Girthy horse - can it be cured? (long)
My 4 yr old mare was very girthy when first started as a 2 yr old. Bucked violently ( so I was told) and eventually tolerated the girth but still was not happy. I was not there when she was backed, but it was by a cowboy who starts a number of young horses and is highly recommended - I have seen him work and he takes his time - not a 30 day wonder.
A a 3 yr old, I was very careful to check saddle fit, be gentle, girth up slowly, lead around, mount from a block etc. I always lunged before getting on - just a trot and canter depart each direction, - prob less than 5 min total -but just to have her feel the girth in the depart - just in case. About 4 or 5 times in the year, there was some humping just as I got on and before I sat down in the saddle or as we took the first step or 2 . I managed to stop it, would either get off and lunge or continue and she would be fine. She bucked once or twice when learning to jump, when she overjumped and the girth hit her, but not terribly. I came off, but that was my poor positioning, not her buck.
There was 1 rodeo , when I got to a show and did not lunge enough - she was tense and when I mounted , she thought she was at Calgary or something. Somehow, she managed to come down under me multiple times , but it was purely luck. She was shaking, and acting like she was scared ( me too!). Got off, lunged her, got on and she was fine.
So, this year, at 4, she seemed to be much better. , I had stopped lunging her since about April or so at home, although I still do when I go somewhere., I still am very careful about slowly girthing up , stretching her legs, walking her around , putting foot in the stirrup and hopping up on it once or twice, saddle has been checked and I though we had gotten through it. She is jumping around BN courses and competing, schooling Novice , , trail rides, goes by herself, etc. She is ridden regularly 5-6 times a week, with hacking out, jumping and dressage work .
Well, last week, just as I mounted her at home , she displayed some real bucking talent and launched me in 2 bucks and continued to buck for another 2 minutes, then stopped . I got up ( very slowly....), lunged her, got back on and she was fine. Absolutely no warning, and since it happens before I sit down in the saddle, I am already unbalanced and she really bucks. She does not buck at any other time under saddle or jumping now and is really a pretty quiet and easygoing horse otherwise.
Happens more with the dressage saddle ( long billets) and she is touchy in her left side elbow area, so I really think it is the girth making her feel constricted or something. I use a Wintec elastic girth which is very stretchy. Has happened in my jumping saddle too - which has short billets
I am now really nervous- can I say scared?- about mounting - the bucking is pretty violent - and am lunging again and having someone hold her as I mount, which is not ideal but I don't trust her. After I get on, I'm fine - I have no fear about riding, just mounting. I had tried giving her some treat after I got on in the past, but since that means I have to lean over to feed her ( putting me closer to the ground) , that worries me too.
Has anyone used clicker training to work on this problem? I am not sure what else to try and since it is so infrequent and unpredictable- she'll be fine for months and then explode - I am not sure to tell how if it is working
Any other suggestions or experiences that I can use? I am getting way too old to hit the ground and at 16.2, it is a long way down....