“Sizing Up Cinches”

Hey everyone, I found a great article in the May issue of the Equus magazine. I read it and thought it I would share it with all my horse followers. It discusses how to make sure your cinch/girth is not pinching and fits your horse the way it should.  

You may think cinches are easy to measure and easy to fit to your horse, but it goes much deeper than that. Joyce Harmon, DVM, says “The girth’s job is to stabilize the saddle and hold it in place, but in doing that it puts a considerable amount of pressure on the girth area or sternum” If this pressure is put in the wrong place it can cause serious issues. Sometimes when a horse reacts negatively to a saddle, mounting or tightening the girth we jump to the conclusion that there must be a back problem. Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with the back, but instead is a girth placement issue. 

The positive side is that girths are fairly cheap, and if this is the issue it can be super easy to fix. But to fix this problem we need to understand the purpose of the girth, the way it functions and the different types of girths. 

All horse have a natural girth line, also known as the “heart girth”. Most horses will have a girth line that is 4″ behind the elbow. How the girth attaches to the saddle is also very important. For example, english saddles have a billet attachment with 3 straps and the english girth only have 2 straps. This allows for movement of the girth forward or backwards for adjusting the placement of the girth. On western saddles the attachment for the cinch is called the rigging and some saddles will have a rear rigging allowing for a rear cinch. Most riders have no use for the rear cinch, it only adds more weight and is an extra step when saddling up. Different types of western saddles will have different rigging positions that will cater that type of saddle.

In most of the fitting issues the girth will move forward towards the elbow. If that girth rubs against the elbow, this will lead to rubbing discomfort and can sometimes lead to lameness.


This is a good example of the girth rubbing too close to the elbow area.

If you notice that your girth is rubbing your horse, you can sometimes switch to a wool cinch that will eliminate the rubbing. The bad side to this fix is that over time the wool will get flat, and will cause rubbing again. The only good option is to purchase a new girth that fits properly.

There are several different shapes of girths. Contoured girths are cut back on the area right behind the elbow, these girths are an hourglass shape. This will easily fix a rubbing problem. You can also switch to a narrower girth. The problem to this girth is that it will put more pressure on a limited area. Another option is to switch to a string girth. This girth will adjust to your horses shape and also allows for air flow in the girth area. 

Another issue that may arise with girths is the length of the girth. Purchasing a girth based on the size of the horse is never a good idea. Here is how to correctly measure for a proper fitting girth:

  • With the horse standing on a level area, place your current saddle on his back just behind the shoulder blades. 
  • Look at the billets or the cinch plate on the western saddle. They should be hanging perpendicular to the ground. 
  • Measure your horses heart girth from the midpoint of the fender on a western saddle to the midpoint of the opposite fender. On english saddle measure from the middle of the billet to the middle of the billet on the opposite side. 

The correct way to make sure your girth is at the proper tightness is to gradually pull up and out on the cinch with your right hand while putting your left hand between the girth and the horses elbow. Keep is snug at first and as you ride slowly tighten it in small increments. 

I found this article very helpful in finding problems with my current cinches. Hopefully you all enjoyed this informative article as much as I did!


Happy Riding!



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