Western Cinches


Welcome to Western Cinches

A site dedicated to enlightening the novice horse owner about Western Cinches and Saddle Cinches

Saddle Cinches seem like a straight forward piece of horse tack. Every saddle must have one.

It is apparent that they secure the saddle in place. But the easy part ends there. There are several types of western cinches that should be understood. Which cinch is best for what purpose is important to know.



Traditional Western Cinches are generally made from mohair or cotton or a blend. They consist of several cords (usually 17 to 30) that attach two cinch rings to each other. The center of the group of cords is generally sewn or weaved together to hold the strands together and keep the cinch lying flat. Small rings are attached to the center for attaching breast collars and back cinches under the horse's belly.

Recent cinches have been made of felt and nylon, or neoprene and nylon or other modern materials. 100% nylon cinches are strong but will not absorb moisture or transfer heat and are generally discouraged. Neoprene feels soft to the rider's hands, but it can cause chafing very quickly because it will not breathe. It cannot absorb moisture and it builds heat. Above all, a horse's equipment should provide as much ventilation as possible.

The cinch area needs some care just as the back padding area needs considerations. Horses will sweat under the cinch and build up heat. Heat is the enemy of comfort. Cinches made of mohair and wool help to wick away moisture and dissipate heat to prevent slipping and galling. Some new western cinches have been designed to "stretch" a little to accommodate breathing. So long as they also dissipate heat and moisture and hold the saddle securely, they may be an improvement on the traditional design. Time will tell.



Stainless steel is just the best - period. Many less-expensive cinches are made with chrome-plated steel. It is adequate but will not last as long and horse sweat will eat it up. Nothing is more irritating and frustrating than a cinch whose hardware has rusted. Trying to pull your cinch strap through a deteriorating D Ring is a real drag (pun intended).



The cinch is fairly permanently attached to the saddle's right side (the "off" side) by an off billet strap (latigo strap). It then comes under the chest and attaches on the "near" (left) side to the cinch strap by means of a knot or buckle. It is very advantageous to have a buckle with a roller on it to help you tighten the cinch down as you pull the leather through the D-Ring. The roller helps with drag as the leather is pulled through the ring.

The cinch, first and foremost must fit comfortably. It must spread pressure evenly over the cinch area so that it does not "cut" into the horse's girth area. If it is too narrow it will cut in. If it is too wide it will inhibit the movement of his front legs backward at the elbow, and might require too much cinch tightening.

A properly fitted saddle will not require over-cinching or too much tightening. Rule of thumb is that two flat fingers should fit behind the cinch between the cinch and your horse. If you feel you must keep pulling, check to be sure your saddle is fitted correctly. see: Saddle Fit

Some cinches have a sheepskin cover (or you can purchase one) to further pad the area. However, unless you ride only in arenas, they can be a problem. They tend to collect burrs and stickers and they don't dissipate heat very well.

Different lengths fit different size horses. The most common lengths are 30", 32" and 34".

Different widths are used for different purposes. Depending on how your saddle is rigged, you can make a good start at choosing a width. see Saddle Rigging. A saddle rigged in the full position uses a 17 strand cinch. Rigged in the 7/8 position (most common) uses a 19 strand cinch. Rigged in the 3/4 position, uses a 21 strand cinch.

Most new horse owners think that the extra wide "roper" cinch is more humane as it spreads the pressure over a larger area. However, the reality is that it must be pulled tighter to hold the saddle securely and creates restricted breathing. Even ropers do not tighten the cinch fully except when actually roping. It is much better to have the appropriate-sized cinch and tighten it less.



Obviously, your cinch must be kept in good shape. Over time, the moisture from sweat will begin to deteriorate both the fibers of the cinch and anything that touches the horse. The leathers (usually a type of oil-tanned leather strap) can also rot. Check this equipment frequently to be sure that it is in good condition. Having your saddle give way and fall off at an inconvenient time or at a high speed is a very dangerous situation. That's what happens when equipment is not checked.

Some leathers are made of nylon. While this is inexpensive and strong, it does not dissipate heat, so it is not ideal.