7 tips to avoid cinchyness

Being a Saddlefitter I regularly visit horses that have had bad experiences with cinching. The result is sometimes what we call ‘cinchyness’; something we usually see as nasty behaviour. Cinchyness is however a purely defensive mechanism of the horse to avoid pain, fear or discomfort, and it’s a reaction that doesn’t just come out of nowhere.
Usually a horse is only labeled with ‘cinchyness’ when he shows irritated or even agressive behaviour when being cinched up in the form of biting, tailswishing, stamping their feet, flattening the ears or gnashing their teeth.

If you have a new or young horse and would like to avoid them developing cinchyness then make sure you remember to use the following 7 tips in your daily horse handling:

1. Healthy Horse

Making sure you know your horse is healthy. Check his back and girthing groove for wounds, don’t ride him if you suspect he might have a tummy ache or experiencing back problems and spare him from riding if he is lame. If you put your horse to work, with a saddle, too often while he is feeling unwell he may start to protest before or during the ride: and he should!

2. Fitting Saddle

Provide him with a good, well fitted saddle and regularly let a professional check your tack. Learn about saddlefitting a bit so that, as the owner, you can at least recognize light symptoms of a badly fitting saddle. Ask your saddlefitter what adjustments may need to be made after your saddle has been ridden for a good couple of hours (for instance a lot of traditional saddles have wool filled panels: wool can start to cluster and become hard and irregular after a while). If you don’t ride your horse with a fitting saddle he might start to rebel against you: whether you can read the signs or not!

3. The Right Girth

Making sure you know your horse is healthy. Check his back and girthing groove for wounds, don’t ride him if you suspect he might have a tummy ache or experiencing back problems and spare him from riding if he is lame. If you put your horse to work, with a saddle, too often while he is feeling unwell he may start to protest before or during the ride: and he should!

4. Groomed Horse

Of course this one speaks for itself: take care that there’s no sand, dirt or straw sticking to your horses coat when you saddle him; either underneath the saddle, blanket or girth. Rubbing sand is horrible: we’ve all experienced this!

4. Relax, Relax, Relax

Prepare your horse for saddling. If he is inexperienced you might need to warm him up on the longeline for a bit first for example. If he can’t stand still to be saddled, practise with him.
And most of all make sure saddling time is relaxing time, that he experiences it as something nice. He can only do that if you stay patient and friendly! If he does bite you, don’t lose your cool. If you’re on time you can try to patiently correct him. If you lose your cool however he will be proven right: cinching up is something horrible! Remember: cinchyness comes from tension, so help him get rid of the tension.

6. Timing

Another neat trick to help your horse relax is to wait for him to breathe out when you cinch him up. Grab the girthing billet and watch his flanks and belly; if you have enough patience and a good eye (it might take a while for him to relax and breathe out if he has had bad experiences) you will see him breathe out at some point. You try to time the tightening of the girth with the moment he breathes out. He will definitely appreciate it…..and practise makes perfect!

7. Chinching in Stages

Last but not least: cinch your horse up in stages. Every smart, experienced rider does this. You save your horse a lot of discomfort and it’s safer as well. My advice: cinch him up loosely when you saddle him. Then take him into the arena so that he’s moved a bit before you cinch him up a second time. And cinch him up nice and snuggly before you mount of even from the saddle if you’re handy enough.

These things take so little effort and you save the both of you a lot of frustration by keeping them in mind.

What if you already do all these things but your horse still shows ‘Cinchyness’? Give yourself a pat on the back….and to be continued: we’ll post an article about the cures for cinchyness at a later time!

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