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UPDATE [post 24] Ideas to correct horse that pins ears/snaps/bites when saddled . . .

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  • UPDATE [post 24] Ideas to correct horse that pins ears/snaps/bites when saddled . . .

    I have a trainer coming out tomorrow to help me address this, but thought I'd post hear because COTH has a vast array of opinions! Horse is 13-year-old gelding, QH, extensive training, however, until me, all six previous owners were young men who used horse for cutting/sorting/roping in real ranch and competition situations. Sold to me at a Ranch Horse Auction two years ago as he was approaching the upper level of age in that sport.

    The very first time I saw him, the boy (man, I suppose) who owned him, saddled him in front of me. The horse pinned his ears and bared his teeth. I asked the owner if that bothered him [that the horse fussed in the cross ties]. The owner said, "no." Continued to saddle and then rode him beautifully. I got on, and immediately felt a strong desire to OWN that horse. So I bought him at the auction the following week.

    Fast forward two years. I've been in (facebook) contact with all previous owners --no gaps --no abuse. Horse has been a delight --he's a brilliant ride, learned to jump, moved to first flight at the fox hunt, carries me safely and willingly through all my endeavors. Hauls like a dream. He hooks the trailer and cleans it out after we come back. (not really, just wanted to make sure you were still reading). I am thrilled with him! Except . . .

    When I saddle him, the second the saddle pad hits his back, he pins his ears, snaps his teeth, and gives me the evil eye. This "aggressive behavior" continues until the girth is tight. Then it immediately stops. He's a joy to bridle --reaches for the bit with open mouth and hangs his head for it to be placed over his ears . . .it's just the saddling.

    Over the two years I have tried EVERYTHING to correct this ---oh! If I saddle him in the pasture or at the trailer, he doesn't do it ---only in the cross ties in the barn --and he does it with both English and Western tack.

    I have tried: rubbing his nose (John Lyons), backing him a long, long way (Clinton Anderson), shouting at him and waiving my arms (he looks mildly startled, licks his lips and pins his ears at the same time), holding my elbow out (except that he's clever and never comes that close to me), ignoring him, taking baby-steps to saddle him --pad (do something else, saddle, do something else, first hole of girth, do something else --etc. No change. Still pins ears and licks lips and gives me the evil eye.

    This is a highly affectionate horse ---he runs to me in the pasture, hang around me when I'm working int he field--- just a sweet sweet guy --except when he's saddled.

    Ideas? As I said, trainer is coming out tomorrow ---she just finished two years at horse-training college --we'll see what she can do. Meanwhile --hoping to hear from anyone who has an idea!
    Last edited by Foxglove; Aug. 5, 2019, 08:24 AM.

  • #2
    One more try, head low, that means a hair above waist high and looking the other way a little to ask for treats.

    You can teach that easily with clicker training.

    Then as he is good at that every place, start that while ready to saddle, ignore the grumpiness and don't reward that, but if at times he is begging, not grumpy, reward that heavily.
    Teaching a different behavior can help overcome an unwanted one.

    You may find him more interested in asking nicely than acting grumpy.

    I would be wary of anyone else messing with such a nice horse too much and maybe causing other problems?

    Be sure to ask first what that trainer wants to do before handing the horse over, protect him from getting him in a situation you don't think is right for your intended results if it may have unintended consequences, like overly spooking him.

    Sounds like your horse had most times sensible people he could trust and that is priceless.
    Nerver want to teach a horse to be suspicious of what someone may do, or worse, scared to where they start not being sure about people.
    Honest mistakes handling horses happen enough, just try not to make some that could have been avoided if not very sure of what someone else intends to do with your horse.

    Comment


    • #3
      Assuming that your horse wears properly fitting saddle, doesn't have ulcers or any other of the usual suspects -- do you have to saddle him while cross-tied? Maybe there's something about the way he stands while cross tied that doesn't agree with him -- head in awkward postion that translates (sensation wise) to his back or withers = tension?

      I'd try dropping one side of the cross ties to allow him to stand in a more natural, neutral position -- like when you saddle him at the trailer (single tie I imagine) and see if he is less reactive.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'd guess it was a "learned behavior" from his cowboy days...getting cinched up tight for work...I'd try a single tie rope/chain...as mentioned above...and let him eat out of a hay rack a few times while you saddle him.....a little distraction might be all he needs. IMO....punishment of any sort will only make him worse.
        www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
        Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

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        • #5
          I was clicker training my mare for tricks in general.

          She has always been girthy, when I got her she didn't even like being touched under the armpits as her pecs were rock hard cords at that point. She is much more relaxed now but the girthy behavior persisted and yes, she would actually bite.

          What finally worked was clicker training her to do nothing. She got a click and a treat when she didn't move her head at all during girthing, or when she overdid it, and actually turned her head away from me. This is a basic skill in clicker training, so she caught on fast.

          After a while she sometimes started to give an excited little whinny, her "treats now?" giggle, when the girth got tightened.

          She still sometimes tries to bite the saddle as I am walking towards her with it, and gets pissy face when I let down the stirrups by the mounting block, but she is totally fine with the actual girth process. So I have to assume it was learned behavior and not discomfort at all.

          I've also used this to make her stand at the mounting block to get on and off.

          I would also go over his chest/neck,/girth area and see if there are tight muscles or places he doesn't like being touched. Maybe a good horse rmt would be useful.

          Comment


          • #6
            I would just stop saddling him in the cross-ties. He obviously doesn't like it.

            Comment


            • #7
              To follow on to danacat's suggestion, if "in crossties" also happens to be the only place he's saddled when standing on concrete, that can affect posture and comfort when saddling as well.

              When my horse has exhibited this kind of behavior, it's been a signal about saddle fit - but sometimes it's not obvious in what way. For example, he was doing this with my jump saddle but not my dressage saddle. I couldn't tell in what way either of them were failing to fit correctly at first. Eventually, he clearly outgrew the dressage saddle and I replaced it. Lo and behold, the objections to the jump saddle stopped. So now I think the dressage saddle had been putting pressure on his shoulders when in work, but not when standing still/during saddling. So it didn't bother him, but the forward flaps of the jump saddle did during saddling.

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              • #8
                If he is perfect in every other way, I would just stop saddling him in the cross ties?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                  If he is perfect in every other way, I would just stop saddling him in the cross ties?
                  I didn't catch that he only did that in crossties.

                  The solution then is clearly, if not that important he stands there, saddle somewhere else where he is not getting to practice being grumpy, if you can find a better spot.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you straight or ground tie him and tack him up and he doesn't react, then I would just continue that. If he does while standing in the crosstie area and ground tied, you can always send him into some work every time hes a grump and turns into a rattlesnake. Its worked very well for me in the past, same behaviour with a gelding of mine, and it very quickly goes away when he realizes what the other option is. He also hates his elbows being touched. The clicker training also sounds great though.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Not sure if I’ll explain this well and it sounds weird, but maybe he only menaces in the crossties because he knows that you know he can’t actually reach you to bite? As in, if you thought he was serious he’d be in real trouble but since the crossties prevent him from actually biting (unless they’re really loose or he’s really determined, I guess), you don’t, so he knows he can get away with the grumps. When he’s single-tied he could actually bite you more easily but he knows you wouldn’t tolerate that so he doesn’t try. I don’t know if horses think that way, just a thought!
                      Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If all health and discomfort issues are ruled out, I'd do something like what Scribbler said about clicker training. My gelding is also trained to look away for a treat as I did some basic clicker training with him. He started acting a bit girthy one day, would pin his ears maybe, or turn and look back at me quickly. We couldn't find anything wrong. I then started riding him on a hole looser than usual, so maybe at the end of my tightening (I do it in steps) it was just too tight for him.

                        I first put the girth on one side, begin doing the other, take out a treat, he looks away, then munches said treat while I finish fastening. We can do this without a treat, but he has a slight look of dissatisfaction.

                        ​​​​​​His issue was not so severe, so it was quite simple. With your horse you may have to do something like, put the pad on, and wait for a moment when he is not fussing, reward, go to next step, repeat.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If everything fits and he's comfortable I would just call it his quirk and enjoy him with everything else. My young horse spooks at his bridle when I bridle him somewhere different.
                          http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My favorite horse of all time was a chestnut TB mare who hated being groomed and tacked up. The previous owner tried to get her to quit snapping and generally looking disagreeable, with no success. At one point, her husband, in a fit of frustration, tightened her girth suddenly and hard, which didn't help matters. To make a long story short, she became mine and for all of her 25 years, never got over it. I kept a sheet on her to eliminate the need for much grooming, and was ever so tactful about putting the pad and saddle on and girthing it. She never bit me and she never quit disliking it. She was never cross tied and she was never rude, ie, moving around when saddled. It didn't bother me, and I still miss her.
                            Mystic Owl Sporthorses
                            www.mysticowlsporthorses.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When I put the hackamore on in the stall, my mare will try to bite the chinstrap like it's a bit going in her mouth.

                              When I put the hackamore on elsewhere, she slips into it like a halter.

                              She never bites the chinstrap of any halter anywhere.

                              She basically drops her head into any bridle or halter, you hold it up and she puts it on, and reaches down and takes the bit of her own accord.. She is offended when you do it "pony club style" and move the bridle or halter towards her.

                              Anyhow, situation does count, and behavior learned can be learned in one place!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Sounds like my gelding, except he’s also pissy with blankets. I bought him as a yearling, the grumpy faces started after an ice storm that limited turnout for about two weeks when he was 5. He’s 10 now. He’s been treated for ulcers, lives out 24/7, massage, chiro, and a new custom saddle. He still does it...

                                I’ve chalked it up to a learned behaviour.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I’d go with the learned behaviour theory but in the same circumstances I’d also check my own body language. A horse who used to kick out at his owner when she tried to saddle it had no problems when I did so, it was all down to the level of confidence with which we approached it. In the long run unless the horse is dangerously aggressive then I wouldn’t worry about it, either don’t use the cross ties or just ignore the behaviour.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have zero tolerance for a horse that *actually* tries to bite me, but I don't care if they make ugly faces. I had a lovely welsh mare that did this. Pull out a carrot or treat with a crinkly wrapper, and the ears instantly went forward. She was lovely to ride, sound as a dollar, and absolutely kid safe--it was just her quirk.

                                    My semi-retired AO mare is the same way, and makes terrible faces at the first sign of a saddle pad or sheet/blanket. If someone less experienced with horses has to blanket her, I have them cross tie her. But she has never tried to escalate and actually bite--just pins ears and snaps her teeth (tied, loose, cross tied, whatever). I tried for a while to correct it, reward positive behavior, or identify something 'hurting'. But after ruling out everything we could think of, I just learned to ignore it.

                                    I've never tried clicker training, but honestly the behavior doesn't keep me up at night. I figure it's akin to a kid rolling their eyes or loudly sighing when being asked to empty the dishwasher or take out the trash. Heck I make ugly faces (rolling my eyes, blowing out my bangs) when dealing with difficult customers sometimes (on the phone). While I'd rather my horses have perfect manners, I'm also not going to make a big deal over individual self expression, once I've done my best to rule out physical discomfort or fear.
                                    A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...

                                    http://elementfarm.blogspot.com/

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      One of my horses also does this, it was a learned behavior from his earlier days. He was most likely started western. He also is better when in new environments.
                                      I give him a cookie when he gets his girth tightened. In all, he gets three cookies during girth tightening, one for each time I go tighter, which is three times for my saddle.
                                      This broke the behavior entirely and he now doesn’t mind being girthed up, but does look for his cookie... which I find to be a much better behavior than the nasty face.

                                      I actually now do this will all of my horses, even my young ones, but they only get one cookie. I find that it really helps to associate girthing up with positive ideas, and makes it so nasty face never begins.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        So when you saddle him in his field or at the trailer, he stands nicely, no ear pinning or ugly faces? He doesn’t try to reach around and bite you when you saddle him in his field? Assuming his saddle fits and he has no other pain issues, and also assuming he ground or straight ties, just stop saddling in the cross ties. Pick your battles.

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