Tack that is too tight or stiff and inflexible may cause chaffing that leads to saddle sores. Occasionally, a foreign object like a burr, grass haw or wood chip may become lodged between tack and horse, causing chaffing.
Some horses with very sensitive skin are prone to saddle and girth sores and require extra care. Saddle soars and girth galls may appear as slight rubs where just the hair is missing or very inflamed open blister-like wounds.
It will be uncomfortable for your horse to wear a girth, harness or saddle over an area that is already sore. If your trail riding, twigs, burrs, seeds or other foreign objects can get caught between the horse and its tack.
Leather and string girths or cinches can become stiff with age and cause rubbing or pinching, so check the condition of your tack. Since the dirt can come encrusted use water and a sponge to wash the area before tacking up and put on a spritz of grooming spray to make the job easier next time.
Many people think it's a good thing to do up cinches, girths, and surcingles on harnesses really tight. Just like you break in a new pair of stiff running shoes that are causing blisters on your feet, you will have to let your horse get used to its tack.
Some people suggest washing the blister prone areas with saltwater to toughen up the skin. Another strategy is to increase the time the horse is ridden or driven gradually, so the skin has a chance to toughen up.
Fleecy girth or cinch covers can be purchased to put a soft barrier between horse and tack. Imagine walking a mile with an emerging blister on your heel and no sock or bandage to protect the raw flesh, and you get the idea.
The horse's conformation -- usually an upright shoulder, “mutton” withers and a wide torso -- causes the girth to stay very close behind the elbows no matter where the saddle is initially placed. Treat girth galls with careful cleaning and application of a thick, protective ointment, such as Ichthammol or Design.
If you must ride the horse before the gall is completely healed, armor the sore with a thick layer of ointment, and use a fleece cover over a soft girth. A protective fleece girth cover may work well as a preventive strategy, but it has to be cleaned often to maintain its cushioning properties.
Gall -prone horses may do better in neoprene, string or the hourglass-shaped “balding” girths that produce less friction behind the elbows. After cinching up whatever model works with your horse's shape and fitness level, lift and stretch each of his forearms forward to settle the girth in the least galling location.
Horses with galls should not be ridden; continued riding will cause the sores to open. Open sores on a horse are susceptible to scarring, bacteria, and to parasitic infections.
A veterinarian will be able to diagnose the girth galls with the physical examination and assessment. The veterinarian may suggest cleaning the area with a saline solution or with hydrogen peroxide and then pat drying the sores.
The veterinarian will probably suggest having your horse refitted for correct equipment by a reputable saddler. Wool or synthetic fleece-lined girths may also helpful to prevent future injury.
Some natural remedies to help the skin heal are a paste of aloe Vera gel and lavender oil. If bacterial or fungal infections were present, it will be recommended to do additional blood work and cultures.
Daily grooming of the horse is essential for his maintenance and to first-hand check on his skin and hair condition. Professional tack fitting will help your horse not to undergo girth galls again.
Leather girths need to be cleaned and oiled, so they are soft and not hard against the skin. Young horses that are incorrectly fitted for saddling equipment may develop behavioral problems due to the pain he is experiencing.
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