A “Girthy” Horse Needs a Solution

A “Girthy” Horse Needs a Solution

If there is one thing that can set the tone for your ride & be uncomfortable for both you & your horse, its “girthiness”. A lot of riders just accept as something they can’t do anything about. You most certainly can & your horse is asking you to!

Sometimes it is very obvious to a rider that the horse is not happy about the girth. The horse kicks out, tries to bite, tosses her head, pins her ears or paws emphatically. Other times the horse “speaks out” in less obvious ways, he may just be anxious the whole time he is tied because he is anticipating the upcoming saddling & related discomfort. Maybe he seems grouchy, wrinkles his nose up or looks like he is yawning, which can actually be a sign to us that the horse is stressed or conflicted. Whatever it might be it is time to stop the “just live with it” or “that’s just her” mentality that riders, amateur & pro, often fall into. Our horses are saying they are experiencing pain & as a responsible rider you need to listen!

So why do some horses have this problem & others don’t? I can’t list every possible cause for a horse to become resentful about girthing but here is the most common I find.

You hose should move the same whether he has a saddle on or not

You hose should move the same whether he has a saddle on or not

Riders over-tightening girths is so common I have found it is more the norm than not. If you went through 4-H or Pony Club you might have learned lessons about how many fingers you should be able to squeeze in between the horse’s side & the girth. That is a good start. You should with a little muscle be able to pull the girth out to the side enough to fit a couple fingers easily in that gap. Do not stop there though. You must then check underneath the horse where the sternum is. The horse’s total circumference at the girth is not an even circle nor is it equally padded (:-) in case your thinking your horse is “rolly-polly round”).

Therefore when you tighten the girth it can often feel loose on the sides but when you feel underneath it is excruciatingly tight.

There are A LOT of people that do not follow that rule & go for as tight as they can get it. Not only does that make a horse “girthy” but it actually breaks ribs. YES, that’s right. I have known horses to be examined by a vet & diagnosed with a broken rib from too tight a girth. It doesn’t happen when you tighten the girth but when you go out & start working, the horse starts to expand his lungs & ribcage pushing harder & harder against that single tightened band and “POP”, breaks a rib!

What can be causing girthiness:

Incorrect saddle fit.
The saddle, the latigo straps or the girth itself is pinching or causing a pressure point somewhere.
Too tight of a girth.
Tightening girth very quickly. (Do not confuse this with too tight of a girth rather a horse that is not completely accustomed to a girth & they feel panicked due to the new sensation coming so quickly.).

How to tighten the girth correctly:

Upon proper saddle fit, with the horse relaxed, slowly tighten your girth. Doing this in a few increments is also helpful to a horse that has been hurt in the past. Walking a few steps in between the increments can be helpful & last remember the girth does need to be tight enough, that when you walk off if something were to spook the horse & he bolted or bucked the saddle would not slide underneath him. At last do not automatically tighten your girth before getting on. Automatically check it. Then determine whether it needs adjusted.

The question left is can you reshape the behavior of a horse that has become oversensitive due to injured or discomfort before you began to work appropriately with the horse. Absolutely. However it takes patience, time, positive reinforcement & knowing how to cue your horse for relaxing. These skills should be in your “tool bag” anyhow so use them all the time. They will be YOUR NEW BEST FRIENDS! 🙂

Here Axel & I are communicating with no problem. He is not distracted by his equipment fitting.

Here Axel & I are communicating with no problem. He is not distracted by his equipment fitting.

Look for the next blog or vlog on how to help retrain you horse if she still needs more help.

Lauren Michele McGarry

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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Horse Training, rhequinearts


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This has been very similar to my experience in the, small animal & equine world as well as the world of human medicine. Shall we all continue to be so naive because it is easy or do we take a wiser more compassionate approach to our decisions. After all if not for yourself then for you animal companion as s/he is depending on you for his/her well-being.: )
– Lauren Michele McGarry

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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in rhequinearts


Nobody smiles like a Pittie

No dog can smile like a pittie! All the pits I have rescued except 1 out of maybe 40, his name was AO short for Armstrong, the street on the East Side of Youngstown where way to many pitties have been starved, beat, fought & left to breed on the streets. AO was one of those & he was very sweet but all the scars on the outside had left him scarred on the inside so much that he had to be euthanized. R.I.P. AO.

However all the other 40 some dogs either came to me smiling or remembered how to after loving care of others & myself. They all became awesome pets. One will always stick in my mind though. Mikie, he was a very short, squat little guy, all black, and it seemed as though his head weighed more than the rest of his body. LOL! But it made him smile as big as these two white dogs in the picture! Mikie’s smile will forever be ingrained on my heart right over the wound from losing AO. Thanks Mikie & all Pits & the people that help them.-LM McGarry

“Life is just so darn good we just can’t help but smile            ear to ear”


Posted by on October 3, 2012 in rhequinearts


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Does Compassion Make You Not a “Farm Girl”??

I live in a fairly rural town right outside a bigger city. And when you come out to our little town, ways of thinking, acting & living greatly change within a couple miles. My town is full of good hearted, hard-working, skilled people. Most of whom have grown up here & either still farm or grew up on a family farm nearby.

That being said many never leave this area for fresh perspectives & people that challenge their way of thinking. ENTER: ME! I have spent 24 of my 36 years on farms across OH, PA & CO. Mostly horse farms & some are simultaneously, ranches to raise cows, sheep, & crops. Many of those years were spent along side vets doing some stomach turning care.

I like most horse owners or managers have worked in -30F temp to 100F, cleaned enough stalls to put a five digit number down. I have pulled babies out of moms, pulled machinery out of trenches in the pouring rain & agreed to help the neighbor catch their runaway cows. These are norms to horse & farm owners

Why do we do it? Because be love it! Can’t imagine living any other way and though some of these people couldn’t or wouldn’t put the words “love” or “touching” into their statement but somewhere down inside most of us those are there.

While I do not encourage in myself or others, if asked, the claiming & personal identification of titles, my ego got the best of me a few days ago. My friend, local farmer & part-time rancher had the nerve to tell me ” I wasn’t a REAL FARM GIRL”!! For a moment I felt like giving him a piece of this “farm girl’s” mind, BUT I bit my tongue!

So why did he make such an outrageous statement after 24years of working my butt of because I love animals & I love nature??

Imagine I was on our skidsteer “kelley” just topping off his 5ton dump truck that I had filled to the brim with half composted horse & goat manure when I noticed I dropped a lil’ plump mole into the truck, startling from his dark,cozy & warm home putting him in direct sunlight in open air without the comfort of knowing where his precious ground was. He stuck his head up in the air & sniffed all around & felt nothing around him. He was so darling & fragile in the moment!

In a matter of seconds i went through my head the fact that he was soon headed straight for the blades of a manure spreader that would likely chew him up. But with my traditional farmer friend standing nearby I held back to stop “kelley” & just climb up there & toss him out. I KNEW some comment would be made! However life is short for every being & life is treasured by all of us not just humans. We can’t save everything but if stopping for one minute, literally, can allow me to save a life that is really important to Mr. Mole then GOSH DARN IT that’s what I am going to do! So I threw up the safety bar, yelled “DON’T ASK” to my friend & climbed up the 5 ton heap of hot manure, grabbed the fuzzy guy by the nub of a tail that he had & tossed him off into my bushes to land softly.

When I was all done loading I turned off “Kelley” & my friend sauntered over & asked if I climbed up there to save a mole. I said “yes sir I did” He shook his head & said “You ain’t no farm girl if you gotta save a mole!”

Did I have too? No. Did I care too? Yes! And somehow having compassion made me not a “real farm girl”

In my opinion NOT TRUE! Enjoy a few pics to show that even though I don’t eat my chickens when they stop laying I still am a “farm girl”!; )


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