So I've started to get my three year old filly used to being saddled. Currently with just a roller but she has had a pony saddle on her twice now (without stirrups attached.)

However, she has started to become quite girthy. Every time I do her girth up I take my time and go up one hole at a time, ensure she's comfortable with it and then go up again. Within the past two girthing attempts she has started to "nip" she doesn't land them and always gets a firm warning which usually stops the behaviour until I go up another hole.

I was wondering if there's a way to combat this?

In case it's a fitting issue I have a saddler coming out in two days who will assess her and hopefully give me some advice on girths too. She's currently in a humane girth and I've been wondering if I've been over tightening the saddle but then I have to do the saddle up "tight" as it did start to slip previously...

Any advice or experiences with girthy horses would be appreciated and if there's another factor I might have missed other than the fit and the speed then do please highlight those too!

1 Answer 1


It could be hurting her and this needs to be excluded. Excellent idea getting a saddler out to fit her as they should be able to identify this.

It's a good idea to look at your horses face when saddling them or when they are being mounted.

I have a mare I was concerned with and I watched her face. It was clear she was in pain and I was able to address the issue.

An ill fitting saddle can create all sorts of perceived "behavioural problems", when in fact the horse is in pain and trying to communicate this.

If any possible discomfort is excluded, the way I deal with horses that try to nip is to keep a bent arm positioned between me and the mouth and I watch and am ready. I swing my bent arm out if the horse attempts to nip me. I try to preempt it rather than wait to be bitten and teach them it's not ok. A swift defensive elbow or a slap on the muzzle with the hand when a horse tries to bite tells them it's not ok. I am not advocating brutality, but communicating it's not ok, as a higher horse in the herd would.

If a horse is nippy and trying it on with behaviours that are pushy, back to handling 101 and making the horse move its feet and reaffirm that you are a higher horse. Lower horses in the herd will not bite higher horses. The higher horses will nip to move on lower horses.

Also, your filly is still young and they tend to explore the world with their mouths and can clack quite innocently, but it's important to teach them in that transition to adulthood that nipping is not ok.

Let us know how you get on.

  • 1
    Had a very interesting experience with the saddler actually! The first saddle we tried which wasn't a perfect fit she made no effort to nip but the second saddle which did fit my mare made faces at (was tied so couldn't nip if she wanted.) but she moved much better in it so I'm guessing it's the tight feeling of the girth that's setting her off. I may get a vet out just to double check her back though as I'm not 100% sure and would rather double check before anything goes wrong. Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 8:43

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