helps around the barn and stays on top of this stuff, they even just took a horse to a vet hospital to get them checked for ulcers. Also her sister (the horse trainer at the barn) rides this pony once a week so I don’t think it’s medical. I think it’s just a habit. I do remember when she was younger (she was born and raised at this barn) they had to do some special thing related to the girth, put it on really slowly or something like that so maybe she used to have pain with it and it’s habit. But it’s mostly when I put the saddle on her back rather than the girth. I can’t say I’m too knowledgeable about this but one thing that’s certain is that it’s not medical and has been going on her whole life. I’m guessing it’s a habit, do you know how I break this habit?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
I know you say she is medically sound, but it sounds like pain: back pain (possibly due to poor saddle fit) or maybe ulcers. Does she bit both when you put the saddle on her back and when you girth her up?

I am a cheater. When I had a lesson horse that had a reputation for biting when tacking up or hoof picking, I gave him hay while I was tacking him up. So I didn't have any problems.
She does do it for both, mostly when I put the saddle on but she also does when I tighten the girth. She doesn’t do it after, more of as I’m lifting it to put on her back. The saddle was fit for her (it’s not mine, it’s hers) but I do think she’s getting a new saddle soon because hers is old and the leather is kind of wearing away.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
The response you're describing is called being "girthy." This response is an indication of pain or could be a habit that was created out of past pain. This is not an attitude, this is not being mean - this is her trying to tell you "that hurts!!" The most common cause of a girthy horse is gastric ulcers, and when you tighten the girth, you're irritating those ulcers in her stomach. You should talk to the leaser about how long this behavior has been going on and ask if she/he could call a vet out to tell you what the best steps forward are in regards to diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention.
I forgot to mention along with the thing she used to have to have done with the girth, she wears a gel pad and has this grouper (I think it’s called?) that attaches to the back of the saddle and to her tail since she hates when the saddle is too far forward (which I don’t put it too far forward anyways, mostly just to make sure it doesn’t move forward during the ride) so I don’t think it'd be pain although I’m not positive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,398 Posts
It's hard to know just based on what you're saying, but if she needs a crupper just for a normal ride, and she wants to bite when you put on her saddle, it sounds like maybe her saddle doesn't fit. At least, that would be my first guess.

I'm no expert here, so take it with a grain of salt.

I know from experience that horse owners, barn owners, and instructors can all talk a great talk about the healthcare their horses get, and how well their tack fits, but a lot of times there is a lot of exaggeration and even misinformation there. And it's hard to talk about things like this to them when you're leasing, because they can be really dismissive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
It's hard to know just based on what you're saying, but if she needs a crupper just for a normal ride, and she wants to bite when you put on her saddle, it sounds like maybe her saddle doesn't fit. At least, that would be my first guess.

I'm no expert here, so take it with a grain of salt.

I know from experience that horse owners, barn owners, and instructors can all talk a great talk about the healthcare their horses get, and how well their tack fits, but a lot of times there is a lot of exaggeration and even misinformation there. And it's hard to talk about things like this to them when you're leasing, because they can be really dismissive.
It definitely is hard to talk to them about this stuff...They mentioned she’ll possibly be getting a new saddle soon so she doesn’t need the crupper. They said only if it’s the right price... and I can’t afford a saddle especially because I might outgrow her soon. What should I do until then? They probably won’t listen to me is there anything I could do on my own?
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
22,858 Posts
She’s a pony and a mare so she has quite the attitude.
While ponies & mares often get bad attitude blamed on being a pony or a mare, and ponies are more frequently handled by kids & people who don't train them well, but that is by no means a 'thing' just because it is a pony or a mare. ;-)

pins her ears, throws her head back and bites the air next close to you but not close enough to actually bite (most of the time anyways). The only advise I’ve gotten is to whack her but it (understandably) makes her want to bite me more and puts her in a bad mood
Biting when saddling can be a learned behaviour, if an 'assertive' horse has tried it & learned that it works for them, to stop the unpleasantness of being saddled. Far more commonly though, it's a reaction to pain/discomfort. Be that from saddle, girth, ulcers, etc. That she bites the air not you suggests that it's a pain response(be that current or previous) but she's learned that it doesn't work for her & that she will be punished if she actually bites AT someone.

So... if she actually goes to bite YOU, then, almost regardless of cause, I'd punish her strongly for it, because it's a dangerous behaviour. Horses need *instant* consequences to associate cause & effect, so best in this case would be if you had a hoofpick, something spikey, that *she* would punish *herself* with, *as* she bit. BUT doesn't sound like she is biting you, so I wouldn't think punishment was appropriate for that. And remember, punishment may just cause her to become worse - after all, if you hurt her, she says 'ow!' with her teeth, to tell you to stop, then you hurt her further for THAT...

So if she is biting the air only, I would not worry about 'correcting' her, aside from looking to correct the *cause* of her discomfort. Which should, unless it's become a habit, mean she will stop doing it. If she doesn't stop & you are absolutely positive there is no physical cause, then, with reward based training you can modify this behaviour.

She’s a healthy 11 year old pony and doesn’t have anything medically wrong with her.
How do you know this? Chiropractic vet or such checks her out? No ulcers? No sore back, etc? And saddle issues, hurting when being girthed or ridden are not generally classed as 'medical', so perhaps that hasn't been considered. If it all has, then I imagine this has come from past associated pain & become habitual.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
She’s a healthy 11 year old pony and doesn’t have anything medically wrong with her.
How do you know this? Chiropractic vet or such checks her out? No ulcers? No sore back, etc? And saddle issues, hurting when being girthed or ridden are not generally classed as 'medical', so perhaps that hasn't been considered. If it all has, then I imagine this has come from past associated pain & become habitual.[/QUOTE]
Thanks for the reply. I know there’s nothing medically wrong with her in regards to regular vet check ups. I’m not sure about anything else though as I only partially lease her. I know she’s possibly getting a new saddle but since I might outgrow her soon, I can’t afford one, and other people ride her, I have to wait until the owners of the barn and her want to. And they said only if it’s the right price a couple weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything else about it since. Is there anything I can do for now? She shows no signs of discomfort when I ride her (no bucking or anything). What are the other signs of stomach ulcers (although I think it’s from the saddle mostly not the girth)? Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
48,594 Posts
IT's tough when you have little control over the horse's care and training. I'm sure they take good care of this pony, so I am not saying they are doing her wrong. But, they are more likely into a just 'get it done' sort of attitude. I'd be curious as to how the others deal with this, or if the pony gives them any sass at all.


Here's a suggestion that you might enjoy. It's a form of clicker trainin. You will be training this horse to keep her head forward, facing forward, in order to recieve a treat.


YOu start by doing this away from saddling. just have her loosely tied. she CAN move her head around back to her shoulder, where you will be standing. But, you will encourage her to face forward. When she moves her head forward, you make a click sound, and bring your hand TO her mouth with a small treat.
She gets the treat ONLY if she has moved her head forward, at least some, and if she reaches back for it, use your fingers to tap her face and ask her to move it forward.



Start small, tolerate some mistakes, use tiny treats. Do not give her anything if she reaches back and tries to mug you for treats. Ask for her to move her face forward, click and treat. Do this a lot. Maybe take a day where you don't ride, but spend a lot of time doing this instead.



Your goal is that you stand by her shoulder , obviously holding a treat, and she will eventually know that as soon as she puts here head straight forward, you will click and treat her.


eventually, you do this while holding the saddle in one hand, treat in the other. *use a vocal clicking sound. Then, you will stand, wait, she goes forward, you click/ treat and put the saddle pad on. Rinse and repeat with saddle. Again for reaching under for the girth. (you do these actions while she is enjoying her treat. If you need more time, give a bigger treat, or a chewy one)


In effect, she will know what you are planning to do, but she will choose to allow you to proceed becasue SHE gets something out of it herself. When it's all done, treat again, and distract her with a short walk, and some hand grazing.



Distraction is key, and making the process as pleasant as possible.


I do not think one should hit her for air biting, but I do think one can discourage her from reaching around BEFORE she actually bites. Using my 'program' will maker her want to stay facing forward, becauase that is the only place she EVER gets treated.


Meaning, make sure that ANY time you treat her, you tell her to face forward (gesture with your hand) , click, and treat. NEVER allow her to reach back and take the treat. You get her compliance, then YOU bring the treat to HER mouth, never the convers.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
22,858 Posts
Didn't read replies when here before, now I am. But first...

I’m new to the horse forum but here goes nothing.
My apologies, forgot to say welcome to the forum!

one thing that’s certain is that it’s not medical and has been going on her whole life. I’m guessing it’s a habit, do you know how I break this habit?
So, assuming not medical & esp as you say it's when you put the saddle on, rather than just when you do up the girth, I'd be thinking saddle fit was a prob. So I'd rule out that, before just attempting to teach her to 'put up & shut up'.

Assuming it is now purely behavioural - a habit - and she's done it her whole life(don't recall seeing how old she is) and that you only 'part lease' her, it will be difficult/impossible to stop it all together, but you might be able to teach her not to do it with you, if you're consistent & patient(could take months) & your timing is good. Very basically, I'd use Rambo's kind of tactic & reward her for NOT doing it whenever you can.

Try to do things gradually enough that you can reward her & then back off *before* she feels the need to do it. If at first that's holding the saddle over her back but not putting it on, so be it, that's where you start. Hold it there a second, reward her for doing nothing, take it away. Repeat over, until she's perfectly fine about it, before laying it on her back momentarily, treating, taking it off... etc.

I forgot to mention along with the thing she used to have to have done with the girth, she wears a gel pad and has this grouper (I think it’s called?) that attaches to the back of the saddle and to her tail since she hates when the saddle is too far forward (which I don’t put it too far forward anyways, mostly just to make sure it doesn’t move forward during the ride) so I don’t think it'd be pain although I’m not positive.
It's a 'crupper'(you'll remember if you think 'crapper', being where it sits closest to!). Yeah, if she has to have a crupper for normal riding(rather than just going down steep hills & such) & gel pad to make it tolerable for her, doesn't sound like the saddle fits very well & is likely uncomfortable if not actually painful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Didn't read replies when here before, now I am. But first...

I’m new to the horse forum but here goes nothing.
My apologies, forgot to say welcome to the forum!

one thing that’s certain is that it’s not medical and has been going on her whole life. I’m guessing it’s a habit, do you know how I break this habit?
So, assuming not medical & esp as you say it's when you put the saddle on, rather than just when you do up the girth, I'd be thinking saddle fit was a prob. So I'd rule out that, before just attempting to teach her to 'put up & shut up'.

Assuming it is now purely behavioural - a habit - and she's done it her whole life(don't recall seeing how old she is) and that you only 'part lease' her, it will be difficult/impossible to stop it all together, but you might be able to teach her not to do it with you, if you're consistent & patient(could take months) & your timing is good. Very basically, I'd use Rambo's kind of tactic & reward her for NOT doing it whenever you can.

Try to do things gradually enough that you can reward her & then back off *before* she feels the need to do it. If at first that's holding the saddle over her back but not putting it on, so be it, that's where you start. Hold it there a second, reward her for doing nothing, take it away. Repeat over, until she's perfectly fine about it, before laying it on her back momentarily, treating, taking it off... etc.

I forgot to mention along with the thing she used to have to have done with the girth, she wears a gel pad and has this grouper (I think it’s called?) that attaches to the back of the saddle and to her tail since she hates when the saddle is too far forward (which I don’t put it too far forward anyways, mostly just to make sure it doesn’t move forward during the ride) so I don’t think it'd be pain although I’m not positive.
It's a 'crupper'(you'll remember if you think 'crapper', being where it sits closest to!). Yeah, if she has to have a crupper for normal riding(rather than just going down steep hills & such) & gel pad to make it tolerable for her, doesn't sound like the saddle fits very well & is likely uncomfortable if not actually painful.
Now I think it’s her saddle fit. The owner/instructor said that the saddle fitter came and they might buy her a new one if it’s the right price a few weeks ago... haven’t heard about it since. I feel awful that I can’t do anything especially if she’s in pain. I’m definitely going to try the click/treat thing until she can get a new saddle (and it’ll probably be a habit by then anyways) She’s 11 now, I kind of remember her when she was younger and I think she was really fussy about it but I don’t really remember. I don’t really know if me talking to them will change their mind if they are already making a decision and they’re on vacation now so... Is there some type of massage I could give her in case it is causing her pain? Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Can you ride her bareback?

& agree muchly with Tiny's training tip too - just didn't see second page when replied last!
I wish! I can hardly ride with no stirrups for a few minutes so I don’t think I’ll survive a full bareback ride...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
IT's tough when you have little control over the horse's care and training. I'm sure they take good care of this pony, so I am not saying they are doing her wrong. But, they are more likely into a just 'get it done' sort of attitude. I'd be curious as to how the others deal with this, or if the pony gives them any sass at all.


Here's a suggestion that you might enjoy. It's a form of clicker trainin. You will be training this horse to keep her head forward, facing forward, in order to recieve a treat.


YOu start by doing this away from saddling. just have her loosely tied. she CAN move her head around back to her shoulder, where you will be standing. But, you will encourage her to face forward. When she moves her head forward, you make a click sound, and bring your hand TO her mouth with a small treat.
She gets the treat ONLY if she has moved her head forward, at least some, and if she reaches back for it, use your fingers to tap her face and ask her to move it forward.



Start small, tolerate some mistakes, use tiny treats. Do not give her anything if she reaches back and tries to mug you for treats. Ask for her to move her face forward, click and treat. Do this a lot. Maybe take a day where you don't ride, but spend a lot of time doing this instead.



Your goal is that you stand by her shoulder , obviously holding a treat, and she will eventually know that as soon as she puts here head straight forward, you will click and treat her.


eventually, you do this while holding the saddle in one hand, treat in the other. *use a vocal clicking sound. Then, you will stand, wait, she goes forward, you click/ treat and put the saddle pad on. Rinse and repeat with saddle. Again for reaching under for the girth. (you do these actions while she is enjoying her treat. If you need more time, give a bigger treat, or a chewy one)


In effect, she will know what you are planning to do, but she will choose to allow you to proceed becasue SHE gets something out of it herself. When it's all done, treat again, and distract her with a short walk, and some hand grazing.



Distraction is key, and making the process as pleasant as possible.


I do not think one should hit her for air biting, but I do think one can discourage her from reaching around BEFORE she actually bites. Using my 'program' will maker her want to stay facing forward, becauase that is the only place she EVER gets treated.


Meaning, make sure that ANY time you treat her, you tell her to face forward (gesture with your hand) , click, and treat. NEVER allow her to reach back and take the treat. You get her compliance, then YOU bring the treat to HER mouth, never the convers.
Thanks I will definitely do this! I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give them sass (although I haven’t seen them tacking her up for a long time) so that’s what makes me question if it’s pain. But they don’t put up with it at all and she knows I won’t much unless she actually bites me. But as people are mentioning, she’s not biting me and never has, just the air so I don’t think punishing (for lack of a better word) her for biting will help. So basically what I’ll do is make a clicking noise when her head is forward and I bring the treat to her (not the other way around) and eventually I’ll be able to click and she’ll put her head forward automatically. Do I have that right? If she’s trained to go faster with a cluck, should I make a different noise and if so, what? Thank you!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
101 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give them sass (although I haven’t seen them tacking her up for a long time) so that’s what makes me question if it’s pain. But they don’t put up with it at all and she knows I won’t much unless she actually bites me.
I mean that she does give other people sass but not the trainer/owner of her
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
48,594 Posts
Thanks I will definitely do this! I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give them sass (although I haven’t seen them tacking her up for a long time) so that’s what makes me question if it’s pain. But they don’t put up with it at all and she knows I won’t much unless she actually bites me. But as people are mentioning, she’s not biting me and never has, just the air so I don’t think punishing (for lack of a better word) her for biting will help. So basically what I’ll do is make a clicking noise when her head is forward and I bring the treat to her (not the other way around) and eventually I’ll be able to click and she’ll put her head forward automatically. Do I have that right? If she’s trained to go faster with a cluck, should I make a different noise and if so, what? Thank you!


not really. No, you don't click to make her do something. The click only comes when she has done what she knows is the right thing. YOu have to get her to move her head forward by either waiting until she does it by accident/happenstance, or, you signal her to move her head forward , by, for instance, waving your hand at her , sort of 'air pushing' her head forward. Or, even tapping her nose so that she moves it away from you if she has brought it htat close.



The click only signals "YES!" that it! and reward is coming.It should come as close to instantly after the desired behavior is done as possible It is not a command. NEVER.
 
1 - 20 of 156 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top