Girthy - Cold-backed, Bucking


How common is it to see horses swinging around with their teeth bared when the rider is doing up the girth?
This can originate from someone in the past having yanked up the girth in an unfair way but in these cases the horse will get over it quickly.

On the other hand this behaviour can start for no apparent reason with a rider who has always been considerate when doing up the girth.

Yes you can ‘block’ them so that they run into your arm and this may be effective in stopping the behaviour. The trouble is this only solves the problem for the rider not the horse.



Sometimes the horse is fine to girth up but ‘look out’ when they take that first step because it is at this point they ‘come unglued’ and take a stag leap or launch into a bucking fit. Sometimes, once that is out of their system, they can seem OK to ride but it is not normal for a broke horse to be doing these things.

It is a big mistake to just tighten the girth and mount up! I could fill these pages with stories of people who did just that and had the unfortunate experience of the horse exploding violently, ending with serious injuries to the unsuspecting rider. Often these ‘grass-affected’ horses will continue broncing long after the rider has come off and when they finally stop they stand there trembling like they cannot believe they just did that!

Learned behaviour?

Does it become a learned behaviour?

Fortunately NO!
When grass-affected horses do these things it is a reaction to whatever painful or weird sensation that triggers the episode at the time.

After the diet change has brought their metabolism back to normal again the undesirable behaviour is simply not there.

Take Nevada...


Nevada is the horse pictured at the top of page. He is also the horse on the right.

In one he is very 'Grass Affected', in the other he is back to calm, healthy, normal with the correct feeding.

You would not think he is the same horse. This is nothing to do with whether he was 'retrained' or not. You can't 'retrain a 'Grass Affected' horse. They simply can not learn in that state.

It had nothing to do with him being sore from injury (not that that can't be a reason for similar behaviour and should always be checked out by a professional!) In Nevavda's case, as with so many other horses, it was simply a case of a mineral imbalance caused by grazing for so long on the wrong type of forage!