Girthy mare (with good attitude)

I half-lease a chestnut TB mare who has a lovely, pleasant attitude that defies all the stereotypes of that description. She’s at a small dressage barn where she receives really excellent care. Her work is split between rides with me and rides with lesson students in the trainer’s program. All are adults. Trainer is thoughtful about who she has in program, from my perspective.

The mare is girthy, in the most pleasant way possible. I go slow - a hole or so each side with breaks interspersed for me to put on helmet, bridle, walk to ring, etc. She is obviously bothered by it - she might try to bit the wall if we’re in the stall; only occasionally does she turn and make a face at me (again, she’s a lovely lady). I’m assuming that other students aren’t being jerks about putting the girth on, but I don’t know. We use a neoprene girth. Saddle fits her well; trainer is careful and attentive to saddle fit (like, takes a look at the beginning of every lesson, has invested in nice tack and pads for all horses).

I was wondering today if there are things I can do to make this girthing more comfortable for her. Sheepskin/fleece? Bodywork on her sides? I don’t know that it’s ulcers - she has no other indicators, and has 24/7 turnout.

She’s been this way since we got her (several months ago), but a death in my family took me away from the barn for several weeks, and I feel like I’m suddenly realizing this is something I should address for her. Any suggestions appreciated.

Have her evaluated for ulcers or just put her on ulcergard and see if that helps.


It could be a habit. It could be that students are jerks about girthing her up. It could be her girth is too tight. It could be that the girth isn’t nestled well in her girth channel. I’ve always disliked neoprene, I feel like it sticks to their skin. Can you just try some different girths to see if any make a difference? A different saddle that lets the girth sit in a different place? Failing that, body work may turn up something. Treating for ulcers never hurts. But playing around with tack is cheap and easy in a lesson barn with lots to try, I’d start there.


Check that the girth is flat before you put it on her, I’ve had problems with some neoprene girths in that they bunch up internally, i.e. the inner core goes out of shape. The only make that didn’t do this was Kieffer. If the girth is okay you might want to try a sheepskin sleeve.

I’ve just moved my girthy mare on to a Christ Sheepskin Girth which she really seems to like.


From ulcers to kissing spines - make sure, there is no medical issue. It can be a habit caused by earlier experience. I train with treats and go very slow. The horse is now waiting for the girth.

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All of the suggestions given are great avenues to try. However, it’s going to really be hard knowing what works with multiple riders tacking up this horse. You have no control over others, so even if you happen upon the right solution, making her comfortable only on the day/s you ride might not be enough to change her reaction to the girth the rest of the time. Obviously putting her on Ulcergard (at ~ $1k/mo) or vet intervention isn’t really a practical option for a lesson student. Kudos to you for trying to help her!


I just went through this with a very quiet horse who suddenly became girthy.

If the horse is hyper at feeding time and sensitive to being touched on the belly in the girth area, ulcers are a good bet. They are actually fairly common especially after stress like a recent move to a new barn.

24 doses of ulcergard (3+ weeks at a 1/4 tube/day) is about $200 for an adult horse, less if the rebate is still from Beohringer is still active.

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A less expensive test option is to use Nexium and see if there is improvement…if so, would suggest ulcers and now you have evidence to convince horse owner to actually scope and fully treat (without knowing what you’re dealing with, hard to know what combo of drugs is best - e.g. addition of Sucralfate? or Misoprostol? )

My mare was girthy from first buying her and was ulcer free at that time, I switched to a Stubben Equi-soft girth and she LOVES it. When she got girthy again, I checked for ulcers and they were there. Treated and she went back to not loving her girth but no more ears pinned, tail swish, etc.

Even with the Equi-soft I have to be polite about the girth (start with only the barest contact, then put up a hole at a time until properly tight). But now as long as I follow our usual slow routine I don’t get any negative reaction.

Another thing to test is for back soreness, I run my fingers down my mare’s spine before every ride to check for any muscle tightness or soreness.

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Good suggestions here. Talk to the trainer/owner, if you haven’t, and see what they think about addressing the issue. You might also try a heated blanket or back on track sheet, or lunging her for 10-15 minutes before tacking up. I ride a girthy horse, and this sometimes works to relax and warm him up for a more pleasant saddling.

Also, just a note that the Ulcergard treament outlined in a post above is not the recommended regimen for curing ulcers. 1/4 tube Ulcergard is for prevention. A full tube daily (or as prescribed by body weight) for 28 days, I think, is the dosage to treat.



Heed the “check for ulcers” advice. Agree about not being a fan of neoprene, either. It doesn’t breathe, so can get very sweaty and potentially cause girth galls.

I’m going to add that if all medical issues and girth discomfort are ruled out, the best way to train a horse to not be girthy is NOT to “do it slowly.” Tighten the girth in one smooth motion. Tuck the billets in the keepers and reward her if she doesn’t object. Taking it slow might seem to be the kinder option, but it gives a horse plenty of time to decide to object. I’ve corrected some long-time habitual girthy horses by doing this. (Do double check at mounting block before mounting.)

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Well, the 1/4 tube of UG is the maintenance dose, not the treatment dose for healing active ulcers. The treatment dose is a full tube for 28 days, which is approx $1,000.


My guy objected to cinching by pulling back, despite me going slow and careful.

Now I am really careful and I notice that he takes a step back or shifts weight and wait for him.

What has helped:

  1. I don’t do the final girthing while he is cross-tied. I can do it IN the cross-tie, but not while his head is captive.
  2. I give a treat and girth while he is eating it. He doesn’t seem to mind that.
  3. I do the final tightening on the opposite side. He seems to be touchier on his left, than right, so I make sure the left side is adjusted properly and do the final girthing on the right side.

It just takes one time for them to lose trust – this will be hard to fix with other riders.


My girthy mare made very ugly faces and would turn to bite…so I kept baby carrots in my pocket and shoved one in her mouth every time she would turn with her ears back. It took several weeks but she did get past it. Of course this only works if there are no underlying problems. But it doesn’t hurt to use the charm offensive while investigating other issues. That way if there isn’t a problem you will be on your way past behavioral stuff.

She also restarted the behavior when I changed girths and DEMANDED a furry girth cover. Add the fluff and she went back to her normal, demanding self. She also had a problem being caught in the field if you didn’t bring ‘tribute’. Other then needing treats she was fine.


My horse despises neoprene girths as they’re not comfortable enough for her so she has the fluffiest, softest girth that I could find that is also machine washable. It’s the Waldhausen Dressage Girth with teddy fur, The Collected Pony sells it online.
Also agree about it being ulcers, I had a mare that didn’t show any stereotypical symptoms at all so it took me awhile to catch it. Moving barns can definitely cause it, some horses can get ulcers easier than others. Mad Barn’s Visceral+ is great, it’s a pellet supplement that you give daily and they had some vets scope before and after using it, the ulcers showed improvement in healing. Gastrogard and Ulcergard are great but just figured I’d mention Mad Barn’s product as well.


I went through a quest to figure out girthy-ness with my guy as well. Vet didn’t think it was ulcers, no signs of back pain, saddle fit is checked regularly by a professional.

Our bodyworker commented on his very tight withers. I started doing daily lifts from the sternum to stretch his withers before tacking and he does have an “expressive” reaction to this exercise, but after some licks and chews, settles down. No more reaction to the girth and he keeps growing more uphill.


The only girths my mare approves of have elastic at both ends. It doesn’t matter if they’re fleecy or Professional’s Choice neoprene, but there MUST be double elastic. Any other girth, even with elastic in the center, is NOT acceptable. I’ve wondered it if feels to her like a non-stretchable belt feels to me. (I don’t care for tight bands around my middle either.)

Edited to add: Some horses prefer either short girths or long girths. I usually shorten the billets on my dressage saddles to use a long girth.


I just did what the vet recommended and it worked :smiley:

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My mare is cranky about saddling, but it is circumstantial. Like if we’re out in the arena where she is looking at horses in the pasture, she does not react to saddling/girthing. If she’s in her stall more focused on what I’m doing, she is snarky. But anyway, I have started doing a little acupressure and/or SureFoot pads as part of my grooming/tacking process, and it is helping. So I’ll put on the saddle pad, then put her on the SF pads. Then I’ll put the saddle on and barely girthed, and hit a couple accupressure points until I see her release tension. Then I pick the fit and girth up one notch. Maybe change a SF pad or do another point or give a sugar cube. It is working, and she is happier by the time we get out to the arena vs. when I was doing the traditional grooming/tacking sequence. I have also switched to a Stubben EquiSoft with her though I’m not sure if it’s made a difference vs. the other fancy girths I’ve used with her.

My other mare is chestnut 1/2 TB, and quite thin skinned. I always use sheepskin for her girths and even so, noticed a little bit of rough skin along her girth line yesterday. Probably from using one of the older sheepskin covers. It might be worth checking your mare very carefully behind the elbows, all the way under the girth line and see if there are any rubbed or sensitive spots.