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Discussion Starter #81
@Horsef I’ll have to give that a try when I have the extra time. Just a thought your idea gave me, I don’t tighten the girth all at once but I don’t give her a lot of time between when I do tighten it. So maybe if I just tightened it very slowly, like 1 hole then do something else until it’s tightened . It seems to be as soon as I start to tighten it to the 4th hole on either side (kind of weird how it’s always the same hole no matter how tight it is on the other side), she starts getting more mad about it so maybe if I gave her a longer break before and after that she’ll be happier. And for her, the 4th hole on each side is not quite tight enough. Thanks!
 

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OK...

Slapping her is very likely to (continue to) make it worse. She is saying "Stop! You're really irritating me" and you then slap her for telling you this, so she is feeling that her first 'correction' was not effective enough, so is assertive enough to realise she needs to get more 'effective'. If you are going to use punishment, no fluffing around - you need to Make It Big(plurry Deadpool, got me listening to Wham!...). You need to punish her hard enough that regardless of her reasoning, how unfair it may be, whatever, she SERIOUSLY wants to avoid that happening again & thinks very seriously before doing it again. If you have to repeat punishment over & over, then it's not effective and is likely to only make matters worse.

The other thing is timing - regardless of whether you're using punishment or reinforcement, it needs to happen *at the time of* the behaviour you want to effect, not after, even by a second. As Rambo & Horsef have described, doing it in such a way that causes the horse to 'punish herself' is more effective, as it happens *at the time of* the behaviour. Doing it without looking, without emotion also helps to 'disassociate' the punishment with anger or other unfair & unhelpful emotions.

But all that said... while I'd be prepared to punish her for actual biting - because it's too dangerous to fluff around with - think I've 'gone on' here about addressing motivation already, and punishment is not going to help change that at all. I think of punishment as more like 'first aid' or an 'emergency brake' - sometimes necessary in the heat of the moment, but not something to use in general management, best avoided if possible. So I'd be more inclined to do something like what Horsef describes above - *prove* to her it's not as bad as she thinks(& confrontations are only making her belief even stronger & she's had YEARS of these 'lessons', so it will take a LOT of time & patience to 'unteach'). The gist is, you will do something at a level she can tolerate, repeatedly. Ie. touch the girth & back off and reward her for tolerating it. Do this until she is happily standing for it, before 'fluffing' with the girth for longer, or whatever. You NEVER do more than she is ready for at that stage. Realise that every time you go 'too far' and she gets aggressive & you have to resort to punishment, you are further confirming her existing attitude, so undermining any trust too - you are effectively showing her, again, that it all IS as bad as it seems!

So... the way I see it, you have 3 choices. You can punish her, instantly, strongly enough that she is seriously unlikely to try it again. Be prepared though, to do it again, and MUCH harder, if it wasn't effective. Also be prepared that she may 'up the ante' herself & get seriously aggressive, &/or she may just try something different - kicking at you for eg. Or you can use gradual desensitisation combined with rewards, to change her whole attitude. Or you can just tie her in such a way that she can't bite or kick, and just ignore what she thinks about it and just do it.
 

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she starts getting more mad about it so maybe if I gave her a longer break before and after that she’ll be happier. And for her, the 4th hole on each side is not quite tight enough. Thanks!
No, the point of the exercise is to prove to her it's OK. So you DON'T continue to just tighten the girth, regardless how slowly. So if she can tolerate it up the the 3rd hole, that is as far as I'd go, until she is GOOD about that. Then you can add one more hole - where it used to be too much for her - and that will hopefully be the new 'uncomfortable but tolerable' level, until she becomes happy about that.
 

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Discussion Starter #84
@loosie thanks for clarifying. I’m still a bit confused. So once I get to the third hole and she tolerates it, what do I do after I reward her, take the saddle off? But wouldn’t that not work because they only think in the second? Or do I just do something else for a bit and then tighten it more? And then when she does try to bite I should let her punish herself by meeting her in the middle with my elbow without emotion and then continuing on? And if I do take the saddle off, do I just leave her for the day or put it back on a few minutes after?
 

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@loosie thanks for clarifying. I’m still a bit confused. So once I get to the third hole and she tolerates it, what do I do after I reward her, take the saddle off? But wouldn’t that not work because they only think in the second? Or do I just do something else for a bit and then tighten it more? And then when she does try to bite I should let her punish herself by meeting her in the middle with my elbow without emotion and then continuing on? And if I do take the saddle off, do I just leave her for the day or put it back on a few minutes after?
What I would do at that point (and I might be wrong, more experienced people will correct me) is take her out in the arena, do a bit of ground work and reach for the girth to see the reaction (without looking straight at her). If she starts to complain, redirect your hand to do something else (like scratch her), do a bit more ground work, reach again. On an on until she doesn't react. But you can't be doing this and having a lesson at a specific time and be in a rush. It takes however long it takes. Even if you don't ride that time. If you don't get to no reaction in a reasonable amount of time, stop on a high note (her doing something well, not necessarily anything to do with the girth). I personally don't treat my mare (because she is a fat glutton and looses her mind completely if there are treats involved and all learning stops for her to salivate and open her eyes and ears and nostrils to their widest settings) but if your horse is ok with treats, throw some in as well - not for the girth though but for the new groundwork figure you are teaching her. That way girth is a non event and this shiny new figure is the focus. The point of the exercise is to make the girth a non-event.

What I also always do with all the horses I ride is to tighten one hole at a time on each side. Tighten, go to the other side, scratch he neck a bit, tighten, go around, tighten, tidy up the grooming box, go around, brush the mane, tighten - and so on.

And I never tighten all the way in the stall, I always take them out and tighten the rest in the arena, after hand walking a bit. I usually leave the last hole to tighten after mounting (from the mounting block, you can't really do that if you mount from the ground).

It sounds like a lot of work but it really isn't and once they relax to the girth it's not a big thing and you are spending time with your horse.
 

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@loosie thanks for clarifying. I’m still a bit confused. So once I get to the third hole and she tolerates it, what do I do after I reward her, take the saddle off? But wouldn’t that not work because they only think in the second? Or do I just do something else for a bit and then tighten it more? And then when she does try to bite I should let her punish herself by meeting her in the middle with my elbow without emotion and then continuing on? And if I do take the saddle off, do I just leave her for the day or put it back on a few minutes after?
Just want to say real quick; they live in the moment, but they learn and remember everything through association. Next time the saddle goes on, she'll remember "last time the saddle went on the girth got a bit tight but not bad and then it stopped and went away, instead of getting worse. Maybe it's not that scary". It's a long process of course, because so far her knowledge of this has been very steadily "bad" and that was reinforced to her every time. That association was made rock-hard in her mind, so it will take patience, time, and repetition of it **not** getting bad before she can really believe it. Doing it this way, the idea is that it never gets to the point she tries to bite. What you want is "good feelings" and good feelings only. Because she will really remember feeling a bad emotion and that reinforces in her mind that it's a bad situation that she must try to get out of.
Here is a video I recommend watching; I don't really mean it as a step-by-step but rather so you can get a better understanding of this concept.
I really recommend watching the entire video, but specifically nearer the end, is what made me think of this video for you. There he "controls" his horse's feelings by changing them to good as soon as they even start going a little bit bad. Building a strong foundation like this with a lot of patience and attention to tiny details, he "fixes" the problem before it even gets bad (or before it even becomes a problem, really) and without any rough handling, punishment, etc, and therefor builds his horse's trust in him to be a leader and to keep interactions and situations *good*.
This is not a very popular or "traditional" "method" because many people see it as rewarding bad behaviour. And done incorrectly, it can be this. But if you really can get deep down to where you understand your horse's thoughts and feelings you can start tampering with things like this. Because then you're not really "rewarding" or "not rewarding" anything - you're keeping them in a happy and relaxed place. They get worried and you go "oh hold on, I see what you're worried about but lemme show you it's not actually bad". In this situation, what you want (Betty to be ok with the girth and not bite at you) doesn't have to be a trained thing - it can be, but it doesn't have to be. You could train the horse to stand still while you tighten the girth, **or** you can show the horse that the girth isn't scary and that it is ok, and then not biting at you will just be the natural outcome. The first involves making them do something, and rewarding the right response. The second involves being intune with their thoughts and feelings and showing them through repetition of the "scary thing" **not** being scary that they can be ok with it. And with this one, as soon as they start to get a little upset or worried, you do what you have to do to get them *not* worried or upset again. Whether that's scratches or taking the scary thing away far enough that it's not scary anymore. It's not a reward, it's just responding to their communication of "I don't like this".
This video explains this idea a bit. It's not a long video, and might not seem like it's showing much because this horse already trusts that it doesn't have to worry about things getting too scary from past experience. It's simple, straightforward, and it's precisely what I'm trying to explain.
Going back to the first video; with this you're practically, in a way, controlling their thoughts; making them feel the things you want them to, in a round-about way. It all starts with relaxation. You can't get anywhere good without starting relaxed. So you might need to start even without a girth involved, without a saddle involved and make sure you can be on that level of being relaxed and make sure you know how to recognize it and then start moving out of relaxation towards worry a little bit, then going back to relaxed and unworried. When I started trying this I spent a lot of time just outside in the pasture. Not wanting or expecting anything, but literally just being there, being in the moment and watching them. Just being part of every-day herd life. Sometimes I would head out planning to work, and then end up just "being" there with them. And I really needed that practice. I used to use very different sorts of "methods" with horses.
It might seem like quite a process, and it is definitely a journey, but I thoroughly enjoy this new side of things. Even aside from this particular problem, and just in your horse journey (and life, actually) overall, it's a very good thing to get into. These types of interactions with my horses, and just being in this mindset when I'm around them, is the most deeply calming thing I've ever experienced, strangely enough. I feel completely different than anything I'm usually used to feeling, after a session with my horses. In a word, it feels like you're completely grounded. I never before understood or had any interest in this type of thing, but having it happen in action has been a very interesting and enlightening process.

Now that's a wall of text, and I didn't even mean to. :smile: I hope in some measure it helps explain some of the "why"s behind the "do"s.
 

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Discussion Starter #87
@JoBlueQuarter thanks so much for the long response. I see what your saying but I have a small problem. I have a lesson today so I can’t really not put the girth in because in the end, it’ll have to be on and tight enough anyways. I’ll check out the videos as soon as I have a few minutes. Do you think if I did the general idea, putting the saddle and girth on, tightening it to the third hole and then taking it off a few times and then putting it on and tightening it work or no? If I did it, I’d probably do it 3-4 times depending on if she’s really dirty and I need to groom her for a while or if I just need a quick brush and then I can start tacking up.
 

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Discussion Starter #88
So I was running late and didn’t have time to do anything and she was the same and didn’t get better or worse when I put my elbow out without looking at her. She was pretty bad at one point and I tightened the girth really slow (like 20 sec for each hole) and she was much better. But next time I’m definitely going to take the saddle off a few times and not tighten the girth much. I also started click/treat and it went well. She seemed to get the hang of it but after I lifted a treat, she moved her head away from the object (a new sweat scraper since that’s all I had). But I’m reading an article about it so I should be fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #90
How are you getting on? Any new developments? If you don't mind sharing, of course.
Pretty good definitely getting better with everyone’s suggestions pretty much back to how she normally is (air biting). I used the elbow strategy and have been tightening the girth really slow. They’ve ordered her a new saddle so hopefully that might help. She’s been good riding, today we had a mini show just at our barn with people from our barn and she did amazing and we even won champion in the 2 foot division. She did buck once but I don’t think it’s because of the saddle, just because it’s getting cold here and she’s sensitive to weather changes.
 

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@JoBlueQuarter thanks so much for the long response. I see what your saying but I have a small problem. I have a lesson today so I can’t really not put the girth in because in the end, it’ll have to be on and tight enough anyways. I’ll check out the videos as soon as I have a few minutes. Do you think if I did the general idea, putting the saddle and girth on, tightening it to the third hole and then taking it off a few times and then putting it on and tightening it work or no? If I did it, I’d probably do it 3-4 times depending on if she’s really dirty and I need to groom her for a while or if I just need a quick brush and then I can start tacking up.
The point is, proving to her that you are considerate of her feelings, that you AREN'T going to do anything that hurts her(or causes her to worry/react about hurt). Therefore, no. There is no point in doing this if you're not going to... do it. If you're going to give preference to just riding anyway, to just doing it a few times & then tightening regardless, you're only proving to her that you don't care what she thinks. And no, if you're going to do this, the point is, to *avoid* making her 'really dirty'. Sorry for sounding so negative, but it seems you don't get the idea at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #92 (Edited)
@loosie Well I had a lesson scheduled I couldn’t just cancel it. I am at the very least somewhat considerate to her feelings, considering I started this forum rather than ignoring it... I don’t appreciate being called inconsiderate of her feelings especially since you don’t even know me or Betty. I can’t take everyone’s suggestions because a bunch of them are contradicting so I don’t want to confuse her and there’s just too many to do them all. I’ve been tightening it really slowly and petting her when she doesn’t react and she’s been better about it and doing the elbow thing when she does react. Also I think I see the point, that you can train them to do something (stand still for this girth) or make them actually like it. But is any horse actually ever going to enjoy getting the girth on? Probably not, there’s ways to make it more comfortable which is what I’m trying to do. Is there a way I can make her like it? Nope, again, I can only make it more comfortable. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think that doing that will make her necessarily like it, just desensitize her to it and possibly make her think I’m not going to tighten it (which I’ll have to do eventually, whether it be after a day or a year) and while that will help, I can use different strategies that will also help.
 

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I'm popping back in. I don't know if @Horsef's comment got lost or not, but I 100% agree with not doing all of the tightening in the stall. With my Pony, I get him to two or three holes on each side, but he really needs to be on four, especially if we're going to canter, because he is super round with no withers. After the two or three holes I walk him to the arena. I will usually tighten up one more then, sometimes just one on one side. Then I do his leg stretches. Then I tighten up one more side. I usually end up with three holes on the right and four on the left. Then after we've walked around in the arena for a couple of minutes and he's warmed up, I'll bring up the last side to four holes.

I will say, that back when he had a saddle that didn't fit, I also felt that I could solve the problem by just making the girth tighter, but it just made him unhappy and the saddle still didn't fit. I know you say they have ordered one for her. Hopefully it will fit. It's hard when it's not your horse.
 

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@ACinATX I didn’t see their response so thanks for pointing that out. I’ve tried that before but I don’t do it anymore. Basically it’s because one time I did that and couldn’t get it tightened enough and had to ride with a loose girth so I’ve been too anxious to try it again. I always like to have a backup plan so if I couldn’t get it tightened for some reason then I could do it before I get on. But if I wait till I get on and can’t get it, I can’t do anything about it besides tighten it once I’m on which I’m awful at. What I normally do is tighten it to 4 on one side and 3 on the other (it needs to be at least 4 on one side and 5 on the other, sometimes my instructor tells me to tighten it one more but sometimes she doesn’t so it might need to be 5 on each side). Then, I check the stirrups since other people ride her and then tighten it one more. After that, I put her bridle on and tighten it one more after.
 

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I am at the very least somewhat considerate to her feelings, considering I started this forum rather than ignoring it... I don’t appreciate being called inconsiderate
Of course you could have cancelled the lesson if you wanted to. I do believe you care about her, but you misunderstand what I was trying to say; IF you want to 'retrain' her & change her attitude - what has previously been taught to her over the years, that regardless what she thinks/says about it, people are just going to do stuff to her - you need to stop doing that. You cannot have your cake & eat it too(dunno why that's a saying - what's the point of cake??) - IF you are just going to have a little play at it but then just go and tack her up anyway, then you are only *further confirming* that you're the same as everyone else.

I can’t take everyone’s suggestions because a bunch of them are contradicting
Of course. And you'll find that's always the way. What's the saying... ask 5 horse people a question & you'll get at least 10 contradictory opinions... You just have to learn as much as you can, so you can then listen to everyone and make the most objective decisions possible on which bits to 'try' or take on board. If you just try to follow any or all advice blindly, you won't be doing yourself or the horse any favours. So... no offense taken if you don't take my advice - you've just got to go with what YOU feel is right at the time & keep learning & remain open minded so you can do better when you learn better.

But is any horse actually ever going to enjoy getting the girth on? Probably not, there’s ways to make it more comfortable which is what I’m trying to do. Is there a way I can make her like it? Nope, again, I can only make it more comfortable.
Yes & no... IME you can indeed train a horse to be perfectly fine about getting the girth done up. I do it all the time. You could take that further, by strongly associating it with something desirable, to teach them to actually enjoy it. Just like getting them to come at liberty & stand *eagerly* at the block to be mounted, for eg. But no, in this horse's case, with years of 'practice' of it being Bad News, I sus the best you'll get is tolerance - her understanding that it won't be so bad with you & you will be considerate of her feelings. But as said, with her years of being taught the opposite, it will take a lot of patience to change her attitude about it. You need to take as long as it takes, can't just do 5 minutes here & there & same as you've always done the rest of the time.
 

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@ACinATX I didn’t see their response so thanks for pointing that out. I’ve tried that before but I don’t do it anymore. Basically it’s because one time I did that and couldn’t get it tightened enough and had to ride with a loose girth so I’ve been too anxious to try it again. I always like to have a backup plan so if I couldn’t get it tightened for some reason then I could do it before I get on. But if I wait till I get on and can’t get it, I can’t do anything about it besides tighten it once I’m on which I’m awful at. What I normally do is tighten it to 4 on one side and 3 on the other (it needs to be at least 4 on one side and 5 on the other, sometimes my instructor tells me to tighten it one more but sometimes she doesn’t so it might need to be 5 on each side). Then, I check the stirrups since other people ride her and then tighten it one more. After that, I put her bridle on and tighten it one more after.
Is there a reason that you cannot tighten further whilst mounted and ask your instructor to help you from the ground? As far as I know it's done all the time, even encouraged because the saddle settles further with the rider's weight.

I get a bit of a feeling that you are slightly intimidated by your instructor and that your instructor is brushing off your concerns. There is absolutely no reason for you to ride with a loose girth. You HAVE to be comfortable enough with your instructor to ask for help - but especially with such basic safety. If you aren't - you need to desensitize yourself (see what I did there? Ha!). It could literally save your life. If your instructor is being rude and giving you attitude - blast her. You are a paying customer and you have an issue - she should be helping you with that issue. Don't avoid getting on with a loose girth. Even if you are on the Olympics team, the instructor should be perfectly happy to help you with your girth. I am sure plenty Olympics trainers have been helping with girths whilst their charge is mounted.

Are these group lessons or individual tuition? I understand that you might not want to hold back a whole group with questions about girths but just helping you tighten the girth is not going to take a lot of time for the instructor.
 

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Discussion Starter #97
@loosie yeah that’s sort of what I was trying to say. You can train a horse to stand still but you can’t make them like it. As you said, you can take it a step further and associate it with something good but as you mentioned it will take years for me to be able to do that especially with my experience in horse training (none) and how Betty’s been treated with the girth. That’s fine with me but I’ll probably not be riding her in a few years.
@ACinATX yes and no. I’m sort of intimidated by her but I just don’t like asking for help in general because it embarrasses me for some reason. She’s very judgey and I hate being judged. But I also like her a lot and if she sees the girth was too loose, she tightens it for me. This was just one time a long time ago but now I’m too nervous to do it again. I could tighten it once I’m on but my instructor tried teaching it to me and it took me 10 minutes just to go up one hole on one of the sides. I will try to tighten it right before I get on next time I ride.

Most are individual lessons some are just with one other person but sometimes I just ride, don’t lesson. When I just ride, she’s either teaching a lesson and I don’t want to disturb her or she’s not in the arena (I am supervised, my parents normally watch me ride but they’re not allowed inside the barn or she makes sure someone very experienced is riding at the same time). Worst case scenario I have to ask her to tighten it which isn’t that bad so I will try it.
 

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Discussion Starter #98
Also forgot to mention for the saddle, I hope it fits too. I think it hopefully should, the saddle guy (not sure if it was a saddle fitter or not. He had a bunch of saddles with him and the people were testing the saddles) was there a few days ago for other people and that’s when they ordered the saddle. And about a month ago the owners/trainer said that the saddle fitter had come out for Betty (and probably the other people he was there for the other day) so I think it will fit which I’m very excited for!
 

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Well the inevitable happened. I got bit. It was when I was picking her hoof, I’m not sure why, she wasn’t lame or anything and the farrier came a couple days ago (maybe that’s why?). Also, it wasn’t hard more of a nip, it hurt of course but didn’t break the skin and just left a small mark so I guess I’m lucky. I didn’t punish her because by the time I was thinking clear enough to do it, 2 seconds were up and I didn’t want to confuse her. Then she was pretty much perfect tacking up. And after I untacked her, she blew air in my nose a few times and had her ears pricked so that made my day. I don’t know what’s up with her because she was perfect for the saddle and the girth. It seems like she always needs to complain about something (not saying that’s what’s happening I’m not exactly sure why).

Anybody have any similar experiences? Or ideas of why this is happening? Should I stop giving her treats? I don’t think it has to do with treats but of course I have no clue. I taught her some manners and so I never give her treats if she’s nosing me. I wait until she moves her head away (she’s gotten good at this now) and then bringing the treat to her, not the other way around.
 

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Also, am I doing something wrong? Whenever she tries to bite, I jab her with my elbow without looking and I haven’t had to do that for a while and she’s been really good about it. Today, I just had this feeling she wasn’t having it when I was about to lift her hoof. I ignored it and lifted her hoof anyways and felt her turn her head around. So I butted her (didn’t turn around or look at her) and she bit me. I know I should’ve have done this (at least I think) but I dropped her hoof since I was shocked and it was too late to do anything about it by then. I lifted her hoof again and she was fine. I did her back one and she was fine. She had a nice expression on her face when I finished her other hooves (about a minute after she bit me) and I had a treat so I gave it to her.
 
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