Of Horse

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Proper Tightness of the Back Cinch on a Western Saddle
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Proper Tightness of the Back Cinch on a Western Saddle

I recently went to a Ranch Horse Clinic in my area to watch and learn. I learned a lot about how to cut a calf, turn and hold on the flag and a few trail tips as well. It was enlightening and encouraging to watch folks learn how to tip the horses nose into the flag and even to stop in a T form with the calf and horse. I learned how to cut your circle in half, how to get in front and behind the calf as well as how to get out of your horse's way and let them do their job, provided they were "cowy". 

I observed more than just the tasks at hand. I observed people, horses tack, interactions between them all including stallions. Yes! Believe it or not there were several stallions among the mix of mares and geldings and they all behaved like I've never seen. It was amazing. I was told by several folks including the stallion owners, "It's all in how you train them."  In fact, one of the hosts putting the clinic on was talking with me about how you really have to pay attention to the subtle, little things. Things that we may not consider or catch until it becomes a vibrant problem in our faces. He had a stallion and the stud would take small steps into his space. He showed me as an example that this is unacceptable and he corrected the stud by making him move away from him. He said he wasn't invited and if I let that little thing go, it will lead to being pushy. Once they get pushy they continue on until they have the upper hand and become the Alpha. If I stay on top of it now, it will never become that bigger problem. 

Another thing I observed with several of the participants were their back cinches. Many of them hung extremely low, dangerously low. Now I know everyone has their own.. how shall I say, training, upbringing, ideas about how tight or loose a cinch should be. However, (I'm sure some will disagree with me here) these were a safety hazard. My first thought was, why have a back cinch if you're not going to use it properly? I'm talking about having enough space between the cinch and the horse to fit a basketball in. 

A back cinch should have enough space to fit your hand in laying flat against the cinch. Its purpose is to keep the rear of the saddle from flipping up and forward should you come off and over the shoulder of your horse. There should also be a cinch keeper (strap) attached to both the front and back cinches to prevent the back cinch from sliding backwards to the horses flank. This in turn prevents your trail horse from becoming a bucking bronco. This problem is easily avoided and yet so many people either don't care, don't take the time to cinch up properly or they were never taught. 

A back cinch that is too loose is an accident waiting to happen. I have seen hind legs get caught up in the back cinch and a few didn't end well. A horse is claustrophobic. They don't like tight or small spaces where they can't easily get out of. So imagine if your horse gets a hind foot caught over that back cinch and can't get his foot out. It may be a rare occurrence, it may never happen to you, it might happen in a bizarre freak accident. Isn't it better to be safe than sorry? 

If you're new to horses, please get with a trainer and learn how to properly cinch your horse. It takes just a few moments and can save a lifetime of heartache. They can show you how tight or loose both cinches should be as well as how much tension between the two with the cinch strap in the middle. They'll show you how to adjust all of it correctly. 


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  1. shumes
    Voted up Rene. Great topic! I also see some folks who keep the rear cinch way too low. I can just imagine a horse kicking up at a fly and hooking it's foot. I also imagine it isn't very comfortable for the horse to felt a loose rear cinch bumping up against his/her stomach. I've always used a rear cinch on my horses and keep them just loose enough that I can see a bit of light, or as you said, a hand flat against the horse's stomach. Another tip for those who use a rear cinch is to recheck the cinch after you do some riding. Just like the front girth can loosen a bit after some hard work, the rear cinch will as well.
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Thank you. Some folks just pure scare me to watch them ride. The improper use of tack... woo wee. The thing is, if you're not going to use the rear cinch properly, then why use one at all? It seems common sense would come in to play at some point.... however, I suppose if they were never taught the right way, then that's all they know.
  2. colten blaze
    colten blaze
    Awesome info on cinching really enjoyed it and am glad to see others that can see it wrong. Knots ropes and tack is the first thing we all should learn before we are ever fallowed on a horses back. Oh ya and how to stop one or knowing when to jump off. Its always better to jump off if ever in doubt about one you can always rethink and get back on.
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Safety first.. always :)
  3. pat holsbeke
    Its the little things that can be overlooked and seeing an accident before it happens is essential to horse ownership. Great post
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Thanks Pat. :)
  4. mered30
    Thank you for answering my question of what the purpose of a rear cinch is.
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      You're welcome! :)
  5. Teresa Ray
    I decided to not even use my back cinch , I had a trainer suggest it was safer without it

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