What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Reacts when Cinch or Girth is Tightened


Horses usually begin to resent the cinch being tightened because it causes them physical pain or discomfort.

Maybe the cinch binds or pinches the skin, or is over-tightened. Regardless, they react to this by evading or becoming defensive. Horses may react to this in different ways- some stretch out, shift or move, or reach around and try to bite.

A behavior may happen only once or a few times, but can easily become an established pattern that a horse may continue to engage in, even if the source of discomfort has been removed.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.
You also might be observing
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your role


What To Do

Your horse may resent the cinch for a variety of reasons. Assess the horse’s girth area visually, by touch and pressure, looking for any areas of hair loss, swelling, or responsiveness to finger pressure (pain). Examine your tack carefully, including a very careful evaluation of your cinch. Look for burs and other foreign material.

Then go through the process of saddling and tightening the cinch, watching carefully for when the behavior arises. You may break this process up into discreet steps and try to desensitize your horse to each step in the process, always being sure that you are not causing pain.

Work the edge between tolerance and reaction until you are able to safely and predictably tighten the cinch. Stop tightening (a reward) before you elicit a reaction. Release the cinch and give the horse a moment to process this. In the future, you will need to be aware of your technique and the responses you are getting in order to avoid the reactive behavior.

If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, seek out the assistance of a trainer who can help. Likewise, share your concerns and findings with your vet in order to rule out injury or illness as a potential cause.

your vet's role

If you cannot solve this through training and want to rule out a physical cause, contact your vet.

Your vet evaluates the horse's general health, especially evaluating the back and girth area for pain or any other problems. They may want to see you tighten the cinch in order to better understand the nature of the behavior.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Have you examined the girth area carefully?
  • Have you examined the tack?
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • Have you found any physical reason for the behavior?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP