A huge breakthrough with Zelador occurred about a month ago when we got a Prestige girth designed for girthy horses. Under the belly it is round, like an inner tube. Zelador has told us since day one of having a girth on that he does NOT like it. (Day one was about eight years ago.) With the Prestige girth model A52RP I can girth him up and not have his head swing towards me. Amazing. When I first rode with the new girth I couldn’t believe how soft he was. When I asked for the trot I could almost hear him say, “I don’t think it’s possible to trot with this new thing on me.” But he tried trotting and quite liked it. When I asked for the canter, he did not hesitate. Guess the good experience at the trot answered any questions he had about moving with this new girth on.

Turns out the girth is too wide for Zeloso (his front legs rub against it) and several other horses in the barn. We bought the girth from Bahr’s Saddlery and I contacted them asking if Prestige (an Italian company) has an A52RP girth that is an inch narrower on the sides (two inches narrower in total). Bahr contacted Prestige and learned that they’re creating one. Don’t know when it’ll be available. When it is I certainly want to put the girth on Zeloso.

I talked with the animal communicator, Lauren Bode, about the new girth for Zelador and she told me, “Zelador said the other girths gave him a sick feeling in his throat.” Interesting.

It was from our instructor, Alex, that we heard about the Prestige girth. One other client of his got the girth and liked it. Now with that person and me singing Prestige’s praises many of Alex’s clients want the girth and it’s back-ordered at Bahr’s.

Ever since my first ride with the girth I’ve wanted Alex to ride Zelador to feel the difference. Today he rode him. From the VERY beginning the horse was totally different from previous Alex rides. Zelador could walk. He could concentrate. He was happy to work with Alex. It was amazing to watch. Then on to the trot. Zelador had been telling Alex since he got in the saddle that he wanted to show him what he could do at the trot.

Alex’s trot work with Zelador was lovely. Tons of lateral work, piaffe to passage to piaffe. There were many halts. Nice calm halts.

In the past the trot would have resembled a super fast sewing machine. Before the Prestige girth getting a walk or a whoa took lots of effort on Alex’s part, especially after trotting or cantering. Zelador was way too revved up to walk calmly.

Alex pointed out that with both Zelador and Zeloso the outside ear is forward and the inside ear flits forward and back, sorting out the signals from the rider. Today I told Alex that several times Zelador brought both ears back to Alex, really quickly. It was obvious that Zelador had been CERTAIN that he was doing things brilliantly then Alex threw in this really strange request and Zelador put both ears to Alex, asking for clarification!

I could see that Zelador REALLY wanted to canter. Alex had his diplomatic hands full. Zelador wanted to show off! On one long side (probably less than 40 metres) Zelador took 19 canter strides.

The great news is: after trotting Zelador could walk and focus. After cantering he could walk and trot and focus.

Prior to the Prestige girth Zelador stuck his nose in the air about every three or four strides. He’s not doing this anymore. Sort of forgot how often I used to say, “Zelador, put your head down, please, raise your back.” I just don’t say it any more.

Alex, hasn’t ridden Zelador very many times since we started working together three years ago this spring. However, last December he rode him four times in a few weeks. Zelador was incapable of walking with Alex. Zelador piaffed his brains out. By the fourth ride Zelador could sort of walk when Alex got on, but Zelador still found it very difficult to walk after trotting or cantering.

A friend has ridden Zelador about three times in the past eight years. He says, “The canter is like being on a freight train that’s out of control and I don’t think anyone but Winnie will ever get this horse to walk after trotting or cantering.”

Zelador has done the nose in the air every three or four strides since he was started under saddle. Obviously the girth was really upsetting his body. Perhaps the three or four strides was in the breathing cycle and he was desperately trying to get air. I just don’t know. Lauren Bode is coming here this Wednesday and I’ll ask her for more details about the girth, the head, etc.

I told Alex that when people put this inner tube girth on a horse for the first time it would be a good idea to longe the horse (free longeing or on a longe line) because when I first put the girth on Zelador I instantly got in the saddle. I could feel him figuring things out. He did fine at the walk. However when I asked him to trot I could hear him saying something like, “I don’t think it’s possible to trot with this thing and carry a rider. We’ll implode!” But he trusted me and trotted. He was quite relieved when he survived and I stayed up on his back. After those two gaits he didn’t have any doubts about the canter. Letting the horse figure the gaits out on the longe would be very helpful.

Bottom line: Zelador has been telling us since he was first backed that the girth is a problem for him. We’ve tried to figure out how to help him. We’ve changed girth types. We’ve changed saddles. After about four girths he got an ergonomic one. It did help a wee bit, however it is not significantly wider than the girths we’d been using. I’ve learned that Prestige has an ergonomic girth that came out a while ago. Prestige also has a girth that goes from three inches wide to six inches under the belly. We never knew about these girths. The girths that allow freedom of movement in the front legs and displace the contact over a larger area should help a girthy horse.

In our search for ways to make Zelador more comfortable we had a tremendous breakthrough with one saddle. We have a GREAT saddler. He said to look for a saddle that fits short coupled horses. We finally found one and it’s a huge improvement for Zelador.

Needless to say: when the horse tells us something we need to listen. I can only imagine how much further Zelador would be in his riding education if the Prestige innertube girth had been available eight years ago and that we’d been aware of it. I think it’s amazing that Zelador let people ride him with his throat feeling sick and the desperate need to raise his head every three or four strides.