A Cowboy’s Faith: Correct tightness means safety

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“Watch out, your girth broke.”

That was the initial sideline scream from more than one at conclusion of a good pole bending run.

“Get off before your saddle turns and you fall off.” Sincere concerned advice came from the gateman.

Confused by all the goings-on, glance down to the saddle billet verified it was gone. Only the back cinch was loosely intact holding saddle on the high-withered old Palomino Cody.

Cautious dismount was made to ground safety as the saddle remained upright for evaluation of what the whole predicament entailed.

It was a weird deal, really, although the front cinch had been tightened to the usual hole. However, evidently as the fast lean horse stretched out on the straightaway home, the girth became loose enough to unhook itself.

A spectator congenially picked the off-billet up out of the arena and brought it to the trailer. Nothing was broken period, as the back cinch, centered rider and the horse’s back kept saddle upright.

Luckily no tack had to be repaired, but the girth was definitely pulled one hole tighter for the next run. It’s even been taken up another notch after a couple runs.

Pulling the cinch is the most important part of saddling up. Such a simple action it would seem. But actually getting the right snugness to suit the horse, the rider and the expectations are somewhat complex.

Always remember a friend’s 4-H project talk more than a half-century ago. She emphasized not getting the girth too tight causing the horse pain to the point of lying down. Over pulling the cinch can also cause other problems such as bucking and not working efficiently.

Yet it has to be tugged enough so the saddle doesn’t turn, or come unhooked. Certain horses swell up when a cinch is being tightened, necessitating walking out and retightening before mounting.

Sharp-withered horses typically don’t have to be pulled as tight as a round-backed, mutton-withered horse.

Cinches generally should be loosened after riding, when the horse is tied up waiting to be worked again. Caution is important not to get it too loose or the saddle can turn while not in use.

Back cinches are important to a saddle as well with an equation all of their own.

Reminded of Second Chronicles 33:14: “He tightened up the defense system.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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