Long or short, black neoprene or brown hair, all cinches have the same purpose — to keep a saddle on the horse’s back. It sounds simple. Yet, cinch selection involves understanding how the cinch can affect the saddle’s position and fit, as well as how the cinch’s material can affect a horse’s skin.
Choosing the wrong cinch – including one made out of a material not suited to your needs – means money spent on the wrong product, and for the horse, it can mean a painful sore. But with expert advice, the selection can be simpler.
“Cinches are not something you buy every day. You purchase it with the intent it lasts
a long time, and we make them to last for our customers,” said Jeye Johnson of Classic Equine, based in Weatherford, Texas.
In fact, the average durability of a cinch — be it a neoprene or a poly-blend product, or an all-natural fiber like mohair or angora — is more than a year. While it isn’t the same level of investment a horse owner makes in their saddle or pad, it is just as important to the safety and well being of the horse.
In this article, Quarter Horse News consulted with a roster of experts for their thoughts on cinch materials: Johnson and Tegan Still, director of products at Classic Equine, as well as Tara Detherow, of Bull Creek Custom Mohair Cinches and Tack, and her wholesale company, Montana Cincha, which are based in Ozark, Missouri.
Much like staring at an entire wall of snaffle bit options, staring at a selection of cinches can be daunting. There are different materials, but what are the benefits of each?
What is best for the horse?
The product experts broke down the different aspects of neoprene cinches, all-natural fiber cinches like those made from angora and mohair, and poly-blend cinches that mix natural and synthetic fibers.
Professional horsemen Brandon Buttars, of Snowville, Utah, and Todd Crawford, from Blanchard, Oklahoma, also weighed in on their choice cinches.
Neoprene is a material defined as a synthetic polymer resembling rubber that is resistant to oil, heat or weathering. While each manufacturer has a different take on the material, which can include changes in thickness and design, most agree it is one of the easiest cinches to keep clean.
The benefits of neoprene include short drying time and ease of cleaning, though the material can be seen as the cause of galling or hair loss on some animals. Detherow, who sells neoprene cinches wholesale through Montana Cincha, has also observed the material breaking down through overwork.
“The main problem with neoprene [cinches], if you work all day every day, is they hold heat,” she said. “Horses sweat under the rubber, and it holds all that body heat and doesn’t let it dissipate, so the heat breaks down the skin. That is when you start having issues.”
However, if the saddle is removed after shorter rides and used on another horse, it can be the best choice for a trainer like Crawford. He rides all of his horses in neoprene and usually purchases new cinches about every 18 months.
“We see a lot of reiners and colt starters using neoprene, or the design we call Feather Flex. If they have four saddles and they’re riding 20 head a day, they are putting it on a lot of horses,” Johnson explained. “They can take the cinch off, hose it off, and it will dry in five minutes when they go on to the next one. That is when they’re not riding for a long length of time but moving through horses quickly.”
2. Mohair & Alpaca
Mohair is a fiber milled from Angora goat hair. The hairs are twisted on a loom to create long strands. The strands are then bound together to create the cinch. The hair, though silky, is strong, and mohair cinches hold up well when cared for properly.
For Detherow, whose primary clientele for Bull Creek Custom gear are working cowboys that ride in the same saddle all day, the demand is for an all-natural cinch. She makes 100 percent mohair tack on a handloom using United States- produced fiber.
“I only use mohair that is milled in the U.S. It is easier for larger companies to get the mohair milled in South Africa, but I like to keep it all American-made,” she said. “With hair milled in the United States, it seems to be twisted tighter, which helps the strength. I do find that mohair is a natural fiber, so it is natural against natural. It is more comfortable against a horse.”
All-natural fibers, like the 100 percent U.S.-sourced mohair cinches hand made by Tara Detherow, are known for durability and easy maintenance, plus the design adds a custom touch to a rider’s tack.
Alpaca hair is another natural fiber used to create cinches; however, while experts say both natural fibers can benefit a horse’s comfort, there are some downfalls to using all-alpaca cinches, according to both Detherow and Still.
“If you took a 5-inch piece of Angora and a 5-inch piece of alpaca, you would see the mohair is stouter, coarser. Both are soft and natural fibers for the horse, but in my experience, the mohair holds up longer than the alpaca,” Detherow said.
3. Poly Blend & Fleece
While all-natural fibers may seem expensive, it is hard to put a price on ensuring the saddle is securely on the horse. Additionally, natural fibers can be blended with synthetic to create a less expensive product.
“The mohair blend we have — I can’t speak for other cinch makers and tack makers — is 60 percent mohair and 40 percent wool,” Detherow said. “It is still all-natural against your horse and you don’t have poly fiber or rayon. But, we also make poly cinches. The decision is usually a price point issue.”
The poly blend cinches are woven with wool or synthetic fibers, as well as natural fibers, creating a strong cinch that can still do an important job.
“A cinch is a product that we don’t cut corners on, though we do have products that are not 100 percent mohair or alpaca and are blended [fibers],” Johnson said. “Many of the performance trainers we work with choose a fleece cinch.”
A fleece cinch is another option for natural fiber. It has natural fibers on the horse-side of the cinch, but it is held together with synthetic webbing. For Buttars, the move from neoprene to fleece was primarily made to add comfort for his horses.
“I used both neoprene and fleece cinches. Coming from Utah, where it is usually cooler, we got to Texas where it was hot and muggy to show at the cow horse shows and [the neoprene cinches] were galling my horses,” Buttars explained. “I bought some [fleece cinches] at the show, put them on and really liked them. I now use them all winter. We are out here on the ranch and sometimes our horses are saddled morning to night, and with fleece, it lets them breathe, and I haven’t galled one with these cinches.”
In the end, cinch material selection comes down to personal preference and the horse’s reaction to the material. The true value of a cinch comes from its durability and how it works on a horse.
This article originally appeared in the March 1, 2019, edition of Quarter Horse News.