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I have owned my quarter horse gelding for nearly ten years now and spent more hours trail riding than I can calculate. He is 27 now and you would never believe it watching him run around! In the past four years or so he has had this odd behavior (that only happens when we ride) of pawing the ground, shaking his head (sometimes violently), and reaching around to the girth and biting it. It usually happens about ten minutes into the ride and doesn't stop til we get home. It really seems like he gets incredibly itchy and is so distracted that he has stumbled, bucked, pawed, and is generally miserable. He does this off and on any time of the year, I have tried different saddles, bridles, walking him, taking the saddle off and carrying it, checked his whole body for bugs/flies, I even tried not using fly spray thinking he may be allergic (he wasn't). I spoke with my vet about this and tried Benadryl but that just made him tired and still itchy. I have been riding for 25 years and am a very good rider to give you a sense of my level. He is an incredibly well trained (I can ride him with nothing- Parelli style) and sweet horse, and yet when this happens he just turns into an itchy monster.

Has anyone ever experienced anything like this or have any thoughts?
 

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Something is wrong with him. He is hurting somewhere.

Could be any number of things, cracked rib, kissing spine, thorn in flesh under girth area, deep seated abscess, internal organ problem. Could be torn muscles too.

Better question is why are you continuing to ride him when it is obvious something is terribly wrong with him?

This horse is very old to boot. And he is NOT itchy, he is in pain somewhere, and you are ignoring it.

Vet, and mean a good equine only vet, is needed as well as diagnostics to see what is going on inside him. X-rays, MRI's, or whatever is needed to see why he is acting this way.

In the meantime? Stay off of him.
 

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Yeah I vote for a pain issue as well. He is doing everything but screaming at you he is uncomfy.
 

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The problem with trying various saddles is you are basically dealing with three trees, regardless of the style of saddle. At 27 I'm guessing his back has dropped and the saddle is resting on him front and back only and not the middle portion.(bridging). If this is what is going on, you need to switch to a swayback pad or one with shims and shim pockets.
 

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I would suggest giving him a good dose of Bute or Banamine for two consecutive days and then riding him. If he rides better, you know you have a pain problem. I have done this for several different problems on horses that Vets said were not in pain. If you give a horse a big dose of a good pain killer and he acts different, HE has told you he is in pain instead of a Vet just guessing.
 

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And what happens when you ride him bareback? Does he do this when you lunge him? Does he do it if you lunge him in his saddle or bareback pad? Have you had a saddle fitter out? What about a chiropractor?
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does he flinch when you run your hand across his spine or girth area? You're a nurse, use those assessment skills!
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Sorry but Agree with others weather you want to hear it or not:-(. Your horse is telling you loudly something is hurting:-(. I had a young mare start behaving similiarly .Knew it was not like her,so had Chiro come see her,if he couldn't pinpoint problem or help I'd take her to vet. She ended up having a sore spot on back right were you would sit plus a big band of knotted muscle running down were girth was. After he worked on her & i knew what to watch for she was fine,no more ****y looks, ears back, trying to bite,pawing,bucking.
Your horse needs a diagnosis/pinpointing his problem before you go riding again....he's more than earned that!!:-(
 
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I'm going to also give another vote to PAIN.

When was his last dental visit?
Last chiropractor check?
Is your vet a local "everything" vet or an equine lameness specialist?

You said:

I spoke with my vet
Did your vet actually examine your horse, or are you basing the "he's not in pain" belief off of a phone call?

If you want to continue riding this horse in his golden years, then you need to dig deeper and find out what is going on to cause him such pain. Could be any number of things, but a good chance occuring somewhere in his back or mid-section since that's where he is "pointing" by trying to bite near the cinch.
 
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