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Cinchy Horse

Hello All,

I am new to the forum. I joined today in hopes someone out there can help me over a hurdle. I have years of horse experience. I have trained colts from the ground to finished trail / pleasure horses. I have ridden hunter / jumpers. Then I obtained a pretty serious break in a ‘no-fault-of-the-colt’ accident which left me lacking some of my prior confidence.

I am now coming back from 10 years sans horses. I have four horses I am working with - each one unique in his own right. My goal is merely trail / pleasure horses. I’m not looking to show or do anything ‘fancy’. I just want these guys to be safe horses for me and my family to ride - and for the most part things are progressing nicely.

I give that tad bit of background just as introduction. My point: I usually know how to get past an issue and, except for still regaining some confidence, I believe I can overcome just about every issue - given time and the right tools.

That is why I am here. One of my boys is a 9 year old TB gelding. He is not an OTTB. He came from a cowboy who probably abused as much as used him. He is a very big boy (16 hands but probably close to 1200 pounds). Yet, he is a sweet guy who doesn’t act like he knows he’s that big.

When he came to us, he had little respect for his people. He didn’t bite or kick or act mean, but he’d walk over you and push you around given the chance. I have done some serious round pen work with him using Clinton Anderson methods. He is doing very well.

On a more serious note, he came to us with a sore back. The prior owner told us he was cinchy - and he was. Put a saddle on, cinch it up, and he’d crow hop a bit. After that, so said the other owner, you could get right on (and he did, but I now suspect he may have given the horse Bute before we arrived).

Long story short, when we saddle him - and after his crow hop act, we mounted up. He acted very odd - like he wanted to get away from the saddle. He went down - until his chest nearly touched the ground.

We decided to take him to our vet/chiropractor. She found him seriously out of align and worked him over. She felt he was now back in place and, after some time to overcome the sore muscles, suggested he should be good to go.

I gave him a couple weeks off then started working him in the round pen. As I mentioned, he is doing very well and is VERY respectful. Furthermore, he shows no signs of being sore (he used to be sore to the touch in spots on his back). However, contrary to what Clinton Anderson suggests, just because a horse respects you doesn’t mean they get over the ‘fear’ or ‘habit’ of a ‘cold back’.

So, I am now trying to figure out the next step. Currently this is where I am at:

I always work him in the round pen first - practicing his respect exercises - making sure he is listening - getting him to move his feet as I direct and show he is submitting. Then I put the saddle on. Whether I put it on slow or just treat it like a ‘normal-ole-saddle-up’, he always humps up.

He doesn’t truly ‘buck’, but he does some obvious crow hopping. I force him to move, drive him away, turn him back over himself - in other words, make life uncomfortable for him until he settles down. This usually takes 20 - 45 seconds (I would guess). Once he settles down, he is fine.

I have taken the saddle off and put it back on after he humps up. I’ve cinched it down tight - moved it around - put weight into the stirrups, hung off the sides of the saddle - everything I can think of to get him to ‘act up’ once he’s finished with his initial ‘cold back’. I cannot get another reaction.

Nonetheless, I also cannot get him to accept the saddle without the ‘act’. I have been working with him three or more times a week for the last three or four weeks. He is doing well on every front except this one. I just can’t seem to get him over this hump.

BTW - This is not the first cinchy horse I’ve worked with. I had one, years ago, who would rear up and even go over backwards. However, if I turned him back over himself when I first cinched him up, he never acted up again. This guy doesn’t show the same signs - holding his breath, getting stiff, acting ‘scared’. He doesn’t show anything until that first step - then he puts on his act.

Any ideas? What’s worked for you?

Have you tried different saddles with the same results?

Can you get on him bareback without a problem?


Sounds like saddle to me. Found this video. Hope it helps.

edit: bad link.

I started with a small light rider I legged up bareback after her back was straightened out and she realized it didn’t hurt anymore. Over time I she adapted and I started to saddle and ride her again myself. Time and patience.

If you’re as sure as possible that there are no physical issues, and saddle fit is good, you can try different pads. But if all that is fine, it’s probably just going to take longer than you think for that reaction to fade away. If ever. If he’s fine after that and it only takes a minute, I would learn to live with it. It does make it hard to tell if something is truly bothering him though.

You might not want to make it really uncomfortable for him when he does it. It might be reinforcing the idea that saddling is something to worry about. I’d try saddling as nicely as possible, tighten the cinch slowly, be low key without tiptoeing around him. Do some relaxed groundwork before you get on to make sure he’s got the kinks worked out.

Sounds like serious back pain.

I doubt one chiro treatment is going to fix him. You will need regular attention.

Also, could sound like kissing spines, which can be viewed on Xray by your vet. I would invest in Xray diagnostic. There are some treatments for this condition.

Also, please have an experienced saddle fitter evaluate. It DOES make a huge difference for most horses.

Sounds like serious back pain to me also. Do check for Kissing Spine as that
can be very, very painful and can lead to erratic behavior under saddle.

You’ve already been given some good advice.
If you’re using a western saddle, try a lightweight English saddle w/ soft fleece
girth if you can borrow one. Eleminate that first. Many western saddles are
ill fitting as people seem to think one size fits all. You may have a TB w/
high withers who needs a cutback style saddle so as not to impinge on the bones in the withers. Or your horse could have an old injury to the back.

I’ve bought horses who were very cinchy but with patience and time they gradually get better. This is more than that. I think this is PAIN related.

Have the chiro out again, or try some massage. It’s likely that this problem is so old that the muscles automatically pulled the bones right back out of alignment. Really common in humans, which is why many chiros recommend massage to help the muscles get over their spasms, and relax enough to let the chiro do its job. What if you get on him in a bareback pad? Does he still crow hop?

You might use this trick (with a little caution, a LOT of common sense, and plenty of desensitizing first to avoid a wreck–) to address past horses that have come to me with that nasty habit of crow hopping on cold mornings (after eliminating saddle fit and pain, and narrowing it down to true HABIT) we saddle them up in a pack saddle and tie on some boxes. The guy I learned from used salt blocks, but that’s a bit much for me. They crow hop, bang themselves in the ribs, and realize it’s stupid. They might fight about it, so don’t do it unless you’re experienced, can tie the knots and make sure those boxes stay on when they’re supposed to, and by all means know your horse and whether he’ll accept a pack saddle in the first place… putting so many qualifications and warnings on this makes me realize maybe I shouldn’t even suggest it. But in the right situation, for the right horse, often an ill-used cowboy horse who hasn’t been won over into his new life yet, it seems to break the habit.