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"Girthy" Lesson pony - ideas?

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  • "Girthy" Lesson pony - ideas?

    I bought a wonderful lesson pony a couple weeks ago, he is 13 - 14 yrs, 13.1, pinto pony, SUPER fabulous lesson pony, quiet, steady, super cute mover and super cute jumper. He had been used regularly for beginner lessons at the barn I got him from until about two years ago and they haven't used him much (just didn't have a need for him) since. I had inquired if they knew of anything, and they said they'd sell him to me. Told me his only issue was being "girthy" when saddling and if you were not careful he would pull back. Said he had come from the "Amish". He is great to do everything with, shoe, clip, wash, groom, when you put saddle on her gets visibly worried and as you begin to bring girth up he gets VERY nervous. We have been giving him a cookie to eat while girthing, but really don't like hand feeding ponies (they tend to get nippy). Even so he still is quite nervous. WE are trying to desensitize him by slowly bringing up the girth til it touches belly and if he stops moving we take away the pressure, repeating this multiple times until he relaxes some. Once you put girth on loosly, he is fine to lead out and then tighten the girth. Obviously I cannot allow other people to tack him up unless we can get him over this. I would say he is a little bit better with what we are doing, are only riding him about every other day right now, haven't yet started using him for lessons. Any other ideas? No this is NOT a saddle fit issue, it's a longterm "fear" that he has, probably from some ill fitting tack at some time. He also reacted the same way when I reached under him to do surcingles of a rain sheet that I put on him one day.

  • #2
    Aw poor pony! Sometimes they can't get over issues and you just adjust for their sake. I have one that is really head shy and skittish around men. Have had him for 3 years and he has good days and bad. We just give him lots of positive reinforcement and love. God only knows what happened to him back in the day but he's awesome otherwise! I'm sure you're already doing this but use a fluffy girth with your pony cause something really bad must have happened to him. Poor guy


    • Original Poster

      Yes we use a girth lined with fleece, but really is more the anitcipation than anything else. He is SO cute and we love him!! Just would like to make him safer to tack up.


      • #4
        What about a handful of grain/sweat feed in a bucket while doing the girth?


        • Original Poster

          As I said we gave him cookies but it didn't really stop the anxiety. Maybe helped a LITTLE but not much.


          • #6
            His fear didn't establish itself in a day, and it will take along time for him to overcome it. I second the idea of sweet feed in a bucket, but I'd also suggest girthing up and releasing it and repeating it. Also, does he react if you use a surcingle? You might also give him his own saddling up procedure, for example one hole, walk ten feet, one hole another 10 feet etc. Be sure to stretch out his legs (of course, I KNOW you're already doing that).
            ~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
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            • #7
              Maybe try some gastroguard or generic substitute.
              Elizabeth Mandarino
              cell 908.397.0977


              • #8
                Girth him loosely a few times a day. Not necessarily taking him out and riding him, just practice the girth thing. It just takes time to get horses over things like this.


                • Original Poster

                  I realize this will take time, and he does not have ulcers or anything like that. ANYTHING under his belly causes the same reaction. We are practicing it mulitple times etc. Just wanted to see if I was maybe overlooking a technique that might help. He may never get over it, if he doesn't he is still a great pony! But is awful tos ee how upset and anxious he gets!


                  • #10
                    Second the girth him, saddle him and NOT ride him, take him for a hand graze, return, turn him out.
                    It may be the inevitability of girth=painful pounding on my back/jerking the reins with-a-beginner-on-my-back association.
                    Or put his saddle on (loosely) before meal time and let him eat with his saddle on. Remove when finished eating.


                    • #11
                      Ah! I have his twin. Except he won't be a suitable lesson pony until he is 45.

                      Have you tried girthing him from the right (off) side? It makes a big difference with my guy. I tack him lose in a stall, as he too will pull back. Untied, from the right, and being riden regularly makes this guy's problem decrease greatly. His too is all fear - no physical. Had it when I got him and 10 years later - still there.


                      • #12
                        Changing the routine can sometimes help, things such as put saddle on, then pick hooves and/or stretch legs then do up the girth. Or bridle first then saddle/girth.

                        TTouch prescribes a desensitizing procure that uses a tensor bandage; put it around where the girth goes and lift it up and down until they loose the reaction. Then move on to a surcingle, then a saddle.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #13
                          I agree that practicing with the girth several times a day if possible. I do not agree that giving him a treat when you do it will make him nippy. We have about 30 ponies here of all ages. I use hand treats liberally in training my ponies and they are NOT nippy. If they attempt to bite, they are reprimanded. They are smart enough to figure out what is acceptable behavior and what is not. I am a firm believer in giving a positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior so I would definitely offer a treat or a bit of feed each time you fasten the girth.
                          Quicksilver Farms, LLC
                          "Welsh Hunter Ponies"
                          Welsh Sec. B Stallions and
                          Fancy Show Pony Prospects


                          • #14
                            not the same thing but could help.....

                            my mare developed a pulling back habit when girth was being tightened. I taught her to ground tie (will work for food). groomed her, tacked her, all on ground tie, and the reaction to the girth disappeared. now for whatever reason, she is back to being fine on cross-ties.

                            being tacked in a different way could help the pony break the association that causes him to get so tense....


                            • #15
                              what does he do with a surcingle?

                              is it the addition of the saddle or truly just the girth?
                              Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                              • #16
                                You might also want to try one of those Professional Choice or Soft Touch girths. Because they don't slip you don't need to tighten them as much as other girths, which might help to relieve some of his stress.


                                • Original Poster

                                  As stated twice previously it is ANYTHING under his belly, he reacted the same way (see original post) to surgingles on a rain sheet. It isnt so much the tightening as the reaching under and bringing girth up BUT you cannot totally tighten while he is tied, just put VERY loosly but as soon as he walks out to the ring you can tighten with no issues.


                                  • #18
                                    What about just getting him ready (hooves picked, brushed off, etc...) in the cross ties, put his bridle on and then take him out to the ring to put his saddle pad & saddle on and girth up? Or as In suggested, in her post, girth him up from the off side?

                                    If it's an anxiety issue, either of these may work because they are kind of "unexpected" for him. He may equate just being in the cross ties with being girthed up...


                                    • #19
                                      Just a quick question but do you always girth him in the aisle?
                                      How is he if he is being girthed in a stall or in the arena or outside? I have had them before where they just couldn't be girthed up standing on concrete.


                                      • #20
                                        Proper cross ties are a must.. expecially with situations like this. Do you have a tie area that is a turn around type? It would be U shaped, you lead the horse "in" and turn around and the ties are at the sides. This type of cross tie area is great for horses that pull back because they cannot back up. Of course using caution because you don't want them to feel trapped or flip over... so the tie area cannot be too wide or have a low light or roof and always have safety ties AND a sharp knife handy. (can you tell I have dealt with pullers).

                                        If it were my pony - I would take it out several times a day, put it in the turn around cross ties - groom him, do stuff he likes. If he likes to be groomed or scratched, do that. Take your time. Using a bareback pad or something light and easy put it on and off.. and be easy about it...

                                        I also agree a cookie is a positive thing.. if he stays calm when you put the girth around, give the cookie so he understands that was what you want... and make a "big" deal over when he is calm about the girth touching him by talking "what a goooood boy".... and petting him softly "a lot". Use your lov-ie voice watch his eyes - you can tell a lot of what a horse is thinking by their eyes. They will get soft and you can then see if he is understanding your lov-ie voice and petting....

                                        Then put him away. Do it again several times a day without going for a ride. It may take YEARS to get him to "tolerate" it. But sadly what I have found in the years of damaged horses, they will NEVER totally forget their abuser.....

                                        Good luck

                                        Also, I dont think giving a cookie for good behavior makes them nip... it's playing with their mouths... and allowing them to nip at the food you are feeding them. You have the treat and hand it to them, and pet them on the forhead. If they ever go after the treat without staying calm, I wouldn't give it to them. My horses know after "every" ride they get a cookie. If they are really good I call it a four cookie day... if not so good they still get one. lol They wait quietly for their cookie. If you do something the same way enough times the horses learn what to expect. I also like the Mrs. Pastures cookies the best.

                                        I have a horse that had to have a lot of shots when younger... and I gave him a cookie after the shot if he stood still... and now when he gets a shot or vet works on him he quitely waits for his cookie. It's actually cute... the vet was out the other day for something and after his shot he turned his head and stared at her.... I told her he was waiting for his cookie!
                                        Last edited by doublesstable; Apr. 8, 2011, 04:42 PM. Reason: Cookie thoughts
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