How to Deal With Girth Pain in horses
Have you noticed the unrestless state of your horse? More kicking than usual, becoming tense and unsettled generally? It can be said that your horse is “girthy,” “cinchy,” or Cinch-sensitive. Whether a mild or severe case, it’s worth checking as it can be hazardous to both the horse and the rider/handler.
Did you know that this could also be among the signs of ulcers in horses? However, before being conclusive, it is important to thoroughly check on the causes of girth pain in horses. If the cause of the pain is internal then further investigation (for ulcers) should be done.
Causes of girth pain in horses
- Overly tightening of the girth or even wrong equipment that causes discomfort brings about this uneasiness when saddling your horse.
- A weak back
- A previous injury that went untreated or not healed.
When saddling becomes difficult over and over again, it should be a point of concern. This is because of the association that the horse will have to this kind of feeling. This conditioning (association) appears as below:
- When you tighten the girth, the result is pressure.
- After pressure comes the reaction (the uneasiness)
- Once the rider finishes adjusting the girth, the pressure stops.
This is done habitually in the same sequence. To the horse, this habit signals that there’s need to prevent the girth adjustment. As a result, the horse will become more hostile e.g. trying to reach and bite the rider/ handler or even throwing himself to the ground.
Other Checks and tips
You will need to confirm that the horse is in tip-top physical condition and that the equipment is the perfect fit. After this check, work out a proper process by trying the two simple steps below:
- Adjust the girth at irregular intervals.
- Introduce conditioning that is accompanied by positive reinforcement (give treats). This reward system works well. Much as there is correction of behavior, it does not feel like punishment. The reward system is what the horse will adapt to and after some time, the girthing problems will be a thing of the past.
If you practice the two methods mentioned above, the horse will no longer associate girthing with pain or discomfort. Take time at this because behavior modification takes time.
Ultimately, if a horse is happy and comfortable the rider will be happy, comfortable and safe as well. It’s a win-win!