Girthy horse. Pain vs bad attitude, any easy ways to tell?
I'd like to know if it's possible for horses to get sore when they are first reintroduced to a saddle/girth after a long period. Pony has gotten positively sour about being saddled, he's worn it without a rider for a couple of days and then with a rider for three days. He's always been a bit cinchy, if you lay a hand on him about midway up his barrel he's been known to nip at you, recently saddled or not.
He's being boarded and the trainer/BO thinks he is more spoiled than hurting, that he doesn't want to work and he thinks if he makes enough faces and bounces around enough he'll get put back.
I think differently, because his fussing has increased every time he gets the saddle put on. I keep thinking he's a fat boy putting on a backpack and has bruises that hurt. This is a Western saddle with the old string girth and I'm thinking it's the rings on the girth.
Is this old racetrack superstition that I am buying into, that horses need concoctions poured on their backs to toughen them up?
Ulcers? And how soon can those form?
Or is she likely to be right or a combination of the two?
From the picture you posted on the other thread, I would have to say the saddle doesn't fit. It looks too narrow in the front and it is tipped back and digging him in the loin. I don't blame him for wanting to bite.
I have been wrestling with this for a year, with a horse I bought a year ago. They tell me he has always been this way, but he can be very girthy. I got him a full body scan and he does have a spinal abberation at T18, so I am inclined to give him the benefit of doubt pain-wise. He is an adorable OTT, and I want him to have the best life possible.
He is fine once under saddle, so I see no reason to take him out of work. My plan is to give him steady consistent light work, and he will only jump max 2'6". I have also experimented with injections. His vet now knows his back like the back of his (the vet's) had, and the last injection was an u/s guided injection right into T18. I feel like this makes the horse more comfortable, plus he is on a regimen of Pentosan that seems to be helping him overall a great deal (he is 14). Today, I got a nice forward canter and some decent trot jumps, which are his usual problem areas.
I have a very specific saddling routine with this horse. He likes my Tad Coffin saddle, full Fleeceworks pad, and Prof Choice neoprene girth (elastic both ends) with a full fuzzy pad. I saddle him cross tied. He gets a treat, then I put the saddle on with the girth very loose. Hardly touching him. Then I WALK AWAY. The point of walking away is that it seems like if I stand there and wonder if he is going to do something, he does. Also, I want him to process without me around. And then be glad when I come back. I diddle around the barn until I think he will be glad to see me again. Then another treat and I tighten the girth to where I can safely lead him with the saddle on. Again, I WALK AWAY. Diddle around some more, and come back with the bridle. Put it on and walk to the arena. I also lunge him before I get on to loosen him up. I know this sounds like a lot of trouble, but it is paying off by making him seem much happier to work.
Bottom line -- with this horse, I think he had a reason to be girthy, but by paying attention and finding tack and a routine he likes, problem is solved. I think he is very sensitive to his saddle fit. The Tad Coffin is a great saddle with its smart tree.
Last edited by ToTheNines; Jan. 31, 2013 at 06:50 PM.
TTN, this horse has ALWAYS been quick to defend his space, so to speak. He's not fond of being touched anywhere, has no special itchy spots. I use a Western saddle and very slooowly ease it up, I try not to haul or yank. I get "the look" but he's not tried to bite me. And he will nip if he thinks he can, likes to stiffen up his foreleg and make you work to pick it up or will raise his hoof right up to his belly and pull it out of your hand real quick, to successfully pick his off fore you have to get his knee wedged into your hip/thigh. Plays games being bridled, nose in, nose up, turns head away, you've got to be definite and quick.
This is why the trainer thinks he is trying one on. He was restive in the arena yesterday and the trainer said look at him, he's just like a little kid saying "you can't make me".
He is definitely one that functions best in a formal routine, lots of consistency, no slacking ever.
I have thought about ulcers but I have never thought of this horse as being stressed in any way. Pasture kept, free fed hay although he could eat a bale at a sitting if you let him, gets alfalfa cubes or pellets, gets very little grain, none in fact right now. From searches it looks like Tums will quiet ulcers for a time, long enough I hope to discern a difference and commit to the expense of G guard.
We have four more weeks at the boarding barn, not too likely to extend that, I'd like to make sure this guy is comfortable and as cheerful as his nature allows so we can enjoy this upcoming summer.
I would check into ulcers----as in, I would give either Ulcergard/Gastrogard, or try GastroEZ (from Perfect Products, which I use) and see if it makes the difference. I have found that my horse seems to get girthy after having had a brief course of bute (sole bruise, etc), and the girthiness goes away after giving one tube of Ulcergard. He's on GastroEZ daily powder as a supplement.
Sounds similiar to the symptoms my boy was exhibiting. My guy has ulcers. Every horse has different symptoms so it's hard to determine. Talk to your vet, explain your concerns. If you have a good vet, they will be willing to listen and work with you. Mine went from cranky, pissy and girthy to downright evil in 24 hours. We are sure he has ulcers so treatement has been started. Remember where the girth sits. On the sternum. If you think in reference to a human (versus a horse), when you get heartburn or acid indigestion, where is the first place you grab? Generally your chest, right near your sternum. How does your behavior get? I know I have bad reflux and I get downright cranky and don't realize it. Now imagine having that around the clock because you can't get enough in your stomach to absorb that excess acid, add to it a tight belt around your chest. Wouldn't you be irritable as well? Horses can't tell us where they hurt. I've started thinking like a human instead and it has helped me figure out what could be wrong with my boy. Sorry for the novel, but I hope this helps!
I've heard a lot of horses can be girthy when they need adjustment - I have no experience with chiropractors so I can't speak from experience though.
We have a very cranky horse that hates being messed with...pins her ears when being girthed, ungirthed, blanketed, unblanketed, etc etc. I got her behavior much better being saddled by giving her a treat when her head is straight foward and ears forward when being saddled. Just used alfalfa cubes, and it completely eliminated the behavior - which says to me it was attitude, not pain.
It can also be ill fitting tack, soreness from being back in work and out of shape and an overall " i don't feel like working" attitude. All associated with being saddled up.
I hate those string girths and if your pony is round ( as many can be) they may be cinching him up way too tight to keep the saddle in place .
I hate wearing pants that are tight around my middle (and i am not fat). If someone pulled a belt tight around my middle and made me exercise I would probably bite too.
My mare did this when she was overly round and I had to slightly over tighten her to keep the saddle in place. Once she lost weight and I was cinching her normally the behavior disappeared and it has been almost 3 years. So it isn't always ulcers.
Well, it's been two weeks since I posted this and his attitude has improved a bit. He's still always going to have that "personality" that his previous owners told us about and that crops up when he's feeling full of himself but we're working with it.
I did change the saddle position, went online and found a helpful video and now make sure the saddle is back and not interfering with his shoulder and the pad is tented, clipped off his mane under the pad so that's not getting yanked on, and use treats sparingly very much like equinek - funny, it works too. He's just too smart sometimes.
We are close to having a reliable trot cue and his slow gait/rack is actually a little nicer with his improved muscle tone, we've gone on two nice short trail rides around the property, one loop is a mile and we went away from the barn and towards the barn nicely, pretty much slow gaited the whole way, one spook at birds busting out of cover right near to us, just a flinch. Didn't offer to spook at galloping/playing horses passing us up on the other side of the fence, trash and bags no problem, big pile of firewood no problem, stationary farm equipment no problem, he wanted to go see the world - gosh it was fun!
Glad things are going better! I find that with our cranky mare we can usually go a few weeks without treats, and then randomly introduce them again so she has a surprise treat every once in a while to remind her to be good whether she gets a treat or not. Gave her two today - one after putting saddle pad and saddle on and buckling girth on one side, then another after the girth was buckled on the other side. She was a good girl, and then later down in the arena when we tightened it for the student to get on she was perfect. Go figure.