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Odd behavior after girthing a youngster

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  • Odd behavior after girthing a youngster

    Has anyone dealt with this scenario. I have a 4 yo, every time I girth him up.... I do it slow, in increments, and have been the only one to saddle him since the start..... he tightrope walks in tiny steps, out to the arena. It’s the weirdest behavior, and the saddle fits. He just takes tiny steps and one foot in front of the other. Doesn’t matter if its loose, or tighter, I don’t snug it up until I get on. He used to cow kick at his belly when I would first introduce the girth. I have taken so much time to desensitize him to the girth, and have used a plain leather girth with elastic and a shaped country shoulder relief girth. He's had about 60-70 rides at this point, spread out over four months, and he’s fine once I get on ( although always feels a little tense the first few laps). I have started about a dozen youngsters undersaddle, and I have never seen one do anything remotely close to this.

    Trying to to decide if I should try some different girth’s or leave it alone since he’s good once I get on.

  • #2
    My money is on ulcers.
    "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I will keep that in mind, but I have had him since a weanling. He’s on 24-7 turnout, tons of hay and grazing, and has had an extremely low stress, natural upbringing, with tons of socializing. I will ask my vet when he does his teeth this fall.

      Comment


      • #4
        Try a Stubben equisoft girth. Some horses just don’t like tight pressure or any pressure on their sternums. I’ve had a few cold backed reactions be from girthing. Even when super loose, barely touching them, they are reactive. The girth really helps.

        Even when tightened correctly, these girths are quite “loose” looking on the side. Correct way to check for tightness is by the sternums. Over tightening will result in rubs.

        I think VTO Saddlery still demos the girth.
        http://www.windsweptfarmllc.com

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        • #5
          I would get a chiro to check him out. Unwillingness to move forward freely for the first few minutes is a fairly typical response to girth pain.

          Comment


          • #6
            My pony gelding did the same thing for about 2 years. It didnt matter if I would do his girth us slowly or quickly. If I used a sheepskin girth or a leather girth, he would walk away the same way. Little pitter patter steps and one front leg in front of the other. It was really odd!!

            He was on 16hr turnout and was treated for ulcers the whole time, but it never helped. I have broke many, many horses and ponies and he was the only one that did this! Once I got on him, he was totally fine and would walk away with no issues. Bring him back into the barn and he would walk normally....

            This pony also was adjusted weekly for a few months as his shoulder was stiff (from a driving collar) and it made no difference either. The chiro looked him all over and only saw the issue in his shoulder and not in his back or anywhere else (though he did adjust his back, it just made no difference for the little pitter patter steps).

            He is now 6 and has grown out of it come to think of it. He doesnt do this anymore, so maybe your guy will do the same??

            Comment


            • #7
              Massage therapist would be my first go-to, then chiro. Young horses can do all sorts of weird things to their bodies while growing and playing, and not show it because of youth, until they're asked to do something we want.
              ______________________________
              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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              • #8
                Well you already did what I would do (straight girth/anatomic girth), and I might try a fluffy fleece girth to see if it made any difference.

                I have had a couple over the years who were a little dramatic like that as babies. I have a fabulous chiro/vet and there wasn't anything with either that would indicate any obvious issues. But both were prior to my new understanding of ulcers, so I do wonder if starting a riding career might have been enough with both to set them just the tiniest bit off. But both "grew out of it" with time (as in a few weeks/months).
                __________________________________
                Flying F Sport Horses
                Horses in the NW

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by RTF View Post
                  I will keep that in mind, but I have had him since a weanling. He’s on 24-7 turnout, tons of hay and grazing, and has had an extremely low stress, natural upbringing, with tons of socializing. I will ask my vet when he does his teeth this fall.
                  And he *could* still have ulcers despite that. Not as likely b/c he does have 24/7 turnout, but still possible nonetheless.

                  Agree with the other suggestions of chiro check and trying a fleece girth instead.

                  I personally always "stretch" my horse's front legs after doing up the girth. Bring the leg forward (like the farrier would) then lift their front leg up keeping bent at the knee, then grab the hoof and let them stretch their leg straight out in front of them. (My grey loooooooooves this and grunts every time and likes to hold it for a good while.)
                  It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RTF View Post
                    I will keep that in mind, but I have had him since a weanling. He’s on 24-7 turnout, tons of hay and grazing, and has had an extremely low stress, natural upbringing, with tons of socializing. I will ask my vet when he does his teeth this fall.
                    That is the exact scenario of my mare......who was diagnosed with pretty bad ulcers this past winter. Some horses are just sensitive and will product more acid because of that. We can set everything up for success and still get caught off guard when they get them.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      He can be cold backed with no ulcers.

                      When out of work and a warm day my boy does what yours does. If it is a cold day, the first step forward he will rodeo buck. If I ask him to back first 9 times out of 10 he does not buck. If going to ride without lunging I will take him for a walk around the paddock the arena is in before hopping on. I want him walking out before I hop on.

                      If is is ulcers canter will make them worse as the acid in the stomach sloshes onto the ulcers. With a cold backed horse the longer they are ridden the better they get.

                      As you have said the girth in increments is necessary. So groom saddle and girth area. Some put the saddle on and the girth so loose it is not touching. Continue to groom, do it up a hole every time you go past to pick out hooves, etc. Bridle on last. You tighten the last hole as you step up to the mounting block It shouldn't take any extra time.
                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RTF View Post
                        Has anyone dealt with this scenario. I have a 4 yo, every time I girth him up.... I do it slow, in increments, and have been the only one to saddle him since the start..... he tightrope walks in tiny steps, out to the arena. It’s the weirdest behavior, and the saddle fits. He just takes tiny steps and one foot in front of the other. Doesn’t matter if its loose, or tighter, I don’t snug it up until I get on. He used to cow kick at his belly when I would first introduce the girth. I have taken so much time to desensitize him to the girth, and have used a plain leather girth with elastic and a shaped country shoulder relief girth. He's had about 60-70 rides at this point, spread out over four months, and he’s fine once I get on ( although always feels a little tense the first few laps). I have started about a dozen youngsters undersaddle, and I have never seen one do anything remotely close to this.

                        Trying to to decide if I should try some different girth’s or leave it alone since he’s good once I get on.
                        After 60-70 rides I wouldn't expect this behavior. By this point, it is possible it could be learned behavior. But I would be double and triple checking the saddle fit. Watch some saddle fitting videos on youtube to make sure you are covering all the bases. USEF has a decent one.

                        Maybe mix things up a little and do a light lunge first and put the saddle on immediately after a light lunge (while horse is still in the ring), go back to lunging a bit and then try mounting.

                        Make sure he has plenty of forage and no grain in his belly before work begins.

                        Try lots of stretches before hand. Carrot stretches to the sides and between the legs.

                        Next time chiro looks at him, have the chiro observe you while you tack up, mount and begin your work routine.

                        I wouldn't rule out KS as a possible cause.

                        Honestly, it could be so many things. If you exhaust the obvious through trial and error, it might be time to get a vet involved.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would assume every 'cold backed" situation is PSSM until proven otherwise.
                          ______________________________
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Could be a number of things... ulcers, spine pain (neck/back), saddle too far forward, girth pinching. Probably worth having the vet check out his neck and back (although I had one that did this as a sign of neck pain, and she palpated fine with good flexion). Also wouldn’t be a bad idea to try a week of ulcer treatment to see if the behavior changes- I know you said he’s been with you for some time, but ulcers can develop even in good situations and can be quite silent in terms of symptoms. Have you tried any other girths? Moving the saddle back a few inches?

                            It is worth noting that this can be an indication of a neurological problem, but it seems unlikely in your case, if the behavior is limited to when he is first saddled.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Pretty confident it’s not a saddle fit issue, and the same with soundness. He moves great, saddle fits well, and it’s just this pokey little tightrope walk. Once I am on him, it’s gone. It might be more of a habit. I am going to try a different girth that expands and covers more area, and then possibly try a stubben soft fit girth. He is a very sensitive guy, as in if I touch his belly, his back lifts 2-3 inches. It’s nice seeing someone else had a similar issue with a pony. I will also talk to my vet about ulcers.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have a 4 year old mare that would pick her back feet up almost to her belly while I was grooming her, mostly while grooming the back half of her body. She would get a little squirmy in the cross-ties as well. This is a super well trained quiet mare at all other times but this behavior would start and stop as the grooming of her back half started and stopped. I put her on outlast and just sort of ignored the behavior and it is completely gone now. I know this isn't exactly like what you described, but as a cheap place to start-I would buy a bag of Outlast and give it a shot. It won't hurt him and it may offer him some comfort.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by RTF View Post
                                  Pretty confident it’s not a saddle fit issue, and the same with soundness. He moves great, saddle fits well, and it’s just this pokey little tightrope walk. Once I am on him, it’s gone. It might be more of a habit. I am going to try a different girth that expands and covers more area, and then possibly try a stubben soft fit girth. He is a very sensitive guy, as in if I touch his belly, his back lifts 2-3 inches. It’s nice seeing someone else had a similar issue with a pony. I will also talk to my vet about ulcers.
                                  Now that I'm thinking of it, we had a sale horse a number of years back and when he was asked to trot under saddle, he took short small "shuffle-like" steps. Had him vetted up and down. There was no physical explanation for his behavior. A string girth helped, but the shuffle remained. It only lasted for 5 seconds or so and it was only when he first trotted. Second, third, fourth etc. time trotting, he was fine. It was the oddest thing. Naturally he was a difficult one to sell. No one would believe that he vetted clean. He never grew out of it, at least while we owned him.

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