Last week, Monty replied to a question in his Question and Answer column, and he believes he fell short of the mark. He would like to make it right today, with additional thoughts.
The original Question and Answer:
Monty’s additional words to the reader who asked about her cinchy/girthy horse:
It is true that I find myself often saying that my critics are my best friends. They keep me getting up in the morning, and learning to be a better horseperson as well as a better role model for horse people. Recently I personally answered a question of yours. For good or for bad, I personally answer every question on the Ask Monty newsletter. It has been brought to my attention that there have been five negative responses to my answer regarding your horse and his sensitivity to the girth area. If we were in a court of law, I might hear the judge say that the charges are that you failed to answer the question, talked down to the person asking for your help and spoke to her in a demeaning fashion. My plea would have to be GUILTY.
At this point in time I have had the question and answer read to me three different times. I failed to fully explain my recommendations for dealing with sensitivity to the nerve endings in the girth area. I used language that would indicate that you knew less than you should have known when in actual fact that is exactly why you were inquiring of me. I would like to make several excuses for why I believe that my answer was curt and short of the mark. The fact is that there can be no excuses for this inappropriate communication. I should know that better than anyone in the horse business as it is my mantra that communication is the center of all understanding where dealing with the needs of your horse is concerned.
Recognizing that there could easily be many people who may have wanted to criticize my answer, I am now communicating through this open letter back to the Ask Monty forum so that those who may have questioned my answer can see that I am trying to be the best source of information that I can, and doing it with understanding and compassion for those who seek information from me. I answer was not good enough by any measure, and I will attempt, herein, to put it right once and for all. If you are a regular reader of Ask Monty do not hesitate to speak your mind whenever you feel the need to. Remember that I appreciate compliments as much as I appreciate the criticisms that cause me to be a better person.
While I sincerely believe that I spoke the truth without deliberately meaning to demean, criticize or evade my reader, I failed to completely edify the questioning party as to my recommendations for successful problem solving the problem that she sought to put right. Girth-bound (cinch-bound or girth sensitivity) is a global phenomenon that exists in virtually every horse to one extent or another. Most horses can deal with this problem with two or three saddlings. It is true in this case that we have a condition which appears to have become chronic. Often times we hear these horses referred to as girth-bound or cinch-bound horses. This long lasting phenomenon must be carefully dealt with as it can be extremely dangerous.
There is no question that while I did mention my Online University as being a source of information about the malady of the girth bound syndrome, I failed to point out that there was a whole chapter on it in, From My Hands To Yours the only textbook I have ever written. While these answers are meant to be shorter than the chapter of a book, I will now take the time to give the salient points of that chapter. I recommend the use of a stable rug or stable blanket to reduce sensitivity and then to use what we call an overgirth or thin elastic strap that can go over the stable rug and around the horse in the area of the girth. This should be tightened gradually, over about a 20-minute period of time.
With the overgirth in place, the horse should be allowed to remain in a box stall (loose box) for about another half hour or so with the elastic band fairly tight. After that, I recommend that the handler should place a normal surcingle over the rug being sure that there is elastic in the girth. This surcingle should be equipped with a breastcollar (breastgirth) so that it will not slide back from the girth area. Once again the handler should tighten the girth gradually over 10 or 15 minutes until it approximates the tension of a normal saddle girth. After that, the horse should spend another 20 minutes or so with the surcingle in place. With these procedures complete the horse is ready for the saddle.
One should remember that these procedures are time approximate and the handler should be aware of the horse’s overall behavior and only move forward with these efforts as the horse has settled into a mindset of acceptance. The extreme case could require as much as 50% more time than I have outlined in this scenario. Removing the surcingle and placing the saddle should be done smoothly but in the shortest amount of time possible. The saddle girth should be tightened incrementally over 10 minutes or so. As the days go by, these times can easily be shortened until eventually the horse can be fully saddled in about 20 minutes or so. Once more I stress; read your horse.
Do not at any time attempt to mount your horse until you determine that there is a calm, cool acceptance level. I recommend releasing the horse in a small area (50 foot round pen or so) or a small corral 30–50 feet square. It is advisable to see the horse canter with a cool demeanor before mounting. I recommend schooling your horse to come to the mounting block as is shown in my Online University. In doing so, the handler can read the acceptance of the horse, particularly when making the side pass movements when approaching the mounting block. I believe this to be the safest set of procedures to follow when dealing with the behavioral pattern that I came to envision while reading your initial question.
Please accept my profound apology for an answer that was short of the one given here. With the encouragement of the criticisms that I received I intend to redouble my efforts to be as fair as I possibly can with anyone seeking my advice. I note with interest that the criticisms came from others and not from yourself. While I appreciate your patience with me, I also appreciate those that would stand up for your right to have a more complete answer than the one I gave you. I will continue to do my work in the knowledge that it is important and profound both for horses and those who love them. Please remember that it is my life’s goal to leave the world a better place than I found it for horses and for people, too.
Do you have a question for Monty? Email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org