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Western Cinches
  2006 Cherry Hill
www.horsekeeping.com

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A front cinch lays against the horse's heart girth and fastens to the saddle with a full latigo on the near side and either a full latigo or half breed on the off side.

CINCH OR CHINCHA?

Cinches (also called cinchas) have long been made of yarn, cord, or string. Traditional string cinches are referred to as cinchas. Those of solid material are referred to as cinches. With a cincha, there are up to 31 individual strings rather than a single solid piece of material against the horse's skin. This allows the horse's skin to breathe and the hair to dry as the horse works and sweats. The biggest complaint about string cinchas is that they absorb the sweat, hold onto the dirt and then rot and break. But, when properly cared for, string cinchas can last a lifetime. It's important to keep string cinches clean not only because they'll last longer but for the horse's comfort. A dirty cincha is more likely to gall a horse (rub the skin raw) because the crusty, sweaty fibers act like sandpaper on the tender skin behind the horse's elbow where there is little protective hair.

String cinchas have either one or two layers of strings. Single layer cinchas generally have from 14 to 17 strings; double layer cinchas have from 27 to 31 strings and offer greater strength while still being nearly as breathable as single layer cinchas.

All cinchas should have a sewn or woven centerpiece crossbar to keep the strings from tangling and to ensure that the strings lay flat against the horse. Some cinchas have additional crossbars, one between each buckle and the centerpiece, to further stabilize the yarns and keep them from twisting and tangling.

Cinchas are either straight or roping style. Straight cinchas are the same width their entire length. Roping cinchas are wider in the center. Some riders who don't rope prefer roping cinches because the large surface area spreads the pressure of anchoring the saddle and the rider's shifting weight over a larger area, making it more comfortable for the horse.

MATERIALS

The traditional and most desirable fiber for string cinchas is mohair, the soft hair of goat kids or Angora goats. Mohair is breathable and somewhat elastic, so allows the horse's rib cage to expand to maximize his lung capacity. Wool is often blended with mohair for economic reasons and synthetic fibers such as rayon and nylon are blended with mohair to make the cinch yarn stronger and more resistant to dirt and sweat. The trade off is that synthetics are not as soft or as breathable as natural fibers. Also, some synthetics have no give and thus are more restrictive to the horse's breathing.

Horsehair is another fiber used for cinchas. It breathes well, dries quickly and resists rot and mildew. However, horsehair cinchas are somewhat prickly, so should not be used on highly sensitive horses. Washing a horsehair cincha is not recommended. Instead, the horse's own hair is allowed to mat up on the inside of the cincha to form a natural pad. Spring shedding season is the perfect time to break in and "pad up" a new horse hair cincha. Of course, you should pick off irritating burrs and brush dirt off the bottom side of the cincha. Be aware that mice find horsehair tack especially tasty, so be careful where it's stored in your tack room.

HARDWARE

Buckles and D rings are stainless steel, brass, or nickel-plated steel. I prefer either stainless steel or brass, because nickel plating can wear off allowing the steel to rust.

Cincha buckles are made of either flat or round stock. A flat profile buckle is less obtrusive under the rider's knee. This is especially important if you're using a long cincha and the buckles end up close to the saddle.

Buckles come in two basic styles, single bar and double bar. On a single bar buckle the tongue attaches to the same straight bar where the strings or leather attach. Some buckles have washers on either side of the tongue of the buckle that are designed to hold the cincha straight, to prevent the cincha strings from being pinched and cut by the tongue hinge, and to prevent the strings from bunching up and binding the buckle. On a double bar buckle, the tongue is shorter and attached to a second bar across the center of the buckle, where it doesn’t contact the cinch material. Like many tack designs, each style has it's proponents and which one you choose is largely a matter of personal preference. I like the single bar because it lets the tail end of the latigo lay smoother.

The buckle tongue can be either straight or contoured. I prefer a contoured tongue because, again, it allows the tail of the latigo to lay flatter.

Most cinchas have two D rings at the centerpiece crossbar, a front dee for attaching a breast collar or martingale, and a rear dee for connecting to the rear cinch via a short hobble strap. On most string cinchas, the dees are attached to a nylon web strap or tab, which is sewn to the strings.

FIT

Cinchas are measured from the very ends of the buckles, with the cincha stretched straight. The length cincha you'll need depends on the heart girth of the horse and on the thickness of the pads you use under the saddle. A 30-32" cincha would fit most riding horses of the stock horse type. Younger horses or Arabians usually require a shorter cincha. Bulky stock horses or larger saddle breeds require longer cinchas.

A cinch that is not applied properly could gall (sore) a horse. To prevent galling, center the cincha on the horse by lining up the central cross strap of the cincha with the horse's midline. Check to be sure the cincha is centered under the horse when the cincha is pulled tight. The cincha buckles should be positioned at the same place on each side: approximately at a point slightly above and behind the horse's elbow. The cincha should not crowd the horse's foreleg. The skin there is thin and the motion of the front leg could cause chafing.

CINCHES

Cinches made of one continuous strip of material can be found in neoprene, felt, fleece, polyester, elastic and PVC. Synthetic materials are generally noted for their durability and resistance to rotting. This doesn’t mean they don’t need to be kept clean, however. A clean cinch is healthier and more comfortable for the horse and will last longer. Cinches are available in straight and roping style as well as contoured designs which are tapered, or cut back, on each side to prevent chafing as the front leg moves.

Cinches generally have two components: a backing, or body, to which the buckles are attached, and a lining, which contacts the horse. Some backings are of thick nylon and are heavy and stiff, while others are of lighter nylon and are suppler. I prefer a lightweight, supple cinch. The backing and lining are either one-piece, permanently stitched together, or two-piece, with a removable lining.

Cinch materials vary in feel and texture from hard and coarse (elastic), to spongy and smooth (neoprene), to very soft and fluffy (fleece). Some cinches, especially neoprene, don’t attract burrs at all, while most fleece and felt cinches are magnets for burrs and seeds.

HARDWARE - See cinchas

FIT

Like cinchas, cinches are measured from the ends of the buckles, with the cinch stretched straight.

When using a cinch, it should be tightened so you can slip three fingers under the cinch below the cinch buckle, where the cinch is against the horse’s body. This is better than checking at the latigo because the saddle rigging ring and cinch buckle usually hold the latigo away from the horse’s body, making the cinch seem looser than it is. Although you don’t want a saddle to slip, it’s important to not over-tighten a cinch. Neoprene cinches tend to grip a horse, so can be applied somewhat looser than a traditional string cincha. I've found that saddles slip the most with fleece cinches so they have to be tightened the most.

String cinchas have give and English girths traditionally have elastic on one or both ends of the girth to allow for expansion and contraction with the horse’s movement. Nylon-backed cinches, however, do not stretch at all so some cinches incorporate short elastic straps into one end of the nylon backing.

MATERIALS

Leather, although traditionally used for English girths and western rear cinches, is rarely used as a western front cinch except in the show ring. A good leather front cinch is supple and conforming. Some have a padded, soft leather inner surface with rolled edges to prevent chafing or galling. Although very strong, a leather cinch is not as breathable as a mohair string cincha.

Felt is a fabric made by pressing fibers together under pressure. Dense felt, such as used for hats, is quite hard and water-resistant. Cinch felt is much softer and quite absorbent. It is said to wick heat and moisture away from the horse’s body. Felt linings can be wool, polyester, or plant fiber blends. Unless bound with material, felt edges fluff up and attract burrs and debris.

Fleece is a soft lining and provides a lot of cushion but the exposed edges can attract burrs, seeds, hay and hair. "Fleece" can be wool or polyester or a blend. Fleece cinches take more care than some other cinches and are not suitable for trail riding but are great for thin-skinned arena horses or those recovering from chafing or galling.

Neoprene cinches have gained popularity in recent years and there are many on the market. Neoprene, or "closed cell foam", was developed nearly 70 years ago as an oil resistant substitute for natural rubber. It has many characteristics that would seem to make it well-suited for cinch material: it’s weather resistant; not affected by water, body oils, and salts; stays flexible over a wide temperature range; and has outstanding resistance to damage caused by flexing and twisting. Neoprene cinches do not attract burrs, burdock, grass, mud, or dirt and are very easy to clean, a simple hosing is often all that is necessary or when necessary, washing with cool water, mild soap or anti-bacterial shampoo and rinsing thoroughly.
Because neoprene cinches are easy to clean and disinfect they are well suited for use between horses. On some cinches the lining is stitched to the backing through the surface that’s against the horse. Grooves made by the stitching tend to hold hair and dirt could set up stress points leading to cracks. Other cinches have a stitch-free horse surface.

Spurs, brush and other sharp objects can cut or tear neoprene. The exposed outer surface on some cinches is laminated to a nylon fabric, or covered with a tough material such as canvas.

Neoprene does cause increased sweating, much like wearing a rubber glove makes your hand sweat, which advocates say is a benefit - the layer of sweat "lubricates" the cinch and prevents galling.

 

There are many factors to consider when considering what type of cinch to use: style of riding, the sensitivity of the horse, the ease of care, initial cost, performance, and the life of the cinch. In the end it boils down to a cinch that holds the saddle securely, doesn’t abrade, is comfortable for the horse, and can be effectively cleaned.

 

 

 

 

      2006 Cherry Hill 

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