ShamlessDQ

Beyond Girthy

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Okay, I'm looking for some suggestions.

The horse belongs to my friend's rescue. She is, I think, about 14, Appaloosa mare, and her circumstances are that she was basically left out at pasture to run rough for two years - she is so far beyond fat we haven't worked out HOW she didn't founder.

Right now, we're trying to end up with less horse, so she's on a diet and being carefully legged up. It's starting to work - her neck no longer looks like she borrowed it from a stallion ;).

She's a weeee bit grumpy about how we're "staaaarving" her and making her work, but overall has good ground manners and shows good training under saddle. I believe she may have run barrels at some point, but she seems happy enough in English tack...except for the one problem. In personality, she's a dominant, pushy type of mare towards both other horses and people. I've handled worse, but she definitely has some Appy-tude.

She is also the most girthy horse I have ever handled. I'm talking trying to cow kick and meaning it when the girth touches her belly and again when it's fastened or tightened. If somebody is holding her, she tries to bite them, and again, means it - this isn't just grumpy "I don't want my girth tight" behavior, but pretty high levels of aggression.

She has no sore spots that we can find, she accepts having her belly and girth area touched and groomed. Also, she does not demonstrate the behavior if the girth is tightened with a rider in the saddle.

The behavior was the same with two different girths. I have not yet been able to try the old standby of a string girth on her as we don't have one available and we don't want to buy her a girth until she's back to a more normal size (right now she, all of fourteen hands or slightly over, is sharing a saddle with the 16 hand draft cross and needing a longer girth!). Other than that, does anyone have any ideas? I do have something of a variety of girths available - I tried a fleece lined girth and a leather shaped girth (the fleece lined girth was the one that belongs to the drafty and was too short, so I got the longest girth I could find). Both with stretch panels. Not sure what else we might have that fits her, but there *are* quite a few spare girths in the tack room.

I'd kind of like not to have to put a helmet on to saddle her :P.

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try this maybe: tighten the girth to the point that the saddle won't slip under her belly but isn't as tight as you would make it before mounting. lunge her to the right at the trot three circles (or until her appytude improves) then tighen one hole. lunge to the left likewise tighten another hole. canter to the right tighten another hole, and then to the left tighten all the way.

if you think about it it's kind of "rude" to just put the saddle on and cinch up all the way with no notice. some horses seem to take it personally. i'd also take a close look at saddle clearance in the scapula area. nothing creates a grouchy horse like that shoulder blade being constantly slammed against by the tree. my horses aren't cinchy, but I've always cinched up gradually, giving them time to relax and get into work mode.

if all of that doesn't help you might have to go back to "starting horses 101", just putting a rope around her stomach until she can tolerate that, leave a saddle on her (take stirrups off) while she's grazing or just hanging out so that she starts to associate all of it with stuff that she enjoys anyway.

good luck with the diet. might also want to have her tested for cushings--she's in that age group.

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Problem is, this isn't the regular "Don't tighten my girth that fast, you" cinchiness. She's starting this when the girth touches her belly - in fact that's what's getting the worst reaction. Then fastening it, then tightening it isn't getting as much complaint, and once the rider is up, there's no complaint at all. I haven't encountered a reaction to the girth touching the belly...or this level of aggression...before.

I am pretty sure the rescue owner did all vet checks when bringing her in. Her hair coat is healthy (except for the top of her tail, which she apparently rubbed on something. Sigh)

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No, I have not. I can certainly try putting a rope around her, or something other than a girth, to see how she reacts. At least it might tell us something.

She isn't just doing it to me, but it's possible she's just trying to intimidate people into not riding her because she's grouchy about being put back to work. I'm also thinking of having the chiropractor check her ribs...if she can find them :P.

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the problem in my experience (I was a custom saddle fitter) is almost always in the area behind the elbow, and cinching up too quickly causing horses to have a defensive reaction. I encountered horses with really hard knots of old oedema that took ages to release.

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It's obviously possible her previous owner did indeed girth her up too quickly and built up a very strong negative reaction. Or maybe somebody was trying to stop her bloating by the knee in the stomach method (this is exactly why I don't do that sort of thing to bloaters :P). I always do the girth as gently as possible and in stages.

Eh. Maybe she just needs some time and patience. Under normal circumstances, I'd use treats for positive reinforcement when she behaves, but obviously she can't get any extra food right now. (Or possibly ever, comparing her condition with the other teenaged horse who was out with her on the same pasture...I'm pretty sure she's an air fern).

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I would NOT go the treat route. this is not learning to bow or lie down on command, this is good manners like not farting in public. if this horse is supposed to be rehomed at some point i'd go back to basic, basic training. and yes, you need to take the time it takes so that it takes less time. good luck!

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Feldenkrais principles could be interesting for this horse. (Tellington Touch for horses). They become less defensive. How much time and effort do you want to put in and with what goal exactly?

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I'm not trained in those, but it's a definite thought. Her ground manners are otherwise good except for a slight reluctance to pick up her front feet, which I think is just that she doesn't really know any of us yet. (If you think about it, having a hoof lifted puts a horse in a very vulnerable position). She loves being groomed. It's just this one thing she's bothered about - obviously there's a reason for it (I suspect she was at one point owned by one of those idiots who likes to throw the saddle on the back and yank up the girth to full tightness in one motion).

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yes you take their foot away, which limits their flight ability. that's why teaching stuff like bowing (looks kitschy) actually builds confidence.

feldenkrais principles are very easy to learn (that's the point, seriously google moshe feldenkrais) along with the tellington touch. once again, what is the goal for this horse? and I certainly hope there is one.

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Right now, our goal is to get her fit, get her weight down and then see what we have. I've ridden her briefly at a walk (obviously, we don't want to break her by overdoing it), and she's got a really nice handle on her...she's been trained western but I rode her English and she was fine with it, she accepts the bit well and has a nice walk. (Apparently she was a barrel racer when she was younger, and I believe it, she turns on a touch from the seat bone).

I actually like her a lot and would want to keep her for myself if A. She was a little bit taller and B. I was in a position to own a horse right now. (And she also doesn't know how to jump, but we plan on trying to teach her once she's fit enough).

No, definitely not a therapy horse, but she might end up in a lesson program IF she's suitable. If not, then she'll probably be rehomed - a lot depends on what we can get out of her once she's fit. It's really hard to tell what you have when they resemble a walrus! ;).

My big concern with this behavior is that she almost hit me cow kicking and I don't want me...or another volunteer...to get nailed by her. So it's a safety issue. I'll try adding some of the touch techniques when I work with her and see if it helps. Somebody on another board also suggested checking her for ulcers, which given she DID just go from living rough at pasture to being in a fairly busy barn, a larger herd, and being worked...isn't out of the question.

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for your safety and the safety of others, teach her under pain of I don't know what to yield the hindquarters. really. that's unacceptable. if she turns her butt toward anybody to cow kick, you cow kick her back with a big, fat crop that is faster then she is. and if anybody says that's "cruel", it's okay that she can try to kick the crap out of you and you can't defend yourself?

this is the same dumbarse argument I get about dogs. get after her, but be kind.

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Here's my opinion on this take it for what it's worth. Might be ulcers or pain somewhere in girth area,pain or not she doesn't have the right to act out by kicking or biting. I have NO tolerance for kicking or biting i'd be really getting after her, and in a big way,not being mean or unfair in punishment but letting her know kicking and biting are NOT aloud PERIOD.

Think she learned she could get away with kicking and biting,it might of scared a previous owner to leave her alone,so is now trying what worked before.I could be totally wrong too.

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Oh, it's definitely possible she's trying to intimidate me. (Or others - she has not just done this to me, as I think I mentioned). If that's the case she'll give it up real fast when it gets her nowhere ;). She wouldn't be the first horse that's tried to pull that on me. However, straight up dominant behavior is not often associated with just one thing. I've dealt with a spoiled horse before and she would throw her little tantrums over a variety of things until she realized that nobody was going to get off and put her away because of them. This is a lot more specific. It's NOT going to get her out of anything, though.

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a health or pain issue is absolutely an issue, but the fact remains that horses are way bigger than we are, have reflexes way faster than ours and can really injure us accordingly. this is why it's a good idea for the horse to learn to stand for the farrier, vet and dentist, saddling without being tied,

or mounting lol, you brought it up. ( sorry, couldn't resist. ) and not walking off until told to do so. teaching a horse to wait and have patience and DO NOTHING. is a very valuable thing.

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shameless, I think you have a respect problem. since she's so fat I'm not surprised she's cinchy just because of the physiology so you should perhaps respect her physical limitations, but she needs to respect you as the personal trainer. did you ever see Disney's "Fantasia"`? there was a sequence with hippos in tutus--hilarious and that's how I picture her.

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Yeah, her weight could be a contributing factor too. She's shrunk some since we got her. Her neck doesn't look like she borrowed it from a stallion any more but I think it's still wider than a couple of the ponies shoulders!

But all we can do on that is persevere and make sure we get the balance between getting weight off of her and not injuring her...you have to be a little conservative when legging up a horse that's been out of work for that long.

I do feel like a personal trainer. "Just five more reps and you can stop..."

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but oh so valuable. horses who learn how do nothing no matter what and can distinguish when it*s their time are the horses who know how to relax and when to turn it on. professional atheletes spend lots of money on relaxation therapy, they should just get on a trail horse!

that goes for humans too.

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here's an idea, do you know how to ride point to point? I think if you're a jumper "yes".

try putting buckets of hay with little treats in every corner of your arena. ride her on a loose rein until she discovers them. once she discovers them she might get motivated to move her arse "point to point".

diet isn't everything.

Edited by nick

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I'm not sure how you mean that in this context.

She's already on an exercise program set by somebody with way more experience rehabbing fatties than I have ;). Once we have her a bit fitter, there's a very nice hill she's going to be come rather more acquainted with than she likes...

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okay. I was thinking about what motivates her without making her fatter. I've never had a fat horse, just a show jumper I bought because he was fed up with show jumping, and that's how I motivated him to be willing about jumping again. he was moving to eat.

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If pain isn't an issue, attitude is. Have you tried riding her western to see if there's any difference? Have you set the saddle on her and rubbed and patted where the girth goes before reaching for it? If she still does it, make sure two very confident people are handling her when you saddle her. One to make her run into an elbow when she tries to bite and hold on to her while the other one gives her a swift kick in the butt. I bet her ground manners seem good, but watch the expression on her face when you make her move over or pick up her feet etc. Bet she won't look pleased. She sounds like a pretty typical, snotty mare that found one avenue she can get away with something (could be something she figured out previously) and needs to have her attitude knocked down a few notches. If anyone says anything about handling her roughly, let her kick and bite them, then smack them!

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I just remembered something that tellington-jones did when she was here two years ago giving a three day course to help all kinds of wound up or crankly horses. she took ace bandages and wrapped horses up (not the whole horse!!) in all kinds of interesting ways with equally interesting results. they're cheap and could be a worth a try, more comfortable than a rope and with a lot of "give". could be a first step to defusing that opposition reflex, and if nothing else you'll have an ace bandage around when you need it.

she wrapped people up too, and I have to say the results they were pretty interesting as well.

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