View Full Version : Grumpy when being tacked up?

Dec. 4, 2009, 09:36 PM
OK, so I'm just getting one of my rides back into work after almost a year off. She's an adorable chestnut, large pony. I rode her yesterday and only walked, today we added trotting to the mix. She's doing fabulous under saddle. Everyone at my barn HATES her. I'm not sure why, she's the absolute sweetest pony in the world! Today, I asked the assistant trainer what some of the things are that people have complained about. She said one of the things are that she's very forward, dealing with that is one of my specialties. One of the other things she told me about was that she pins her ears and puts on a mean face when you tack her up. Really? I hadn't noticed. I tacked her up and she was right. I had never noticed it because she only pins her ears for about a minute. It's not like a pain thing, it's just that she acts grumpy, then one second later her ears are back forward and she's happy again. I talked to the assistant trainer and told her I didn't understand why her being a bit grumpy would bother anyone, but she said just some people are sensitive about things like that.

In my effort to turn her into the perfect pony, I want to get rid of any reason for her to not be used as a lesson pony once again. So, the problem is; grumpy face for one minute when being tacked up, then back to over-the-top-happy pony. What can I do to make her more friendly about it?

Dec. 4, 2009, 09:51 PM
I do not know, but I'd love to hear responses! My guy is girthy and pins his ears the minute he hears the girth jingling... then is happy again, then is yucky again when as I do up the girth.

Dec. 4, 2009, 09:59 PM
Bad saddle fit.

Couture TB
Dec. 4, 2009, 10:01 PM
My TB makes the worst faces when you are tacking up. He is a very sensative TB though as he does not like to be brushed with more then a face brush. He makes ugly faces when girthing and bounces his head up and down. I just laugh and tell people he is just my Grumpy Lumpy (barn name Lumpy)

Dec. 4, 2009, 10:12 PM
Bad saddle fit.

It's not the saddle. She gets frustrated when I put the saddle pad on. It's not like it hurts, the entire time I ride her, she's just as happy as can be. It's like it's just the actual tacking up part...

tidy rabbit
Dec. 4, 2009, 10:15 PM
I second the saddle fit issue. You may not be aware of it, but it sounds like a saddle fit issue. Get a saddle fitter to take a look.

YOUR HORSE IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.... it would be nice if you listened.

Dec. 4, 2009, 10:27 PM
YOUR HORSE IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.... it would be nice if you listened.
I am, I just don't understand the horse language that well yet.

Dec. 4, 2009, 10:52 PM
The first thing I would do is check the saddle fit. Then check for tender areas around the girth area. My guy does it as soon as I start with the saddle pad and it's because he had some sore muscles that really hurt when being girthed.

Dec. 4, 2009, 11:44 PM
although it could be a saddle fit issue - it also can just be a marish thing - hormones..............

also lots of horses are sensitive to brush and touch on the back and girth area - and anticipate that feeling that they do not like.....it could be that they are sore but that is not always the case.

Dec. 4, 2009, 11:54 PM
It's not the saddle. She gets frustrated when I put the saddle pad on. It's not like it hurts, the entire time I ride her, she's just as happy as can be. It's like it's just the actual tacking up part...

That would be the saddle fit my dear. She knows that you are going to be putting the saddle on when you put the saddle pad on. It is really that simple. In ponies it is really easy to get a saddle that is too long for their backs, but fits the rider perfectly. I would look at this and other possibilities such as the tree size and how it is well balanced it is on her back. Even if it looks good before you get on, you have to actually get in the saddle and put your weight in it to see how it properly fits her.
Good luck finding out whats wrong!:)

Dec. 5, 2009, 12:13 AM
Check how you are tightening the girth. Many people tighten it up too quickly for some horses. I have solved several "grumpy" problems by tightening one hole at a time, doing something for a minute (pick out feet, brush out tail, etc), then tightening again. You could also tighten a little bit, let your horse walk a second, then tighten again. After a few sessions your horse will probably be a little more relaxed and happier about the girthing situation if you do it in increments.

I think people like to jump to the conclusion that it is a saddle fit issue but honestly I think its a grumpy horse thing (very common). Of course have your trainer check for saddle fit and a sore back but if you aren't having any trouble undersaddle then it is most likely not saddle fit.

Dec. 5, 2009, 12:47 AM
In addition to saddle fit and slowly tightening the girth - (If you are not already) try using a girth that has elastic on both ends.

On the saddle fit note - if she is a lesson pony and the saddle in uncomfortable it's only going to feel worse if a beginner is also flopping around on her back compounding the problem...

Dec. 5, 2009, 01:22 AM
I have a mare like that too. She acts like she's going to bite me when I duck under her neck before buckling the second side of the girth. She's always done it and I suspect she'll always do it.

I KNOW it's not the saddle fit. Okay, well, I suppose you can never *know,* but my mare has a custom saddle and several saddle fitters and body workers have confirmed that it fits fine. She has no back pain and no actual sensitivity anywhere. My mare also does it whenever I touch her chest (to buckle her blankets, for example). I had one body worker tell me that it was because of a particular issue that needed to be fixed, but it wasn't.

My guess with my girl is that it's partly because she had a saddle that didn't fit used on her for a couple of years. I watched the kid who owned her ride in it and it was atrocious....the saddle would end up pommel down, cantle up with the saddle pad out the back by the end of every 10 minute ride. I'm sure her girthiness started there and then she just never gave up the attitude (which is really quite like her).

So yes, it could have something to do with saddle fit or memory of past poor saddle fit. Orrrr it could have nothing to do with saddle fit. It could be because she has body/rib pain, or it could have nothing to do with that. It could be an attitude thing or it could not be. But good luck figuring out what it is! :)

Dec. 5, 2009, 10:36 AM
I have the super smart type of horse--the type that figures out how to open gates and doors, easily picks up new training--who would rather be out with his friends than work. When he sees the (well-fitting) saddle coming, it's "Who, me? Work?" and I get the pinned ears when I tighten the girth, no matter how slowly. Then he's over it and we have a great ride. I'm pretty sure he's just grumpy about the prospect of working and getting his sensitive TB belly girthed, but I wish there was a magic way of feeling what they feel, and being 100% sure about saddle fit. I've known a lot of horses who were a little grumpy about going to work, and I don't think the majority were saddle fit issues.

Dec. 5, 2009, 10:40 AM
I've had a few horses, mostly mares, that hate to be ridden in anything but a fleecy girth. Have you tried this? Otherwise, I'd agree - look at saddle fit. Although I do have one mare whose saddle fits wonderfully (as per saddle fitter and vet), goes in a fleece girth, and is still very girthy. Possibly ulcers? Some horses with ulcers are girthy. I've tried gastrogard with my mare and haven't seen a difference, but she hasn't been scoped yet. Or possibly she (my mare, not yours) is just a witch - her ears don't go right back up again once she's tacked up ;)

Dec. 5, 2009, 10:46 AM
I'm going the opposite direction and saying it might not be the saddle fit.

Obviously make sure it fits, and get a double elastic girth if you don't have one already.

I think that horses can draw happy or angry assocations with being ridden. If when she was ridden someone yanked her out, worked her into the ground, and tossed her away that could explain the association behavior.

Spend some time becoming her best friend. Brush her for extra long and give her kisses and hugs. Give her cookies when you girth her up. Take her for a walk tacked up and visit some interesting things instead of riding. Get on her and walk around on the buckle then get off of her.

Ask her to walk over tarps or poles or other things.

Do something besides just get on and make her run for 45 minutes and she might change her reactions to being ridden.

Dec. 5, 2009, 11:07 AM

Dec. 5, 2009, 11:20 AM
My horse never had an issue with being saddled until someone else started riding her and the only difference seems to be the other person tightens the girth very quickly. She went from fine to "girthy" very quickly. I am just being extra slow to tighten girth and talking to her and petting her while tacking up and just wait for her little sassy fit to pass and I am already seeing an improvement.

Could be saddle fit, type of girth, bad memories, uclers. My bet is its just grumpy about being ridden wants to let you know and then gets over it.

Nice of you to try to find out why though.

Dec. 5, 2009, 11:35 AM

It could always be ulcers. :) Or maybe its The "Lyme's". Or too much Alfalfa. Reduce her grain, she might be too hot on too much grain. Did you call a vet? She might need to have her shoes pulled and go barefoot. You're not too heavy for your horse, are you? Is she getting left out 24/7? If not, maybe she should be. If so, maybe she wants to come in at night. Maybe she's mad at you because you didn't give her a treat after that trailride last Sunday. Try Acing her before you ride :rolleyes: (no, don't!) or lunging her in draw reins :rolleyes::rolleyes:. Is she "broke in the face"? Lots of people don't know how to make a horse "broke in the face". Oh, and FORGET THE SNAPS!!!


LOL, I'm just kidding with all this. Hope you get the joke. Seriously, the thing I thought of, OP, was that some horses have some kind of nerve thing going on with the girth area, I don't know alot about the physiology of it, but they feel pinched when first girthed up, or something, and she might well be ancitipating that. Maybe someone on here knows about that and can elaborate. Hopefully, it will be sorted out.


Vesper Sparrow
Dec. 5, 2009, 12:02 PM
I've got a TB mare that sounds a lot like PNWJumper's, particularly in the winter. She, too, is grumpy about having her chest touched--for instance, when I'm just checking to see if she's damp. She's also grumpy about being groomed loose in her stall. Girthing is a gradual process requiring much tact, walking around and keeping an eye on her while I do it.

However, she will walk eagerly out of her stall when it is clear I will be riding her. She is very happy to be ridden. And she loves attention and loves to be scratched and petted, as long as it is not in the "no-go zones".

In the summer, she is hardly grumpy at all and I can tighten her girth normally. I suspect it is hormonal or maybe even a horsey version of SAD.

Dec. 5, 2009, 07:43 PM
a number of things:
1) poor saddle fit
2) girthing too quickly- or could try a different girth
3) uncomfortable when ridden due to rider's own balance- but that would usually show up at the mounting block
4) saddle fits now, everything else fine, but emotional memory of past pain
5) ulcers
6) lower back pain due to either saddle fit or ulcers in hind gut
7) rib out
8) just bitchiness

the list goes on- it does get to be a bit ridiculous. It doesn't hurt to methodically rule these things out as you get the opportunity to do so, but really I wouldn't obsess.

Dec. 5, 2009, 08:03 PM
I dont know if this was mentioned yet, I just skimmed through the answers, but my student had a large pony who was sweet as could be.

Once in a blue moon he would become very girthy and pin his ears when putting on the saddle and girth.

We had our chiropractor look at him and he had a rib out of place. Once he was adjusted, he was sweet as could be again.

Couldnt hurt to have her checked over.

Dec. 5, 2009, 10:22 PM
I agree with the umpteen people who have mentioned saddle fit as a likely issue.

In addition to having a professional evaluated the fit of the saddle, I would assess how she generally gets tacked up.

I believe that tacking up (all handling of the horse, really) should be a quiet, soothing, no stress experience. The handler's attention should be quietly and consistently focused on the horse.

Tacking up should not be rushed: the handler should not be flying about with the horse under the impression that he is under tack attack. Everything slow, gentle, and methodical.

The handler's attention should be on the horse. No cell phones crooked in the shoulder, no loud talking with other people, no rocking out to the ipod. This is the time for horse and handler to get on the same mental wavelength, and for a good ride it is good to get on a calm one.

The horse should also be standing politely in the grooming stall. The best way to ensure this is to take the crossties OFF and ground tie the horse. This way, when the horse moves a foot, the handler will be inspired to quickly but gently put the horse's foot back where it was, rather than distractedly ignoring it and dancing around in the grooming stall with the horse. The handler will also have to pay much closer attention to the body language of the horse to catch any moving before it happens.