Is Your Horse Girthy or Cinchy? Top Reasons and Key Girth/Cinch Selection Considerations and Solutions
There is no single correct way to load the dishwasher. That probably seems like an odd way to start a blog post regarding how to help solve the problem of the girthy or cinchy horse. Translated, it means that like all things horse related, there is no single girth or cinch solution that works for every horse. A girth or cinch that works for one horse will not work for another horse. I have no doubt that some riders will agree with the information and tools provided here and others will disagree and post contrary experiences. That is all good! Let’s get the discussion going and solve this painful problem!
My goal in writing this blog post is threefold:
When fastening and tightening the girth/cinch, the most common symptoms of pain are**:
There has been a tendency to write these symptoms off as "bad behavior." In most cases, it is not. The horse is in real pain. Horses are smart. They know pain coming when they see it, and they know it when they feel it. Humans are no different. When was the last time you had a medical or dental procedure you knew would hurt or it was hurting and you sat there calmly without exhibiting any outward sign of concern, dread or pain?
I have been privileged to help many owners/riders solve this problem, and these symptoms are the ones that most commonly present. I often hear stories of riders being concerned about these symptoms, sometimes for years, but they do not know what to do about it. So, let’s dive into this further and learn some causes and solutions.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Girth/Cinch Pain?
While there is no set of 100% conclusive scientific data regarding what causes a horse to be girthy or cinchy, based on my experience and observations and those of fellow bodyworkers, saddle fitters and vets I have discussed this with, I believe the most common causes are:
The good news is that most of these causes can be addressed. The key to fixing the problem is taking a three pronged approach: 1) Select the right girth/cinch for your horse; AND 2) Address any muscular and skeletal issues that have been caused by the “offending” girth/cinch; AND 3) Tighten the girth/cinch correctly. Without addressing all 3 prongs, you may not be 100% successful in solving this very real and very painful problem. NOTE: If you believe your horse has an underlying medical issue such as ulcers, that must be addressed first. Contact your vet for assistance. Otherwise, you will not get a true read when you select a different girth/cinch.
Selecting the Right Girth/Cinch For Your Horse
There are 4 main factors to take into account when selecting a girth/cinch for your horse. These include:
Here are some specific considerations and questions so you can assess your current girth/cinch and start to look for a new one if needed:
Proper Girth/Cinch Tightening
This is very simple. Slowly tighten the girth/cinch. Do not “yank it up” all in one swift motion. Buckle it loosely at first. Hand walk your horse a bit, and then SLOWLY tighten it. Do not make it too tight. I have actually seen a horse fall down and almost “pass out” when girth was fastened too tight and too swiftly. Of course you want to ride safely, but a girth/cinch that is too tight is not safe for your horse. It also may be a sign that you are compensating for poor saddle fit or an incorrect saddle pad, both of which can cause girth/cinch pain.
Selecting A Different Girth/Cinch
As I said at the beginning of this is blog post, there is no single correct answer. Every horse is different. You may have to try a few different girths or cinches. In general, my advice is that if your horse is girthy or cinchy, padded leather and natural fleece are good options to try. But, you must be sure you cannot feel the buckles, seams or lumps and bumps when you pinch the girth/cinch between your thumb and fingers and run your hands down it. Even new ones must be tested.
How Can I Get More Information About How to Check Out My Girth/Cinch and Find A Solution?
The Stretch Your Horse Mobile App contains a video on Tips and Solutions For the Girthy Horse and a video on Tips and Solutions For the Cinchy Horse. Each of the videos contains an extensive discussion of the following items:
What kind of girth or cinch are you using? Share your girth and cinch experiences by commenting here or visiting our Stretch Your Horse Facebook page.
Ilene Nessenson, JD, Certified Equine Bodyworker, is the creator of the Stretch Your Horse App. She has been an equine bodyworker, saddle fitter, and saddle reflocker for over 11 years.
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