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Western Saddle Guide > Western Saddle How To's > Tie a Western Cinch

How To Tie A Western Cinch

If you're new to western tack, figuring out how to tie a western cinch can be a bit baffling. With these easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions we'll have you tacking up like a pro in no time.

Western saddles use a cinch and a latigo (or cinch strap) to secure the saddle to the horse. The latigo is attached to the cinch by one of two methods: tying a cinch knot or buckling the cinch.

Today, you'll find that most cinches and latigos come equipped to be buckled. The cinch will have a buckle tongue on the near-side (left) ring and the latigo will have a series of vertical holes for the buckle tongue to latch on to. However, because buckle tongues can break and because you can run into latigos that don't have enough holes to tighten the cinch properly, every western rider should know how to tie a cinch knot.

Visit How To Saddle A Horse for tips on the savvy way to saddle your horse.


Steps to Tie a Western Cinch

tying western cinch
Photo 1

1. Reach under the horse's belly and grasp the cinch with your left hand. Make sure the cinch is lying flat against the horse's belly and isn't twisted.

The cinch should lie at your horse's heart girth, the narrowest part of the horse's rib cage. Learn how to determine the location of your horse's heart girth.

2. Insert the latigo through the cinch ring from the belly side of the horse out. Pull the latigo completely through until it is snug, but not tight, as shown in Photo 1. Make sure the latigo is lying flat and isn't twisted.

tying western cinch
Photo 2

3. Run the latigo through the saddle dee ring, from the outside in. Pull the latigo completely through and to the left of the dee ring as shown in Photo 2. Your latigo should be snug, but not tight. You will tighten the straps after your knot is tied.


4. Depending on the length of your latigo, you may have to take an additional wrap or two. If so, just repeat steps 2 and 3.

tying western cinch
Photo 3
5. To tie the knot, cross the loose end of the latigo over the top of your latigo layers and insert it through the saddle dee from the horse side out. Then thread the latigo end down through the loop you made when you crossed over. You'll find it similar to tying a man's tie. Photos 3, 4, and 5 demonstrate tying the knot.
tying western cinch tying western cinch
Photo 4
Photo 5
tying western cinch
Photo 6
6. To tighten the cinch, hold onto the top loop of the latigo that has gone through the cinch ring (NOT the loose end) with one hand and gently pull up. If you've taken several wraps, you'll hold onto the innermost loop. With your other hand, take up the slack created in your knot loop and feed it through the saddle dee. Then pull your loose end tight as shown in Photo 6.
tying western cinch
Photo 7
7. With a cinch buckle, you'll follow steps 1 through 4 above. Instead of creating the knot, however, you'll take the loose end back through the cinch ring and hook one of the latigo holes on the buckle tongue as shown in Photos 7 and 8. Make sure you pull down on the top latigo layer so that the tongue lodges against the ring as shown in Photo 9. This is what locks the latigo in place.
tying western cinch tying western cinch
Photo 8
Photo 9
tying western cinch
Photo 10
8. The end of the latigo can either hang loose, if it's short enough, or can be fed through the latigo holder as shown in Photo 10. A long latigo left hanging can be annoying or frightening to a horse. Plus, it just looks untidy hanging there.

A cinch should be tightened in stages rather than all at once. A good habit to get into is to tighten in three stages. First, gently tighten it just enough to be snug. Move the horse around a bit (circle, back up, sideways) to let it settle. Then gently tighten again. Move the horse around a bit more and then gently tighten once more. The purpose of this approach is not to get the cinch as tight as possible, but rather to create a polite process that makes the horse a willing partner.

cinch stretchAfter you've finished tightening your cinch, there's one more step to ensure your horse's comfort and prevent saddle sores. Lift and gradually stretch each of the horse's front legs out in front as far as your horse will allow. If you're doing this for the first time with your horse, make sure you move very slowly and gently to introduce the concept. After a few times, your horse will learn the routine and will willingly participate, but always be gentle and stretch slowly. This stretch will remove any skin wrinkles that have gotten caught under the cinch that could cause irritation and sores.

Always connect the front cinch before the flank cinch. The flank cinch is designed as a support to the front cinch and will not keep the saddle secure on its own. Having just the flank cinch connected is a recipe for a wreck. If your horse moves suddenly and the saddle shifts, your horse can get quite a spook. When unsaddling, disconnect the flank cinch before the front cinch.

Check out the other Western Saddle How-To's:


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