Introducing the Back Cinch

I’m a dressage rider typically, but I’ve got a horse I want to start in Working Equitation, Working Western, and Ranch (that way he can also do his breed shows, who offer western classes but no dressage classes). I’ve ridden some quarter horse ranch horse pleasure, but other than that my western riding knowledge is pretty limited. So this is an adventure.

I tried my western saddle on him today and it appears to fit in the shoulders/back, but of course bounced around when he was trotting with no one aboard (he didn’t seem to care, but that can’t be comfortable). So I’m thinking he needs some sort of back cinch.

I’ve never used a back cinch on any horse, so I haven’t the foggiest as to how they work. I’m sure I can find some info out there about buying one and fitting one, but what about introducing the horse to it? Just put it on and let them work it out? Try to introduce them like you do the front cinch to a green bean?

What do you do?

I’m surprised you haven’t had a response yet from some of CoTH’s western experts. I am NOT an expert but here are some thoughts. BIG GRAIN OF SALT included.

  1. Find a trainer to help you with the transition to western, including rear cinch if appropriate
  2. Do some groundwork with your horse using a (not secured) rope putting pressure on the barrel where a rear cinch would sit. BE CAREFUL. if that goes fine, do groundwork with rear cinch in place - use turns and rein backs to help horse “encounter” the cinch safely. BE CAREFUL, please.
  3. Remember that the rear cinch is not adjusted tight to the horse. It is only snug enough to come into play if the saddle tips up for some reason (e.g., horse bucking, stopping hard, roping, etc.) and to be safely “non-snaggable”
  4. Find a trainer to help you, please.

For starters, if saddle rear is bouncing badly, the saddle does not fit well. Adding a rear cinch will not change the fit, just ties the rear-end down to his body. You may want to get some help fitting a western saddle on him.

If he has worn blanket with girths, he probably won’t do anything if you add a rear cinch. You want it snug, not tight, so he can’t catch a hoof in it if he bucks or kicks at flies. You may need to tighten back cinch again when you check front cinch after 15-20 minutes , so back cinch stays snug.

Do you have a strap, string that ties front and rear cinches together? REALLY imprtant that back cinch cannot slip back into his flank area. Horse surprised with that feel will blow up, inhale, cinch CANNOT slide forward again so he thinks something grabbed hold and he will fight (in most cases) to get free of that grab hold.

I personally do not use a back cinch because it gets in the way of my boot giving signals. Useless as kicking the barn door, horse can’t feel my foot signal thru the rear cinch. I will use a rear cinch in a working situation, pulling things, big hills and full saddlebags, but not for showing when I want finesse. My present horses are quite sensitive, responsive, so I do not wear spurs with them.

I started team penning on my jumper last year. He’d never had a Wester saddle on him until he turned 20. He is a super sensitive thoroughbred and never cared about the back cinch, and he’s the type I have to lunge to see if he tolerates it every time I get any new piece of tack/saddle pad. I just put the saddle and back cinch on, stuck him on the longe at all gaits and backed him up a few times, which is what I do with all new tack. The cinch sits around where a blanket strap hit, and I keep those pretty snug so he’s used to pressure. Do make sure you have a strap attaching your front and rear cinch so it can’t slide back.

Thanks all - yeah I think I’m just being super paranoid - I was even concerned about putting the saddle on him since he is a sensitive soul. He didn’t bat an eye, proving that I’m a paranoid freak and he is a good boy.

The rigging on this saddle is super far forward, I believe it’s called full rigging? It doesn’t bounce when I’m in the tack, just on the longe, and it’s not a lot of bouncing. I rode him in it today and it seems to fit super well, no dry spots, even sweat marks and he is a diva so I’d know if he was uncomfortable (ask me how many dressage saddles I tried :rofl:).

He actually seemed more comfortable in the western saddle and after we rode there was zero sensitivity in his back, which he generally shows right away if the saddle is wrong.

He’s got a pretty high wither but a nice flat back behind it - he’s a saddlebred so fit is a lot like a TB. And strangely I felt more comfortable in it which is probably because the saddle takes up more of my leg.

I may not need the back cinch but I’d like him to be comfortable in case we do try a discipline where we need it. I’ll keep a close eye on the fit, and see where we go!

My horse accepted western tack (including a back cinch) like it was NBD. YMMV


Bigger bars in western saddle trees spread out the saddle and rider weight over more back area than English saddles do. Less weight per inch on covered areas. Extra padding of saddle fleece layer and thicker blanket/pad used with western saddles is extra cushioning too for keeping his back comfortable.

Saddle will seldom bounce with rider on the horse, their weight holds saddle down. Make sure saddle is not way up on his withers when girthed up. But saddle rear bouncing as horse is lunged in LARGE circles would concern me about the fit. Saddle should not bounce with or without a rider. Just should lay quietly on his back when moving without a rider if he is not humping his back. Google bouncing rear on western saddles, which will give you more information on the “why” part.

It was a small circle (just at the end of a long lead rope to see if he tolerated moving with the saddle) and he is a very active mover :slight_smile: It may have actually been a bit far forward the first time, as he has a very laid back shoulder.

I’ve read the western saddle fit primers and watched a good few videos. It isn’t bouncing excessively. But when you are used to a saddle not moving at all, as most dressage and hunter saddles do, it looks annoying.

Thanks though!! I do mean that!

If it is a full double, then yes, use a back cinch. Without a back cinch you are creating an uneven pull on the tree.

Glad the use of the new gear was a non-event :slight_smile:

Me every time I have to do up a western saddle. I’m literally no good with them.

Too far forward and cinch done too tight will lift the back of some western saddles. Cue me scratching my head going well I know this can’t be right.

When I got my first horse a 40 years ago, I had a western saddle. I couldn’t keep that thing tight enough to save my life (I was 12, she was round with no withers, who knows whether the saddle fit…I was 12!). I gave up and just started riding bareback after it slid off one too many times. I finally bought the stubben elasticated dressage girth because I’m concerned that I’ll do it up too tightly, and doing it too loosely can get exciting on the random teleport.

Honestly, for this guy I probably had it a bit too snug the first time because I was anticipating trouble and I didn’t want the saddle to go anywhere if he did lose his mind. He’s a spicy zesty sensitive horse so I was thinking he might not like things touching him in weird places. But I always forget that he also reacted to learning to drive with a very “oh, this is new, but it’s cool” kind of reaction. I really should start trusting him more.


If the saddle comes up in the back, IMO, then it doesn’t fit. The purpose of the back cinch is not to keep it forced down.

If the fit is “close enough” then sometimes you can shim the front of the saddle to get it to sit more level but that’s if the elements are correct for shimming. (can’t shim if it’s too tight or too narrow)

As far as introducing the back cinch, I would just do some general ground work first (no saddle) with moving a soft rope all around the horse’s body, including around their belly and flank. Make sure they are fine with that type of feel.
Then saddle up with the back cinch loose (But not too loose that you could create a wreck), and move the horse around.
Then tighten it normal, and move the horse around.
Then get on and ride.

Most horses don’t care. But yes, go through the motions as if you were approaching a green horse.


Add me to the chorus of those who suspect your saddle doesn’t fit the horse - it shouldn’t bounce around up there, with or without a back cinch.

That said, introducing a rear cinch should be a non-event to a horse who has ever worn a blanket and/or is reasonably well broke. It shouldn’t be far enough back or loose enough for the horse to really notice.

As others have also already pointed out, it is CRITICAL for safety’s sake that your rear cinch is snug (not tight, but snug - you should be able to fit a flat hand but not a sideways one between the cinch and the horse’s barrel) and that you use a “hobble” strap to connect the rear cinch to the front one. A loose and/or unhobbled rear cinch is dangerous.

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So - color me shocked to figure out that this particular saddle (being a Circle Y) has a second ring meaning I can adjust the rigging to be 7/8th or 3/4, rather than using the “full” option in front, which was pulling the front of the saddle down, and leaving the rest “free to wiggle”.

It also didn’t bounce at all last night when I rode, leaving me to suspect placement was the issue the first time. No dry spots, no pinching, and he was quite forward, which he is not if he’s in any discomfort whatsoever.

I’m quite surprised at how much he likes the saddle, but I’ll take it!

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I like to use both front rings when it’s an option, like the rightmost picture in the link