The Complete Guide to Properly Cinching a Saddle

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The Complete Guide to Properly Cinching a Saddle

The ‘cinch’ is the western saddle equivalent of a girth in English equestrian terms. It is an entirely different mechanism to the English girth but just as effective and serves as the key to keeping the saddle comfortably and safely on the horses back.


The western saddle was derived from the Spanish design used by the vaqueros in Mexico and Texas in the late 18th Century. It is designed to be the perfect tool for working cattle on vast areas of range or prairie. It is fantastically comfortable for both horse and rider and allows the rider to easily work from it. The stirrups are long and offer a great support to the rider. The saddle horn was designed as a ‘dally’ to pull up roped cattle and the whole saddle to this day is the preferred choice of cattlemen in the US.

The western saddle is always made of the finest leather and is often intricately decorated with designs on the leather but also conches of silver or tin. Originally the saddle and rope was a cowhand’s most treasured possession as they would travel significant distances to work in ranches as temporary hands and would be given a horse but would be expected to have their own saddle.

Western Saddle

There are often two cinches on a western saddle. The main cinch is the front cinch. This is the most challenging to fit correctly and tighten. The second is known as the back or flank cinch and is generally buckled loosely. This is usually seen on working saddles where the horse which is being used as a roping horse.

Once the steer has been roped and the rope is dallied (that is, tied around the saddle horn) the back cinch stops the saddle from being pulled up by the steer. It is not required under normal circumstances.

There is often a cinch connecting strap that connects the two cinches under the horse’s belly or girth. It helps to prevent the saddle from moving around.

How to Cinch a Saddle

To cinch a saddle properly make sure the cinch strap itself is well soaped and isn’t too dry.

  1. Settle the saddle on the horses back by moving it forwards and backwards to find the most natural and comfortable position for it on the horse’s back.
  2. The cinch itself should be hanging on the right hand side of the horse and the cinch strap should be on the left.
  3. It is sometimes useful to hook the stirrup up onto the saddle horn to give a clearer view of the cinch. This also makes it easier to carry out the cinching correctly.
  4. Pull up the cinch strap so it meets the cinch and insert the end of the strap into the top ring pointing the end of the strap towards the horse. Do not bring the strap up into the ring from the horse outwards. Pull the cinch the whole way through and back down to the cinch ring.
  5. Repeat this as many times as is required, this will depend on the length of the cinch strap and the size of the horse. Do not, at this stage pull the cinch tight.
  6. Knot the cinch by pushing the strap through the saddle ring, over itself and back up through the ring.
  7. To finish off put the strap back through itself as if tying a neck tie and pull tight.
  8. To tighten the cinch start with the innermost strap and pull tight working through the different straps until the cinch is firmly tight but not a real squeeze.

Part of the art of really cinching a saddle well is to have it tight enough to make sure there is no slipping of the saddle but comfortable for the horse. The cinch should be loose enough to slide the hand between it and the horse with relative ease.

  • The cinch rings, or ‘rigging dees’, which are found both front and rear
  • The cinch strap, which is made of leather and runs through the cinch rings
  • The cinch itself which is normally a broad string girth which is the most flexible and comfortable material against the horses belly. Cinches are generally made up of three elements:

In general when cinching a western saddle it is important not to try to tighten the cinch up until after the cinch knot is tied off and be careful not to tighten the cinch too much as it can easily pinch the horse.

Always be calm and gentle when putting tack on any horse. If the horse is young or a little nervous take particular care not to be too rough when putting on the saddle and tightening the cinch. Once saddled, it is sometimes a good idea to go to the front of the horse and take its front leg, pulling it forward to make sure that no skin or wrinkles are caught in the cinch.

Another tip is always to use a clean cinch. If they are muddy they can cause irritation and inflame the horse’s skin, which as it is on the soft belly can be particularly uncomfortable.

For the rider’s own safety it is as well to check the stitching around the cinch rings and the cinch straps to make sure it is in good order. A broken cinch on a galloping horse is an awkward moment.

If you take care to make sure that the saddle is correctly settled on the horse’s back and the cinch is correctly tightened and is not pinching then the horse will be perfectly comfortable all day.

How to buy a Saddle on eBay

You can find horse Saddles quickly and easily on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Other Tack, Grooming & Health, Bridles, Supplements & Treats and Food. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Equestrian.

Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Books & Magazines, Driving, DVDs, Horse Wear & Equipment, Prints & Art, Rider Clothing & Accessories, Stable Accessories, Trophies and Videos. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder

Use the Horse Saddle Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition (new or used).

Keyword search

Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find new Horse saddles type the keywords "horse saddle new" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy a Horse Saddle with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your item

  • Read the details in the item listing carefully.
  • Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.
  • If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
  • Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
  • Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

    Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.


This ownership of the saddle is the big difference between the Western horseman and the English tradition in which a saddle very much belonged to a specific horse. The western saddle is generally fitted to the person rather than the horse.

Before the rider ever starts to cinch the saddle it is crucial that the saddle fits. A big western saddle is heavy weight on the horse and if the saddle fits badly then it could damage the horse’s back. That said, the fitting of a western saddle is a more flexible job than the fitting of an English saddle.

eBay is a perfect place to research and find new and used saddles and, when combined with the information in this guide, buyers can be assured that they will have a better understanding of which saddle to buy and how to secure is safely and correctly. 

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