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Girthy horse requests your help!

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  • Girthy horse requests your help!

    Plenty of details below…but in a nutshell I have an ever increasingly girthy horse and need some suggestions!

    About 2 months ago I noticed my horse stiffening when being girthed….that progressed to ear pinning…which as of last night progressed to a complete reluctance to move forward.

    Oddly enough the girth area (as well as the back) palpate fine….horse moves out well without girth.

    I do not think it is ulcers or saddle fit –I’m pretty sure I have ruled those out and that its something with the girth.

    I have tried:
    1. Fleece lined girth
    2. Wintec girth
    2. Schleese anatomic girth with elastic both sides

    All girths seem to fit well (buckles are placed correctly/ do not interfere with elbow, etc)

    So any suggestions?
    I have thought of trying a plain string girth but cannot find one with buckle guards…


  • #2
    If he is only now getting girthy and you haven't changed anything in your routine, then it may actualy be that the saddle no longer fits him properly, not the girth. He just knows that when you get into the saddle he will be uncomfortable and that starts with the girth going on. If you ride him bareback does he have any complaints? If not, then it isn't your riding; it may be the saddle fit.


    • #3
      It sounds to me like the saddle is bothering him or he has a back injury. We had the same thing here and the new owners decided to still use the same saddle (new M. Toulouse dressage). They had it refitted several times too. The horse ended up needing 6 months off because the back was so sore. This horse exhibited the exact same behavior and started out the sweetest of horses. Very laid back and easy.

      I have another friends pony that was being ridden in a brand new M. Toulouse dressage saddle. It was the same model too. Same thing only this guy ended up going to his knees a couple of times before they sorted the problem out. He is on the road to full recovery but is getting a new saddle.


      • #4
        Yes, definitely, a horse may act 'girthy' in anticipation if the saddle is a bad fit or back is ouchy. It may have nothing at all to do with the girth.


        • #5
          I agree it's probably saddle fit, but seeing as it's the winter what I started recently is after cleaning my mare I place a heating pad (on high) over the saddle area, then the pad - nothing else. Then I finish preparing her for riding (cleaning hooves, etc.). When I can't do much more I take the heating pad out from under tyhe saddle pad, add the saddle and slowly girth up. That's helped a ton with my (always) girthy mare.

          My mare started acting girthy when she out grew her saddle but has been acting girthy ever since I got it adjusted - I think mentally she equates girthing with pain. The heating pad has helped a ton - not more looking like she'd rather rip my head off - just some "looks" like 'Do you have to?'.
          Now in Kentucky


          • #6
            I agree with the above. A friend has a mare that was extremely girthy, and my friend tried every sort of girth and girth cover under the sun to no avail. The problem went away immediately after she had her saddle reflocked.

            Now whenever she starts making faces when being girthed, a call goes in to the saddle fitter.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


            • #7
              How did you rule out ulcers? Horse needs to be scoped to do that. Or you can treat with Gastrogard/Ulcergard (full tube) for a few days and moniter response. Other than that, I don't know of any other reliable way to rule out ulcers. If fact, if they have ulcers and are treated, some of the "negative" behavior may remain for awhile in anticipation of the pain, not actual pain.


              • #8
                So, this started two months ago. What changed? Did you change his saddle? His saddle pad?

                Think back and see if there's anything at all that *changed* when he started this behavior.

                If nothing did, then either he has a slightly sore back or his saddle needs reflocking. It's clearly not that he doesn't like his girth, as you've tried three different ones with no change.
                Manes And Tales


                • #9

                  Would you mind providing an update when you can? I'm actually working on the same thing with my mare (and it started about the same time as yours) except that she pins her ears and walks off when touched when eating hay in the pasture as well.

                  I initially thought female problems but it hasn't stopped. Thought maybe a rib out but chiropracter says no. She couldn't explain it. No sign of soreness on the back. Several weeks off had no effect. Vet wants her on bute for a week to see if that makes any difference. If not, will try ulcerguard but we don't think that's it as she has been out 24/7 all her life and gets very little grain. Before this happened, I signed up for a clinic this weekend (my first one in 9 years and the first on this horse). Sigh. I'm thinking I'll still go at least the first day and ask about saddle fit (although that's not really where she is sensitive). She did injury herself in the pasture twice during the summer so I'm wondering about a muscle injury. For the record, once she does start going forward, she actually does very well and even rounds up.

                  Anyway, sorry to get long but it sounds very similar to your problem and started at about the same time. Very strange.
                  Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                  • #10

                    I agree with a previous poster. I was so in total denial about ulcers. My horse has the life of leisure but that was our problem. He had been on a Lyme treatment which I understand the pills can cause ulcers or an acidic stomach. Worked through that and all the behavioral problems ceased.
                    Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
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                    • #11
                      some horses a re allergic to nylon as in wintec saddles and also winctec saddle arnt like leather ones they dont last as long as they go squashy on a horses back asthey cant be flock like a leather one so you have to change or buy anew one
                      where as leather ones you flock at least once a year

                      in both circumstances it would effect the horse and make him girthy

                      plus not cleaning your girth every time you use it does the same thing


                      • #12
                        I had a horse who came to me a bit girthy; I was able to resolve this by tightening the girth more slowly. Like, do up to first hole, then do a few polos, then another hole, put on bellboots, another hole, put on my half-chaps, another hole, put on my helmet. I suspect in my case the problem was caused by previous riders tightening the girth too quickly.
                        Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**


                        • #13
                          Mine had two ribs slightly out when he became girthy (and mighty dramatic about it!), I tried to push around on him and find out if it was the back or the the girth area and couldn't get any results, but our (vet rcommended) chiro fixed it in one session.
                          "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                          • #14
                            Often times a horse will exhibit girthy behaviour because the saddle is pinching especially over the withers area - the vice grip of the saddle. Not to mention perhaps pinching the superspinalosis because of a too tight gullet - where the stallion bites the mare to immobilize her during mating.
                            Sometimes you need to analyse the symptomatic behaviour a little more closely to get at the root cause of the problem. I would suggest having a competent saddlefitter out to check this out and then make the necessary changes to fit your saddle (if it's adjustable beyond just a restuffing).


                            • #15
                              Just a different thought here. Have you tried him with a saddle that requires a long girth? I ask because this did happen to me with one of my horses. He became so unhappy with a short girth that he would actually rear, buck and bolt away from you if you tightened it too fast. Let me tell you, it was not a lot of fun figuring out what his problem was! I did find that he had a sarcoid growing right where the edge of the girth was. Obviously, I had it removed, but he has never been the same about a short girth. When we use a long girth on him, butter wouldn't melt, as they say.

                              Oddly enough, his half brother was the same about short girths from the day he was started, so it makes me think that maybe there is something in their conformation of back or withers that is more comfortable with the slightly different pressure of a long girth.

                              Good luck!


                              • #16
                                Most often saddle related. Ask me & my horse how we know ....

                                I'm saddle shopping at present, I've test ridden a few saddles, I cry myself to sleep over it at night. They seemingly fitted perfectly, but he continued to be girthy and 'all' of them slip to one side . He's got assymetrical shoulders and so far I haven't found the perfect shim.

                                To tie us over whilst finding a suitable saddle I bought some cheap-skate synthetic saddle with self-adjusting gullet. The "self-adjusting" gullet made me laugh when I ordered it, thinking, RIGHT, that'll be something interesting...... Well the sad part of it all is, that in all those years with x number of saddles, this is the only saddle he's not girthy in, it's almost like abracadabra.
                                I think what happens, as you girth up the saddle the gullet automatically adjusts and somehow that makes him "not" react. Weird, even my husband was skeptically surprised by it.
                                Anyway, doesn't solve my problem coz no way can I ride in this cheapo kiddo look-alike saddle for ever and I would have prefered the channel to have been a tad wider.
                                Now I'm wondering what his reaction would be in a treeless, would that stop his girthiness too?

                                I think it's often some kind of neuromuscular pain, especially in horses with conformation issues, like club foot or underrun, which in turn makes their shoulders assymetrical. One way or another they compensate for it and tension some muscles more then other when ridden. This causes tension spots under the saddle and the horse gets girthy or saddlesore.
                                I'm not saying your horse has this problem however, just throwing this in, as I'm going through this at present and I can now conclude for sure it's the saddle that causes his girthiness, how to fix it.... is another matter .


                                • #17

                                  To tie us over whilst finding a suitable saddle I bought some cheap-skate synthetic saddle with self-adjusting gullet. The "self-adjusting" gullet made me laugh when I ordered it, thinking, RIGHT, that'll be something interesting...... Well the sad part of it all is, that in all those years with x number of saddles, this is the only saddle he's not girthy in, it's almost like abracadabra.
                                  Since I don't show, I'd be curious as to what saddle this is?
                                  Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                                  • #18
                                    I got it from England, and even after paying shipping it costed me under $250.
                                    The regular will fit if your horse is a good medium up to wide size.
                                    I also tried it on my high withered narrow horse, but it was too wide for him. I think the wide must be for seriously wide horses.

                                    Shires Hi-Lite Provence

                                    It actually sits really nice. I love sitting in it. And my horse is just sooo happy in it, I just don't get it. I think it kind of molds to him in all ways.
                                    And it weighs like a feather, about 10 pounds.
                                    I'm planning on taking a lesson in it, to show the difference in my horse to my instructor.

                                    I'm almost wondering if I could contact the manufacturer and see if they can make me a leather version. Coz I'm going nuts, nothing fits, nothing makes him happy at present.


                                    • #19
                                      I would look at the saddle as the most likely culprit. When my horse began to make faces at the dressage saddle that he had been working in for a few months, it was not his commentary on the discipline, but the fact that it bore down on his shoulders as I tightened the girth. It was a very well made saddle, but not suitable for him as he matured, and I don't think restuffing it would have made a difference, so I sold it promptly. He was pleasant about tack and I wanted to keep it that way. My jumping saddle, with a more flexible structure in front, was always and still is accepted without comment.

                                      If you can borrow saddles, even just to set on his back and see whether it makes a difference to the girthiness, you might be able to figure out the specific problem with yours.

                                      Good luck.
                                      Publisher, http://www.endurance-101.com
                                      Blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/


                                      • #20

                                        Thanks Lieslot! Can't afford to do anything until after I recover from Christmas but this has possibilities for me. Thanks!
                                        Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe