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Ideas for a super girthy horse?

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  • Ideas for a super girthy horse?

    I have an 8 year old mare in training. Former Broodmare. Prior to being a broodmare they tried training her, but found her to be dangerously unpredicatable. I trained her 4 year old daughter early this year. Daughter was a sensitive, but trainable horse.

    Mare however, is a different story. Very willing...will do whatever I ask from the ground. I really like her, but as soon as a girth is pulled under her, she tenses up and her muscles are like brick. It doesn't matter how often I lower and raise the girth..every time she flinches. A soft leg wrap or rope illicits the same response.

    I have leaned across the saddle with success, but when I tried to swing a leg over she went down on her elbows.

    Today I put a padded surcingle on her with a pad, and put her back in her pen to wear it for a while. She seemed fine...but didn't touch much of her hay, and was extremely nervous when I went to take it off.

    Possible pain related? She does not pin her ears at all.

    Any ideas on a fix or next step to take?
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

  • #2
    Try a western saddle. Totally different weight distributuion. You can also try currying the girth area just before girthing. Girth super slowly and let her circle you while you do it. Keep her head in and keep forward motion. It's not real easy to do, but once she gets okay with that you can go back to whoa. It could be a reaction to something in her back-not the girth area, and she's just remembering pain.
    Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


    • #3
      Is she okay being groomed/rubbed on her back, belly and girth area? If that also makes her flinch or tense, maybe just spend more time on general handling - she may have had rushed training the first time that left a lot of "holes" in her education, or she may be pretty minimally trained, really, if they gave up on it because she was difficult. Pretend for a week or so that she's a weanling who's just barely halter broke, and see if she starts to become confident with general handling before progressing to tacking up etc? Just throwing some ideas out there...


      • #4
        This sounds like a serious pain response. I do not belive this is a training issue. Pain will make anyone, even a human, unpredictable.


        • #5

          I once went to look at a horse in Holland. He was girth and spooky (knew he was spooky before I flew to see him), but he was so wonderful, I bought him. Turns out he had mild ulcers! I found this out via scopeing, and treated him on a test run of 7 days (to which he responded), and then for the entire month. Was never, ever girthy again! The spookiness also subsided, and his over all body condition and hair coat improved.


          • #6
            Kissing spines?

            I also have experience with kissing spines (sadly on a horse I imported as a 3 yr old - but the root to his training issues was not discovered until I had Dr. Barry Grant (Seattle Slew basket surgery 2x vet) look at him after he'd been long retired as a pasture puff). My poor guy also had wobblers on top of KS. The response your mare is exhibiting would also make me look at KS.


            • #7
              Sounds like about a 50% chance that it could be a rib problem. I wouldn't ride her until you have a good vet that is also an equine chiropractor check her out. Most horses that do have ribs or withers "out" and people just ignore it. Make sure you find someone good that is also a vet, not one of the people that are human chiropractors that think they can adjust horses but really can't. Good luck.


              • #8
                Horses do things for very real reasons, fear, pain, hunger, etc. A friend had a horse that she had raised from a weanling. when he was 3 he was moved across the country to VA. He became increasingly sensitive to touch and pressure. As she began to train him under saddle she found him to be hopelessly girthy, and I believe she told me that he was nearly hopeless to ride.

                She discussed the horse with an equine nutritionist, not just your typical nutritionist by the way. Her suggestion was to put the horse on a KER (Kentucky Equine Research) Se supplement. She had seen some similar symptoms in horses deficient in Se. The horse responded wonderfully, and went on to a career in endurance.

                Selenium is frequently deficient in our horses diet. it isn't as dangerous to supplement as most have been led to believe and the symptoms of deficiency can vary a lot. A large part of this country has Se deficient soil and the pastures, grain and hay grown on these soils is deficient. An Se level that is fine for 9 out of 10 horses in a barn is too low for the 10th horse. Also, the commonly used inorganic (mineral) form of Se isn't utilized well by mammals versus the organic form. Many of the better (and more $$$) supplements have switched to the organic form of Se. Also some feed mfgrs like Triple Crown have switched.

                I have found that the levels that vets recommend will vary widely depending on their backgrounds.



                • #9
                  Second the idea of treating for ulcers, and while she's resting a bit while her tummy gets back to normal, have your bodyworker of choice out to assess her physically. A good chiro can be a great asset, or a really good massage person who can help you figure out where else she's uncomfortable.


                  • #10
                    My very girthy OTTB turned out to have ulcers. He got MUCH better once the ulcers had been treated. He also tended to have a rib out here and there, so frequent chiro appointments were necessary as well.
                    "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                    • #11
                      could be a saddle fit issue, which makes it painful when girthed


                      • Original Poster

                        Heart's Journy, How can it be saddle fit when she acted extra sensitive to the area with just a leg wrap?

                        Ulcers..interesting. Is it possible/likely for a fat and shiny horse to have ulcers? I can try some Ulcer Guard on her...I have some around.

                        Vet is out today, so I will ask her about other avenues. She is not a chiro, but did study accupuncture, so I think would have good ideas on what the symptoms might be alluding to for an issue.

                        For Kissing Spine...should I not feel some tension/sorenss on her back? I have not dealt with that, so I may be wrong. Her back does not feel sore. Ribs seem likely though.

                        Tough spot as not sure how much money owner will want to put into maresy, so I would like to narrow it down as much as possible to limit the amount of their bill.

                        Perhaps today I will map out where she starts to get flinchy at, and see if I can narrow the zone down.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #13
                          sounds like pain to me. My very girthy boy – who has been predictably unpredictable under saddle his entire life – turned out to have broken withers. I had to have an xray taken to find this out as he seems for all the world as a sound-as-a-dollar horse.

                          My boy too would react like your mare, often worse, becoming explosive, if a saddle or surcingle that hit him in a sensitive spot was tightened on him. Put a saddle on that didn't hit a sensitive spot and he'd stand like a gentleman and relax. Surcingles that didn't have a gullet were often worse than saddles.

                          It breaks my heart that it took me two years to get past thinking he was just being rank.
                          Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                          • #14
                            Go with a Chiro.... one or more ribs are probably out, along with Sternum.

                            Never fails.. my mare comes up girthy, I call Dr. Heidi. 10 mins later, 3 ribs are back where they belong, along with Withers, Sternum and Poll. Tack up without a flinch
                            <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                            • #15
                              just sharing because my experience/journey was so befuddling....
                              Originally posted by CHT View Post
                              Heart's Journy, How can it be saddle fit when she acted extra sensitive to the area with just a leg wrap?
                              My horse would react to simple things like that too, it was partly anticipation of pain I believe.

                              Ulcers..interesting. Is it possible/likely for a fat and shiny horse to have ulcers? I can try some Ulcer Guard on her...I have some around.
                              my boy was in perfect outward health and also had ulcers... anecdotally... I never had him scoped, but he responded positively to treatment. It did nothing for his back sensitivity, but wonders for his flighty attitude.

                              Vet is out today, so I will ask her about other avenues. She is not a chiro, but did study accupuncture, so I think would have good ideas on what the symptoms might be alluding to for an issue.
                              I had two vets, two chiro and two acupuncturists work on my horse and not able to elicit a pain reaction. I spent quite a bit of time vetting my horse only to have professionals shrug their shoulders and say it was "probably a training issue". I really thought I was losing my mind at one point... insisting my sound horse was lame. His only reaction was when he was being mounted/ridden/girthed. It wasn't until I had my horse xrayed that the problem was found.

                              Over the past 2 months, now knowing the location and reason for the sensitivity (took xrays this past March) I had an acupuncturist come out and work regularly on my boy to try to bring him some relief. Sadly, she could not. Very expensive tail to chase, but I had to try my best for him.

                              For Kissing Spine...should I not feel some tension/sorenss on her back? I have not dealt with that, so I may be wrong. Her back does not feel sore. Ribs seem likely though.
                              I don't know if my boy has KS, he might further back where the muscle was too dense for a clear picture, but his broken withers have no deformity, sensitivity, swelling, soreness or anything. In fact, both chiros I had work on my horse said he is the soundest, most flexible and even horse they'd ever seen.

                              Until photos were taken, no one could find anything wrong with my horse.

                              Tough spot as not sure how much money owner will want to put into maresy, so I would like to narrow it down as much as possible to limit the amount of their bill.
                              thats a real consideration and a tough one. In hindsight I would've saved nearly 3 years of anguish, saddle fitting, therapeutic padding, vetting, chiros, acupuncture, reading materials, hair-pulling, bourbon drinking, four dozen saddles, etc etc etc had I just had him xrayed right off the bat.

                              I had a hunch when I got this horse that he had a back problem by the extreme reaction I got when girthing him, but he had a very troubled past too, so I (personally speaking) stupidly stayed the course of "training issues" instead of pain.

                              Perhaps today I will map out where she starts to get flinchy at, and see if I can narrow the zone down.
                              thats exactly what I did in a round about way: I went through about 50 saddles fitting this horse to narrow things down and finally find a pattern to his behavior.

                              just sharing my experience because I wish like hell I could turn back the clock. I wish like hell someone insisted I xray my horse way back when, could've saved a LOT of grief... for both of us. The couple hundred it cost for pictures is a drop in the bucket as to what I've spent over the years. Which pales in comparison to the mental aspect of it all, trying to bronc out a horse that really was just telling the world as loud as he could that he just hurt. I really regret what I put us both through. Makes me misty just typing this up.

                              We're pursuing a driving career now, and I had to have a custom harness saddle made for him to keep him comfortable, because off the rack would hurt him too.
                              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                              • #16
                                Random, but has anyone ever tried to ride her bareback? My friend's mare had a cracked rib and would go nuts with a saddle/girth (can you imagine--OWE) but she could hack bareback.

                                Ulcers and kissing spine are also quite possible. Kissing spine doesn't show up on a regular old x-ray though, unfortunately. Or at least that's what I was told when I asked about it. Had an ulcer horse who was nuts to girth/mount. Treated the ulcers and voila! He wasn't (always) skinny, although a really hard keeper, and his coat was shiny too...
                                DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                                • Original Poster

                                  Buck, thank you for sharing your experiences. That was certainly a long and patient journey you took to help your horse.
                                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                  • #18
                                    Thanks, I don't mean to be pessimistic or harbinger of doom, but my horse's issue was so elusive it nearly drove me mad. I feel pressed to share the story.

                                    Good luck with the mare, hope your solution is vastly simpler than mine.
                                    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.