Cinches - what more I have learned

Posted by RodandDenise on April 25, 2016

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.

2016 April 25 1 fake external abdominal vein.jpg

After my last blog post about the “external abdominal vein” and the real anatomy related to cinches, I had a few interesting conversations and have done a bit more research. (After all, our area of expertise is what goes on top a horse, not what goes under it.) In no way am I pretending to be an expert on cinches. But I do know a bit about anatomy and I can understand the big words in the research papers. So, in reading various lay articles, both sent to me and from searching the internet, here’s what I have found.

2016 April 25 2  fake external abdominal vein.jpg

From the information in the last post, the green circle shows where they say the cinch ring should go and the red one shows where they say it shouldn’t go.

2016 April 25 3  fake external abdominal vein.jpgFrom a popular saddle fit guru, I have added two places where the cinch ring should go and two places where it shouldn’t go. Their reasoning is that you shouldn’t put it on the edge of any muscles, though that is a new one to me. They also say that you should put it below the widest part of the horse’s barrel, but then say it is OK if it is above on jumping saddles. Hmm… OK then…

2016 April 25 4  fake external abdominal vein.jpg

Another site that says they ride everything with a 24 inch cinch, and that is what prevents saddles from rolling. And if you have a cinch anywhere above the widest part of their barrel, it slides down and causes the saddle to roll. Not sure how something that is part of a circular system that is even on both sides and tight can slide down the side of a horse. Something else that makes you go hmm…

2016 April 25 5  fake external abdominal vein.jpg

Put all together, this is what you get. So… what that tells me is that we really don’t know a lot about cinches and cinch length (though I know some people have been trying to get some real research going). Either that, or it doesn’t really matter.

But I did find one research article (links below) that tested different girth (it was English) designs, including pressure testing under cinches. It has peer reviewed results, so it isn’t just someone’s opinion. (Interestingly enough, it wasn’t instigated by a university, but by a charity group and other major contributors were from industry. Maybe that says something about how the saddle industry is going to have to go about getting real research done.) Anyway, the information I found fascinating from their research was where the high pressure under the girth occurred, and when.

2016 April 25 6 equine olecranon.jpg

They said that “with all horses and girths, peak pressures were consistently located on the cranial edge of the girth, positioned caudal to the level of the olecranon process of the ulna”. The olecranon is the bone at the tip of the elbow - here…

2016 April 25 7 olecranon under muscle.jpg

So the high pressure at the front of the girth is right behind this point, on a diagram with the muscles on it.

2016 April 25 8 orecranon on a real horse.jpg

And it is behind here on a real horse. Anyone recognize where cinch sores most commonly occur??

2016 April 25 9 hihg pressure time DSC_2383.JPG

They also discovered that pressure occurred “when the limb on the side of peak loading was in stance and the contralateral limb protracted, at the point of initial loading of the forelimb during limb retraction.” So just as the opposite limb touches down is the time of highest pressure. And if they relieved that pressure point, the horse changed the way it moved quite dramatically in a positive manner.

2016 April 25 10 cinch pressure areas.jpg

Now let's look at a cinch. Where is the pressure likely to be highest on a cinch? Edges or thick areas, such as where the material joins the cinch ring, and where there are reinforcement areas across a cinch.

2016 April 25 11 fake external abdominal vein.jpg

Again, I am not a cinch expert, but hopefully I have a grain of common sense, and what this tells me is that you have to be careful to not have the bottom of a cinch ring (or any of the cinch ring for that matter) or a thick or rough part of the cinch in the area behind the tip of the elbow. So here’s my take on where you don’t want your cinch ring to lie.

But honestly, it is most important to not over-tighten your cinch and to loosen it to give your horse a break any time you take one.  Just basic common sense.

And now I will step out from under a horse and go back to the topside about which I supposedly know a bit more…

(1) Girth pressure measurements reveal high peak pressures that can be avoided using an alternative girth design that also results in increased limb protraction and flexion in the swing phase. Murrey, Rachel, Guire, Russell, Fisher, Mark, Fairfax, Vanessa The Veterinary Journal 2013

You can read the abstract here


I am glad to read this. Everybody in the tack business tries to come up with the perfect 'anything' to end all problems. We have to be diligent and do our homework. I have a ton of English girths. Most of them sit in the box. Coming off 3 months of no riding (hip surgery) I have a chubby out of shape little Morgan. What fit before may have to be changed. I love the mohair cinches as they breathe IMHO. Hard to find a short one for dressage in good mohair. Fallen out of fashion? Probably. Keep up the good work.
Posted by Susan on
One more observation regarding Western cinches. At one time people used sheepskin lined leather cinch ring guards. Check out old tack catalogues. These protect the horse from the rough spots and pressure points around the cinch ring. Even though the high quality ones are hard to find, I still use them and won't saddle up without.
Posted by RodandDenise on
Thanks for the comment. This post has led me to some interesting conversations, including one with a cinch maker who has done some of her own studies on cinch safe (or chafes). She has found that the best thing is a specific thickness of leather. Too thin and the pressure goes right through. Too thick and the edges dig in. She has tried sheepskin, neoprene and other synthetics and has discarded them all as they are too soft and tend to wrinkle, causing pressure points, and collect dirt which can cause rub sores. I'm sure there are different designs out there but apparently not all cinch guards are necessarily good for the horse. I'm glad you have found some that work well for you. 

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