Help saddling become a better deal by keeping things slow and steady.
By Dennis Moreland | June 3, 2012
“Cinchy” horses are ones that get uncomfortable having their cinches tightened up, and they can be dangerous to be around, because sometimes that discomfort will make them “set back,” or pull back violently against whatever they’re tied to.
That’s a situation you don’t want to be in.
Sometimes horses get cinchy because they’re hurting, and you’ll want to have a veterinarian or trainer help you investigate that possibility.
But very often, it’s due to poor handling – because the horse has been cinched up too tight, too fast. That’s where these techniques come in handy. They’ll help you teach your horse that cinching up doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
If you’re saddling a horse that you think is cinchy, it’s extremely important that you remain calm. Your horse draws from you. If you’re nervous, he’s going to be nervous. If you’re relaxed, he’s much more likely to be that way, too.
If your horse is tied hard and fast to something and he sets back, lots of bad things can happen – your lead rope could break, he could hurt himself or, if you tied him to something that wasn’t substantial enough, you could end up with parts of your barn bent or broken.
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So let’s start there. If you think a horse might have a tendency to set back, don’t tie his lead rope to anything; just wrap it. That’s what a lot of grooms do at racetracks.
The photo above shows how to wrap your lead rope at a trailer. This provides enough tension in the lead rope that the horse doesn’t feel like he’s loose, but if he sets back, he won’t be in a tug of war. The rope will release.
The photo to the right shows another method of wrapping you can use if you have vertical bars on your stall fronts. Portable stall fronts – such as those at shows – aren’t always 100 percent sturdy, so wrapping is a good idea there, even if you don’t think your horse will set back.
My step-by-step guidelines for saddling are online at americashorsedaily.com/saddling. But one thing that’s really important with a cinchy horse is that you take your time tightening the cinch. Doing this routinely can also help prevent horses from becoming cinchy in the first place.
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At first, pull the cinch just tight enough to keep the saddle from slipping, then go do something else for a few minutes. Come back and tighten it just a little bit more, then find something else to do. I’d recommend doing this four or five times, moving your horse around in between tightenings.
As you’re tightening the cinch, watch your horse’s eyes and ears. He’ll tell you if he’s starting to get panicky. I always talk to my horses, keeping my voice calm and remembering that slow and steady wins the race.
One tip – do not put your latigo up through the latigo holder until your cinch is tight enough to ride with. If the latigo’s hanging down, that will be a visual reminder that it’s not safe to get on yet.