The terms Girth and Cinch are often used interchangeably but they are not the same because they use different attachment systems.
The function of both Girths and Cinches is to hold saddles on the horse and in place, both side to side and front to back…saddle tree shape plays an important role but one that is dependent on the horses configuration.
Girths are primarily used with English saddles but also for some other saddles which are rigged with billets…Billets are typically 1″ wide straps(usually 3) which are made as part of the saddle… 2 of the 3 billets attach to 2 buckles on each end of the girth… this choice allows for some adjustment in the Girths location under the horse…Girths are usually longer than cinches because English saddles are usually rigged with short billets … some English saddles have extra long billets and use shorter girths and some use a back billet as a preferred choice. These back billets are located from under the cantle area and allow greater flexibility in girth location as well as stabile saddle location and therefore greater comfort and performance.
Cinches are used primarily on Western type saddles they are shorter because western saddles are rigged with Cinch rings which are generally lower than short English billet straps ….latigos are separate straps, usually 1 1/2″ to 2″ in width, which attach to the Cinch rings on Western saddles and then attach to the single buckles on the Cinch for latigos with buckle holes… latigos with no holes pass through rings on each end of the Cinch and then make multiple passes through both saddle and Cinch rings, then tying off at the original saddle Cinch ring.
Modern Western saddles now generally have a rear Cinch ring as well as the front Cinch ring…these saddles use a more forward front Cinch rigging and so they require the use of a rear Cinch ring and Cinch to hold down the saddle evenly…overly forward cinching tends to settle the Cinch so that it rubs against the back of the horses front legs causing discomfort and restriction…and rear cinching exerts pressure on the horses unsupported ribs and belly restricting breathing and creating even greater discomfort…
A simple way to correct this situation so that the horses front legs are freed and its breathing is not restricted is to simply close-link the two cinches so that they are located with the front cinch pulled vertically, or back slightly, and the rear cinch pulled forward. They then are both located over the horses sternal supported ribs…this configures the rigging in a stabile triangular form as opposed to dual vertical cinching which is not stable.
Another solution is to employ the rigging some advanced endurance saddles are using which is similar to that used on McClellan military saddles … a single long latigo attaches to a wide single Cinch centrally located over the sternal ribs by using both Cinch rings …the latigo starts at the front cinch ring on the saddle and then passes vertically through the single ring on the cinch and then back up to the rear saddle cinch ring…the latigo can tie off there or extend back down to the Cinch buckle for fastening …this rigging holds the saddle on evenly and alleviates the problems caused by misguided custom of over tightening the front cinch to make up for a back Cinch which is often not tightened at all to keep the horse from bucking and, as with the close linked arrangement above, it lends front and back stability to the rig. …This rigging is especially important when using the full surface contact, balanced fluidity system of the Theraflex and TherEquest pads. This concept has been proven in the present use of several thousand Theraflex pads. The use of evenly dispersed static friction over a large area instead of the use of localized pressure, will hold saddles on much more efficiently … this is one of the basic precepts in the design of the Theraflex breathable, non-slip pad and now breathable, non-slip, full length Cinches…The discomfort this system eliminates results in increased freedom of motion for the horse and a stabile relaxed, centralized, balanced position for the rider…
Of interest here is that Riding High has now designed and developed a new system which combines both the Girth and Cinch systems i.e. a Cinch which has two 1 ½” buckles on each end which attach to 1 ½” latigos fastened to both Cinch rings of Western saddles… it can also be used with long billet systems on English saddles…another, Western only, version has four latigos as part of the Cinch These latigos loop unobtrusively through both saddles Cinch rings and return to the Cinch buckles for fastening.