Extreme Girthiness

Hello Everyone, I have been reading this forum for I think for over 15 years, but never post, but am having an issue and was interested in others view points/experiences.

I have a mare that is about 14 years old. When I got her she was girthy, but nothing to extreme. She was western, and I changed her tack to English and have ridden that way ever since. At the new place after I got her, she was going well, I have always been using a girth with elastics on both sides, it is fuzzy. She is more go than whoa so I added Quiessence as a supplement which is very high in magnesium. She improved a lot, and it was good for awhile, so I took her off of Quiessence and she was still ok. He girth was getting old, so I bought a new one the same size, so I guess over time the old one had streched out and she had gained more weight. When I went to use the new one and had to pull a bit more than usual to get to the first hole she got upset. And since then I have gone through a new saddle, multiple different girths, saddle fitter, massage, tones of stuff, this is over 2 years. After a particularly bad episode I tried AFX and called the vet. We decided to try a round of Omeprazole and see how it goes. At first there was a marked improvement, but I would say half way through the treatment, she regressed a bit, with more air biting, but overall it was better. After the treatment I added a supplement for gut health, and did the AFX for a few more days then let it be. She was consistent with the air biting but not that bad until today which is about 3 weeks after the treatment. She hadn’t been ridden for a few days and it was cold, so there is that, but I’m not sure what to do. There was an improvement with the Omeprazole at the beginning, but the improvement didn’t’ last even when she was on it. After the first hole, she’s generally ok with tightening. She is great to ride, it’s not the saddle, her back has been checked, the saddle fitted and checked, and she’s not sore after a ride. It’s doing up the girth. She looses her mind if you try a western saddle as the tightening requires more of a pulling up. Could her cycle be playing into this? No sure what to do anymore. I’m going to talk with my vet about it again tonight. I don’t think its just learned behaviour, as she does improve, so I’m thinking something is bothering her.

It’s worth an US of the ovaries, was pretty cheap, for peace of mind. I know you don’t think it’s learned at this point, but I had a pony like this. Have you tried lunging a few mins, and incrementally tightening?


Once it’s on the first hole, it isn’t a big deal, she’s pretty over it, minimal fuss. It’s getting to the first hole.

If physical discomfort is ruled out, it may simply be bad memories. When I got my mare, she had been a western trail horse. She was girthy while being tacked up, and she would reach around once you were in the saddle and nibble at the toe of your boot. After years of comfortable girths and gentle girthing procedure (ie, no yanking), she no longer acts girthy. I even used a non-elastic (gasp!) girth a few weeks ago, and she didn’t complain at all.

I recently learned that the toe nibbling after mounting is because she was most likely trained with aggressive spurs as a young horse. I’ve not seen this type of “training,” so it never occurred to me that she might have been treated this way. Now after mounting, if she’s patted and talked to softly, she sighs and relaxes. (She also might get a cookie or two while she’s waiting for me to tell her to “walk on.” :wink:)

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Hmm then get a high value treat and feed the shit out of her while that first hole goes on


Oh, I feel your pain! Nothing quite like getting that new girth on before it stretches a bit and becomes easier.

You might not need it long term, but try using a girth extender just to get the girth on. Place it on quite high, to give you just enough overlap to nab one of the girth straps. Then transition from the girth extender to having the girth on normally. This can also help with the amount of pulling, prodding and fussing, hopefully decreasing the unhappiness quotient. And yes, fully agree that bribes work - get something high value and try to associate it with getting girthed up.


Gastric scope time. The fact that she improved on treatment and regressed means you need more answers. Mine took 18 weeks and three types of meds to resolve and she never once flicked an ear girthing. She was an atypically challenging case to heal but you need to know the severity and location of the ulcers to develop a targeted treatment plan with appropriate tapering of medications.


You could try carafate for hindgut. It helped my mare who is exactly the same. Fine once you get the first hole in the billet. Mine also got a new saddle, chiro, omeprazole, gut x etc. And still will sometimes swing her head like she’d like to bite. She gets cracked for threatening to bite. I like the idea of treats to distract her. I may try that.

If not ulcers, maybe pressure on the cranial nerve when the girth is tightened?
If not, still an interesting read:


Completely agree with Grace. If she responded to ulcer treatment, then there is your culprit. How long did you end up giving the ulcer meds?

I have the medication for 28 days. I talked with my vet and we did talk about the hind but, and also maybe it’s related to her cycle. I do the girth extender as well. Thank you all for your replies. It’s interesting that it can take longer to heal than one treatment.

Ulcers certainly can take more than one course to treat, and if you just stop a full dose cold turkey at the “end” of treatment, you often get rebound acidity that can bring the ulcers back with a vengeance.
This happened to me, since the box of gastroguard (and the vet at the time) didn’t inform me of the need to taper off the omeprazole after the 30 days.

There are also a handful of other medications used for different kinds of ulcers, each horse responds differently. If you saw some results with the ulcer treatment, I’d be pursuing that to start, and then looking at her reproductive system if it doesn’t completely resolve. Ulcers are IME way easier to deal with than “mare problems” :sweat_smile:


Have you treated for bots this fall yet? A stomach full of bot larvae isn’t very comfortable, can cause ulcers and Omeprazole and other PPIs make it easier for them to establish by lowering the stomach acid.

Also try girthing her up elsewhere just to see. I have a mare who acts horribly girthy in the cross ties but doesn’t bat an eye if you girth her up in her stall, or the arena or anywhere else on the property. She also forgets to be girthy if there is anything interesting going on that she’s watching. It’s just a habit for her, I think she picked it up on the track.


I tried an experiment today on my girthy mare who has been treated for hind gut and fore gut ulcers and EPM and polyneuritis. I cut up a bunch of carrots and tossed a few in at bucket in a stall and saddled her in the stall. I tossed a few carrot pieces in the bucket before I put the saddle pad on. Then more carrots before i put the saddle on. Another handful before putting the girth on etc. No girthyness at all. Thanks to whoever suggested treats. Hopefully I won’t have to do it this way forever, but it might break the habit if that’s what caused it.


Others have thoroughly covered the physical pain component, but how are you going about putting her girth on?

Sometimes people don’t realize how quickly they go about making a girth snug. They are thinking about the upcoming ride, their lessons, the day, all the stuff they have to be doing after – they hustle through the steps of throwing the saddle on and tightening the girth. It’s just another mindless task, which does the horse some disservice as I think this is one of the few tasks where you should be your most mindful.

I rarely see people fasten the girth and leave daylight between the girth as the first step. Try this a few times. Ease the saddle gently over their back using your hand/arm as a buffer. Put up the girth on one side, then do something else. Pick their feet. Brush their tail. Then do up the other side, on the lowest/loosest setting. Brush out their mane, and then put the girth up one hole at a time. After you bridle them walk them around a bit, then tighten the girth one hole at a time until it’s time to step on the mounting block.

I have one horse where this is his ritual.

I don’t have many pet peeves, but it is a peeve of mine to see people who crank the girth tight: standing on their tip-toes, pulling the billets up against the horse as tight as they can go with zero preamble or warm-up first to allow the saddle to settle – no wonder horses bite them!


My first horse was an angel.

He bit (nipped with some emphasis) just one time. I had started getting lazy and decided that instead of alternating sides when I tightened the girth one hole at a time that I would do it all at once on each side–3-4 holes.

The third day I did this he nipped me. NO! WHAP!

Then I apologized to my horse and from then on I went back to my old method of one hole tighter on one side, then the other side, back and forth until the girth was tight enough.

He never nipped me again.


I use small dry alfalfa cubes as treats with my very girthy mare because they require more chewing = longer distraction.

Alfalfa cube, saddle pad. Alfalfa cube, half pad. Alfalfa cube, saddle, Alfalfa cube, girth to loosest hole.

Now when she turns her head to me I am still ready for her to nail me but generally it is because she is looking for her treat.

Her bit is a green slobbery mess after my rides, but it’s better than than alternative. Fortunately there are enough distractions at a show when tacking her so I don’t have to go through the green slobber inducing practice when in public :slight_smile:


Why is your girth so short that you have to struggle to get to the first hole? I’d get a longer girth go super slowly with treats and rewards and get her scoped.


Some horses learn to puff up so a girth that just barely fits when first saddling goes up 4 holes on both sides after walking for 5 minutes.


Yeah. If I used a girth long enough to start by fastening it loosely on the lowest hole, I’d never be able to get it tight enough to stay on after we did our pre-mounting walk to and around the ring.

My current horse is not that big, but he can blow up bigger than any horse I’ve ever had. Yay for large lung capacity, I guess. :grinning: