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Cinchy to the extreme - HELP

Hello all! I am a seasoned horse owner/trainer but first time forum poster. My question is in regards to my saddle mare.

Amelie is a 2003 gray AQHA mare. She is 16.1hh and currently 1300lbs. I have owned her her entire life after picking her out on the ranch where I worked at 2 weeks old. I am the nly one who has ridden her or trained her. She was my 5 year colt to Maturity Project in 4H and has done it ALL.

She is a spirited mare who loves to work and “go”. My issue with has been saddling her. As a 2yo, she was very smart and willing; always wanting to please. When she turned 3, I upgraded my saddle from a synthetic Big Horn to a Circle Y show saddle. This was the year she began protesting being saddled.

Several of her siblings (same sire different dam) have the tendency to be quite cinchy and pull back when being saddled. I just brushed it off as something I had to work around and made accommodations for her while saddling. I never tie her and tighten the cinch very slowly.

Through the years, she has become exponentially worse about pulling back. She seems to do it whenever she is tied and is faced with something she considers to be unpleasant. This has resulted in broken saddles, leads, tie rings, etc.

I used to love riding this mare but she has become so reactive that it is a fight to saddle her or even load her in a trailer.

I had my equine chiropractor out yesteady and she thinks that at least part of the problem was my saddle. I have been trying different saddles to no avail.

Any suggestions? I have used a belly rope, special tie rings and so much more. I am at my wits end and am hoping for some tips or input. I love this mare with all my heart and just want her to enjoy the ride.

I’d eliminate anything physical, especially have a dentist check for caudal hooks, and get an eval for chiro/body work. Make sure the saddle fits her well.

Because she pulls back and because she won’t load sometimes, you also have some basic groundwork to do so she gives to pressure, and will go forward on cue, stop, move her hips and shoulders, and stays out of your space.

I think the fact that she used to be fine, and then wasn’t after you got a new saddle to be a BIG RED FLAG. Reacting the way she is, is one way horses can tell us something hurts. And often, if hurt repeatedly, horses will “react” even when not in pain, but in anticipation of it.

So, while she might “react” to a new saddle - it might just be a learned response.

I would work with someone to get a saddle fitted properly, so that you remove pain from the equation, and then work with her SLOWLY and patiently - as it can take a while for them to learn a new saddle won’t hurt.

Now, every horse is different, and we do not know the whole story - but I had a TB that acted similarly (girthy, pulled back often) and these are the things I did that helped us over come the issue:

Treated for ulcers - he was a “worrying” type and it seemed like a good possibility that his guts were bothering him.

Got his saddle fitted - the one he had came with was too narrow and pinching.

NEVER hard tied him while “retraining” - instead his lead was just looped around poles etc - so he never had something to “fight” and learned not to be so claustrophobic.

Saddling was done SLOWLY, with an extra long girth so it could be buckled with almost no pressure. From there he was walked, and soothed as the girth was tightened just one little notch at a time.

For him, he had to “re-learn” that things won’t hurt, that he doesn’t need to panic and try to protect himself - that the people around him will listen, and only push their agenda when he is comfortable enough to comply.

One other thing - you mentioned a genetic component. I have heard of certain nerves being pinched by the saddle / girth causing issues.


Good luck, have patients - I don’t think your horse is trying to be “bad” but trying to tell you something isn’t quite right.


Thank you both for your tips! I spoke to our local saddle maker and my equine chiropractor and will be making an appointment with both to fit her properly. I rode her today with no bit and bareback and she was much better. I will keep you updated as I learn!

As there seems to be a genetic component, I am curious about her conformation. Maybe something that makes the cinch or saddle fit tricky?

Also possible that ulcers have a genetic component, so I would definitely look there too for a solution.

How is she to be brushed?

TTouch has some exercises to work on girthyness.

If she won’t load (i.e. lead) in addition to standing tied, the issue is unlikely to be related to your saddle. Your problem is more likely to be a lack of basic ground manners. She needs to learn that going where you ask and standing tied are not negotiable points. Definitely investigate saddle fit and other physical pain, just in case, but I would bet serious money that her problem is lack of respect/manners. Unfortunately, teaching this lesson to adult horses is not simple. I strongly suggest that you work with an experienced trainer.

Has she had the 5 panel test? Just curious.