Improving a Cinch Shy Horse

Always check that your horse is not in pain before re-training their response. Seek appropriate professional advice such as physio or vet, to check that the horse’s behaviour is not pain related. If in doubt always consult a professional.

If your horse is “cinchy” or afraid of having the saddle tightened up, it can be quite frustrating. Most horses with this issue will dance around or pull back when you attempt to cinch up your saddle.

A cinchy horse has an established fear of the saddle being tightened, so the goal of this lesson is to reprogram your horse’s response to being saddled from one of fear to calm.

This lesson should be performed in a round pen with a halter and lead rope. You will need your saddle and pad for the later steps. Always wear appropriate clothing including boots and a riding helmet when working with a cinchy horse.

Do not tie your horse.

Follow each step of the lesson until your horse can perform the step calmly before moving on to the next step.

Remember, the goal is to establish calm and relaxation with cinching up. Never rush your horse through the steps and be prepared to repeat steps as many times as necessary before moving on.

  • With your horse in hand, approach from their left shoulder and pet him. Step away two or three steps after petting him.
  • Pet your horse with your hand up and down his back and sides. Step away two or three steps.
  • Pet your horse with your hand and lead rope up and down his back and sides. Step away.
  • Reach the rope with your right hand over your horse’s back and give a firm tug (do not yank or hurt your horse). Step away again.
  • Be sure to stand in a safe position. Reach your right arm over your horse’s back and your left arm around the girth. Give your horse a quick hug and step away. Take care and know if your horse is one to kick out. Maintain a safe position and make sure you have completed all previous steps with your horse maintaining their calm.
  • Drape the lead rope over your horses back and bring it up underneath as if it were a cinch. Give a firm, quick pull and instantly release and step away. You must repeat this step until you can pull the rope with your horse standing calmly.
  • Put your pad and saddle on your horses back. If your horse flinches you must go back through the previous steps until you can place your saddle without your horse flinching. Stand at your horses left shoulder and pull the cinch up to your horse’s belly and instantly release the cinch. Step away.
  • Standing at the left shoulder, bring up the cinch against your horse’s belly quickly and this time hold it there for a few seconds and then release.
  • Once your horse does not react to you bringing the cinch up, slowly increase the time you hold the cinch against their belly. Aim to be able to hold it there for 20-25 seconds calmly.
  • Run the cinch through the latigo one time. Take out the slack in the cinch quickly so it comes to the horse’s belly and release it as soon as it touches.
  • Increase the time the cinch is applying pressure to your horse’s belly just like you did with the rope. Repeat this step until the horse can handle 20-25 seconds of pressure calmly.
  • At this point you will be able to secure the cinch. Once the cinch is secured, calmly take of the halter and step away from your horse at a 45 degree angle. Some horses will buck at this point and maintain a safe position.
  • Once you can cinch and step away with your horse remaining calm, ask them to move around in the round pen.
  • Repeat step 12 twenty to thirty times and if your horse can do this you are ready to saddle up your horse firmly.



The key to this exercise is to remain calm through every step. Your horse will feed off from your demeanor. Do not take shortcuts, and do not rush your horse through the steps. The goal of this exercise is to create a safe environment for you and your horse that will allow them to overcome their fear of cinching up.


With thanks to guest blogger Frederick Barr of Frederick has raised and trained quarter horses his whole life, including showing and training for AQHA. His website provides articles on equine health and training. As with all training advice, please ensure your safety at all times, and seek professional advice if you are in doubt.

Please remember horses can be dangerous, Ethical Horse Products accepts no liability for training exercises shared via their blog.

Photo by Lindsey Bidwell on Unsplash

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