3yo with girth problem / I feel like a failure

Hello, this is my first ever forum post and I come here because in this moment it really helped me reading topics on the matter and to get to the root of the problem with my 3yo and I need a little comfort.
So, this past Sunday I brought my 3yo in a stable near my house, I bought her back in June from the breeder and she stayed there for this 5 months for the breaking in. She was extremely underweight (I mean you all would call animal control on the breeder for how bad she looked) so the first time the person that broke her in started the job on the sadlle was late September because she had gained a good amount of weight and muscles. This person unfortunately was not very honest with me so the last two weeks of October my horse has not been ridden because the person was not in the stable (without telling me) and the horse was just lunged. At this point she barely knew the weight on the sadlle but because I didn’t like the breeder practices and the person doing the breaking in wasn honest I told them that the 15th of November I would’ve took her home, so they did a good job of starting the horse under saddle with all three gaits. In this time I rode her 3/4 times and it all went smooth.
Now she’s home, and I rode her twice but I had a huge problem: she didn’t want to be saddled or to me to get on. The first time I thought she was just being a cheeky 3yo that didn’t want the Saddle but the second day I was extremely upset because she didn’t want me to get on. So I searched on the forum and people suggested there’s a tack problem. I’m riding in a jumping saddle because she was broken in with one and i didn’t want to change to a dressage until later on, in using an amazing memory foam pad from premier equine that cover perfectly the Saddle and she didn’t have discomfort when I touched the back zone. So my second guess was the girth and low and behold the moment that I tried to touch the girth zone with my hand she want full shark on me:ears pinned back, open mouth and went for the bite. Now she NEVER did this, this is the first time ever in 6 months that she did such a thing so I was extremely upset and worried. In the afternoon I lunged her a little and then I tried to desentesize her and it resulted that even though she is distressed at least she doesn’t come for me (she bite me on the side but the other time she tried I scolded her for one second and now she just goes for the air in front of her). Last night I called my trainer and she told me that probably she’s sore, even though I checked Thoroughly and she doesn’t have any type of scars/cut/bump nothing, and that’s why she goes nuts. So with her I decided for an entire week to not saddle her but I keep putting arnica cream on the zone so she gets used to my hand in the zone and if she’s sore it’s going to help her heal. Later Next week, hoping that she won’t be as distressed as now, IL try with an Elastic band and lunge her to see how she react (while riding she didn’t try anything, not bucking, not running, under saddle she’s awesome) and I’m going to buy a sheepskin girth cover so I’ll introduce the Saddle again. I think I’m doing the right steps, but the problem is more my mental state: I feel like a fucking failure. Even though I’m pretty sure her being hurt by the girth started with the breaking in (they didn’t have tack for the horses and in the end they were using a girth that was too small for her) I still failed in not seeing her distress and excusing it for a cheeky 3yo habit. I’m scared that she now hates me, that I ruined her.
I hope I will find I little bit of comfort here…
Thank you for reading everything.

There is an ulcer pressure point right under the belly where the girth goes. Considering this horse was very thin, broke by a questionable trainer and moved barns I’d have the vet out and start treating for ulcers.

You should also really consider finding a trainer to work with you and start from the beginning as if she was never broke to fill in any training gaps.

You did a great job getting her into a better situation but she needs some tlc and correct training now.


Yes, I Called the vet and she’s coming Monday to check on her, anyway under the vet advice when I brought her home I started giving her gastrocure from candioli

Goodness! You’re not a failure!

There’s no reason to expect that a recently moved baby, with a whole bunch of baggage, will be an easy ride in a week. Give your mare and yourself some time, and just enjoy her. She’s lucky to have an owner who cares.



Thank you so much! The weird part is that the times I rode her under saddle is AMAZING, she listen really well and does everything! That’s why Im so scared for the whole girth situation!
Anyway, yes I called the vet so she’s going to get checked and in this days I’m leaving her alone by only lunging her and letting her relax :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
Thank you!

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All of the above.
But also, there is a nerve complex - Vagus nerve - that can be part of a “girthy” response in a horse.
Ask you vet to address this issue when your mare is examined.


In my experience, girthiness usually comes from 1 or more problems:

  1. Ulcers. As others have said already, and I’m glad you’re getting a vet out.
  2. Back pain/poor saddle fit. Do you know how to check saddle fit? Or do you have access to a good saddle fitter who can advise you?
  3. Front foot pain. A very good lameness vet taught me this years and years ago. I was surprised at the time, but darn if he wasn’t right more times than not on the horses we brought to him with this complaint - 2 Navicular Syndrome horses and 1 Ringbone horse.

Less commonly you’ll see girthiness due to the nerve reaction that @2DogsFarm mentioned, too, though most of those horses I’ve known have reacted with dramatic blowups rather than agression.


I did a full vet check back in July with all the x rays and no foot problem arose and she’s still shoeless and just got a trim so I don’t think it could be the feet
About the ulcer as I said I’m giving her gastrocure since I know moving can be stressful for Horses and that can cause gastric problems
Usually when they have back pain when you touch the area they’re jumping out or moving at least a little bit but she shows absolutely no pain on the back whatsoever, only when I touch with my hands the girth area.
The only veterinary problem that could be possible is the ulcer, even though I read the symptoms and usually the horse that has an ulcer doesn’t eat/has a dull coat and she is as shiny as ever and also eats everything is given to her. I think it’s my fault that I didn’t use a good girth (it’s the same that was being used by the trainer) and I possibly pinched really hard her skin and now she has some type of oedema that I cannot see

My vet is extremely meticulous so I think she will take everything in consideration!

There could also be other issues, is she in heat? Is she challenging you, trying to see where you are in the pecking order?

My new horse has been home three weeks, 3 weeks of no work, good food, fresh trim, chiro adjustment, dental work, antibiotics, ulcer medicine, massage and grooming. Je us feeling MUCH better. The other day he pinned his ears at me. He got growled at. Last night I was fitting a new saddle and he pinned his ears and snaked his head. So he got a healthy push on the shoulder and the loud growl. Then we were all sunshine, roses and you can do whatever. This is normal and frankly he is so bad at making faces it makes me laugh…

Every time they come to a new place/ new owner they need to find out where they belong. Most mares I have met are not really in love with girth. Chances are she did the same thing at the trainer/breeder and she was disciplined. She is just trying it on with you because it might work.

Have the vet take a look, make sure the saddle and girth fit well, are padded and comfortable. Rule out the obvious and health related. Then if you are still having an issue, time for ground work, make sure she is clear on who the leader in your relationship is. If you are unsure how, get professional help. You are not a failure…you are responsible for a creature with an opinion!

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I’m not sure if it’s a leader issue because aside from me trying to touch the girth zone she doesn’t challange me in any other way, I even touch her breasts and she loves it! Im already doing a little bit of groundwork in fact she can stand alone (not for long right now but we’re working on it) without being tied, every time there’s something she’s scared I let her work it out without interference and she really get over things easily!
I think it’s a vet issue for the crazy aggressiveness, I saw her at the breeder with the trainer and I also tack her up there and she was annoyed but not aggressive, that’s what makes me think that she is hurt
But I know some pattern/horsemanship principles like “make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy” in fact even if she tries to bite I keep my hand in the girth area (without pressure) until she stops biting and I release when she looks relaxed :blush:
I don’t know if she’s in heat! I saw her peeing but I’m not sure, tomorrow I’m going to check better

Exactly! Rule out any physical pain, soreness or health issues first! Then tack fit and you know where you are at. As for her being in season, this could do it. I had a mare once who would literally try to eat you if you just girthed her up in heat. Rest of the time she was fine. Little regumate did wonders during the show season. Off season we just used a padded girth and girthed up sloooowwww. A hole at a time. Walking in between.

Keep trying! I am in the same boat, getting a new horse home is like a mixed bag of “we are going to be the most awesome dream team” one second and " OMG, I have f***ed up big and now I am broke" the next minute. It keeps me up at night! We all get through it…you are going to be :+1:!


If you have a mare( for some) it can also go along with her heat cycle so you have number 4.

Saddle fit issues can cause girthiness and show zero back pain and the horse can be resistant to mounting as well. Since it started so soon after bringing her home I would look at your tack and also your horse keeping ( stall, feed turnout) to see how it differs from where she was before.

Have you tried your dressage saddle? It may fit better and it won’t make any difference to her as far as riding.

Lastly are you experienced with handling and riding a green horse? They can test the waters almost immediately and get the upper hand on some handlers almost immediately. Working with someone else for a bit might be good. Just to pick up on what you may be missing.


If she has a bruise on her girth you cannot see it because they have black skin. Gently pinch to see if she is sore.

Other than that they start that teeth snapping when someone just puts the saddle on and reefs up the girth. This could have been a worker tacking up for the trainer.

She needs to trust you. So I have found my horse loves the cair girth. It is really wide. I groom the saddle area. Place the saddle blanket. Place the saddle. Put the girth down on the offside. I do it up loose on this side. This is what the horse considers loose. That might be looser than what you think is loose. Continue grooming and every now and then put the girth up a hole. By the time you walk to the mounting block, the girth is tight enough to mount and you have not taken any extra time.

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My gut says

  1. Vet - ask specifically about ulcers, whether anything in the front feet seems suspect, back pain
  2. Saddle Fitter - in person, looking at this specific saddle
  3. Trainer - ideally someone who can have her for at least a month but at a minimum who can come out 3-4 days a week initially

You need really experienced eyes on the ground. dancing away from a saddle can be pain, fear, confusion, or boundary testing. However, if you don’t have complete confidence in identifying which it is (or what combination) then the message the horse gets is really inconsistent.

Everyone has their own writing style but you sound stressed and emotional. I don’t say that at all from a place of judgement because I have 100% been there. Young horses need a lot of emotionally neutral experiences. Someone who can correct a negative behavior without getting angry, frustrated, scared, or impatient. Someone who can work through fear without also getting afraid or impatient or flustered.

Is there anyone in your area who is known for being very patient and methodical with young horses?


I’m emotional when I’m not around my horse. This is why I came here. To find relief.

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It started soon when I got her home but the problem is that I think this is an ongoing problem, as I said they weren’t using a good tack back at the breeder so I think it just builded up to now and that even if I lwouldve left her there that would’ve been the result anyway
Feed and stall are mostly identical, she sleeps on straw and eat an amazing hay (both the breeder and the actual stable make their own hay) the only difference is the food: at the breeder she was eating just barley while here is a mix of barley and oats mixed for a medium working horse since in the stable most horses are older.
Next week I’ll try with the dressage saddle, I have a synthetic one that its super lightweight and quite small (my horse is very small) with a LeMieux padded girth.
Finally, I don’t have much experience with young horses but with horses in general I do, in the beginning I thought about a behavior/testing waters problem but she only is that extreme when I touch the area, even with just my hand, so I really do think that she got pinched very bad and now Is sore

Thank you so much :pray:
I’m really upset because I really care, I was going crazy but then I remembered that I have all the time that I want since she’s only three and already has a baggage of problems! Sometimes social media get in my head because everybody has the perfect horse, they’re three doing passage (IMHO it’s a good way to have a broken horse by 6 but whatever) and never a single setback, and even though I’ve been in stables long enough to know that this isn’t the truth I still hurt!

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Young horses are amazingly forgiving of our mistakes. Don’t worry about ruining her. You’ve obviously got the observational skills to see when something isn’t right and a good attitude towards figuring out a solution. :grinning:


This young horse has been under some significant stress - body weight, tack, inconsistent training? I think you are pretty dedicated to her well-being to stop and question what is happening and why.

Stay calm and forgive yourself for the mistake. You learned more about this young horse and how to work with her. That is really important. Your bond will come from using best practices and showing her your compassion.