To learn more about helping a cinchy horse enjoy saddling, please read, “Girthy Horse? Simple Steps to Make Saddling a Pleasure.”
Tiki, my 7 year-old Arabian gelding, was bred, and broke to ride, for a racing career. When I bought him as a three year-old, he was very resistant to being girthed. He would toss his head, flatten his ears, bloat, twist his body, and exhibit any number of behaviors to show his discomfort. Because Tiki really enjoyed his SENSE Method (now called Debono Moves) sessions, I decided to see if I could recondition his response to the girth. I hoped to changed his response from one of dislike and discomfort to one of acceptance, and maybe even enjoyment.
So I began doing SENSE with him only when I was girthing him up. At first I used the loosest girth hole and would begin the session by working on the movement in his sternum.
Within a few sessions, Tiki began to relax as soon as the saddle, or surcingle, was placed on his back. Over the period of about a month, I continued with the slow tightening of his girth interspersed with the SENSE session. One day, I just tightened the girth at the very beginning of the session and began gently moving his sternum side-to-side and in small circles. There was no resistance or bloating. It was wonderful to see the change in his attitude, and acceptance of his tack. Naturally, this accepting attitude carried over into his work.
A few weeks later, Mary Debono and I had the opportunity to really appreciate how Tiki had learned to associate being girthed with the ability to relax and allow his sternum to move freely. Mary was doing a SENSE session with Tiki, and when she got to the sternum she asked if I had noticed how it was reluctant to move. I then remembered we had been doing all our sternum work using the girth. As soon as Mary held a girth on Tiki’s sternum, it moved easily. What a great gift to give my horse that he could associate his tack with being able to move more freely!
Mary’s note: SENSE Method is now called “Debono Moves.” This article, written by SENSE Method Practitioner Janice Mills, was originally published in the Winter 2004 edition of the SENSE Method newsletter. It’s a wonderful example of how we can improve our horses’ lives by incorporating hands-on work into our usual routines. It only takes a few minutes of your time to make a big difference to your horse! Thank you, Janice and Tiki!