Types of Western Cinches
Your cinch secures your western saddle on your horse. It attaches to the billets either by large buckles or by tying a knot through the rings on either end of the girth. Not having the right cinch may leave your horse with painful galls or pressure points. Entering a tack shop can be a bit intimidating when it comes to choosing the right cinch for your horse. If you're looking for a cinch to go on a western saddle, you'll have a variety to select from. Here's how to chose the right cinch for your horse and saddle.
Your first consideration will be what you will be using your horse for when you ride. Are you planning to trail ride, rein, barrel race, or show? Some cinches are more suitable for certain sports than others. Many people find girths made of mohair, cotton string or fleece are comfortable for their horses, but pick up burrs, twigs and other prickly debris easily and are difficult to clean. Any bit of debris that gets between the cinch and horse can cause irritation. Ropers and reiners may prefer a wide cinch, as it distributes the weight over a larger area, which may be more comfortable for the horse, and make the saddle more stable.
Cotton, synthetic fleece, mohair or neoprene are the most popular materials. Cotton string is the traditional cinch material. For many riders, these cinches work well. The benefit of cotton is that it wicks moisture away from the horse, but it also takes a long time to dry. Cotton girths are easy to wash with mild soap and water.
Fleece girths tend to be amongst the least expensive. They catch burrs and the fleece can pill and bunch causing irritation to the horse. They are normally reinforced with webbing, and they are washable. Some people feel fleece girths can hold the heat as well.
Mohair girths are made from fibers sheared from Angora goats. The strands are naturally elastic, cool of the horse and very strong. They are washable, although they are higher maintenance than cotton or synthetic string. Users feel that there is less chance of galling with mohair. Mohair cinches or cinchas as they're often called are long lasting and come in a few different styles. They can be custom made. Mohair, like fleece may pick up burrs and twigs when on trail.
Some people feel their horses are most comfortable in a neoprene covered cinches. Others feel that neoprene holds heat and grit, causing galls. Neoprene is easy to clean—a wet cloth can be used frequently to prevent the build-up of sweat and dirt. It does crack over time, but the webbing that is used for the actual stress bearing part of the cinch doesn't deteriorate as quickly. Cracks or folds in the neoprene may also cause galling.
To measure a cinch, set the saddle on your horse. With a flexible tape measure, measure from the midpoint of the horse's girth area (just behind the fore legs, and in front of the horse's belly), to about mid-fender on your saddle. Multiply this number by two to get the total length. You may not be able to buy a cinch of this exact measurement so keep in mind that cinches are made in 2 inch (5 cm) increments. Choose to buy an inch bigger or smaller cinch depending on whether you expect your horse to lose or gain weight. If you think your horse is at its lowest weight choose a cinch that is a bit bigger than the measurement you took. If you think your horse may lose weight choose a slightly smaller cinch.
Buckles or Rings
Cinches come with wide buckles or rings. Which you choose will depend on the hardware on your saddle. You can use the buckle type with a saddle that ties, but the tongue will be a bit in the way. Always check your buckles for signs of wear or cracks. It's rare, but rings and buckles can break.
Signs Your Cinch Isn't Right
Galls are a sign that the cinch may not be suitable, so you may have to try another type. Luckily, many cinches are not terribly expensive and what doesn't suit one horse may be perfect for another.
Galls are a physical sign, but if a horse is being pinched by a cinch, it may seem like it's misbehaving. When trying out new gear, watch for changes in behaviour. Sometimes it requires a bit of trial and error to find the cinch that best suits your horse.