Check saddle fit
Poor saddle fit can also lead to cinchiness. To determine if your saddle is causing your horse to be uncomfortable or cinchy, switch saddles for a week or two. If your horse’s behavior improves, you’ll know that the cinchiness was probably being caused by poor saddle fit. Having a good-fitting saddle and a quality pad really makes a difference in your horse’s performance and attitude.
Prep your horse for saddling
The biggest mistake I see people make, and one that tends to create a cinchy horse, often happens the first time a colt is cinched up. If his owner tightens the girth too tight and too soon, it frightens the horse and makes him really uncomfortable.
Because he’s not used to having anything on his back, a tight cinch makes the new experience of being saddled even scarier for him and often, this causes him to overact and buck. Then the owner usually makes the second biggest mistake — he takes the saddle off.
When I saddle a 2-year-old for the first time, I saddle him at 6 a.m. and keep him saddled all day. By letting the horse wear the saddle all day, I give him a chance to get over being scared, and usually by the end of the day he’s relaxed and has gotten past his initial reactivity.
If, on the other hand, he’s still bucking at the end of the day, I’ll keep him saddled all night as well. It’s very, very important to not take the saddle off until the horse has quit trying to buck or rub it off on the fence, roll on it, etc. For a horse to really accept a saddle, he has to think it’s part of his body, no different than his mane and tail.
How tight should I cinch my horse? How can I tell if my cinch is too tight?
While, there’s no golden rule for how tight you should cinch your horse, remember that you should tighten it in stages. The first time, I cinch the horse snugly but I don’t cut him in half. I want to give him a chance to warm up and get comfortable before I really cinch him up. I’ll do groundwork for about five minutes, and then I’ll check the girth and tighten it a little more. I’ll do groundwork again for five to 10 more minutes, and then I’ll tighten my girth for the third time.
This time, I really do it up tight. You may have heard me tell a joke about this at my tours. I often say that when I tighten a girth up, I tighten it so tight the horse’s eyes roll back in his head! Even though that’s obviously a joke, I really do make it a point to have my horse’s girths very snug.
When my horse is warmed up and mentally ready, I’m not afraid to cinch him up tight. The reality is most people don’t tighten their horse’s cinch up nearly enough. This isn’t just careless — it’s dangerous. When a saddle slips under a horse’s belly, whoever’s riding him is going to end up in a massive wreck.
If you ride your horse for longer than an hour, he’ll more than likely need to have his girth tightened again. Horse’s draw up after having been ridden a couple hours, so if you’re out trail riding you may need to readjust the cinch two or three times.
As a general rule, I’d rather have my horse’s cinch too tight than too loose. Some people worry that they’ll hurt their horse if they cinch them too tight. However, if you’ve warmed your horse up and given him time to get used to the saddle before really cinching him tight, you should be able to cinch him quite snugly without making him uncomfortable. Most people aren’t strong enough to cinch their horse too tight, so it’s not really something to worry about. If you do manage to cinch your horse too tight, you’ll know it. It will be obvious that the tightness of the girth is making him physically uncomfortable.