Girth Galls and Saddle Sores
 By Winniefield Park   •   3rd Dec 2016   •   1,318 views   •   0 comments

I finally seemed to have solved the problem of girth sores on my girl. The frustrating part of the solution is that I’m not sure exactly what I did to solve it. I tried different girths, different holes on the billet straps, extra padding, and even different saddle pads. I made sure her girth area was clean and dry and even made sure all the wrinkles were removed. Of the several girths I tried, all seemed to cause a gall. Until suddenly there were more no more sores. Was it a change of my horse’s weight or muscle tone? I wish I knew.

Girth galls are basically just chafed spots. They usually happen in the girth area just behind the horse’s elbow. They’re a bit like blisters you get from poorly fitting shoes. If you catch them quickly, you may only see a bit of hair roughed up, broken or worn off. Sometimes a gall will appear as a slightly raised area, indicating a swelling beneath the surface of the skin. If you don’t notice a girth gall - say you’ve gone for an extra long trail ride, it can become very raw. When horses were used as the main mode of transportation and power, galls under girths and harnesses could become very deep and infection was possible because there was no time to treat them and let them heal.

Saddle sores are somewhat similar. They indicate where the saddle or the saddle pad is rubbing. They can occur anywhere a saddle sits, although the areas under the cantle, and directly under the pommel area are more likely to become sore. This is usually where a poorly fitting saddle will place pressure or slide around as you ride. Sometimes tack that is made of a stiff material or is dirty, can cause sores. Or, something can get between the tack and the horse, like a burr, a bit of debris from the trail such as a leaf or twig or stall bedding.

Treating a saddle sore is just a matter of making sure the area stays clean, dry and allowed to heal. Deep sores may heal better with a topical wound cream or ointment. Healing time may mean giving your horse a break until the area is back to normal.

A change of tack may be the answer to stopping a saddle or girth sore. Your saddle needs to fit properly, and the girth needs to sit in a comfortable position. There are many styles of girths, some that are shaped away from the area most likely to become sore. Sometimes chaffing happens because the girth is done up far too tightly. Your girth or cinch should be snug, but you shouldn’t be making link sausage out of your horse. And tack should be clean. Built up sweat and dirt can turn a saddle pad or blanket into sandpaper. A fleece or felt girth cover may help pad a girth, especially on a thin-skinned horse.

Some people swear by soaking an area that at sore occurs in with salt water to toughen up the skin. I’m not sure this will work but could be worth a try. Make sure when you tack up, that the skin beneath the girth or cinch is clean and it isn’t wrinkled, and that the saddle pad or blanket is wrinkle free.

Have you struggled with girth or saddle sores? What was your solution?
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