Horse Health: Girth Galls and Saddle Sores

Wounded Horses At Stable

Girth galls and saddle sores can be caused by a variety of factors. The majority are mild, but if ignored, they can result in damage, scarring, and pain. Here's how to spot girth galls and saddle sores, as well as how to treat and avoid them.

Other Names

Girth Galls, Saddle Sores, Blisters, Girth Sores, Pressure Sores, Saddle Galls, Harness Sores, Harness Galls


Friction causes girth galls, saddle sores, and sores that develop beneath a driving harness. They resemble blisters that emerge when you wear ill-fitting shoes. Tack that is filthy, with a build-up of grime and sweat that grinds the dirt into the horse's skin, can create sores. Chaffing can be caused by tack that is overly tight or stiff and inflexible, which can lead to saddle sores. A foreign item, such as a burr, grass awn, or wood chip, can become trapped between the tack and the horse, causing chaffing. Saddle and girth sores are common in horses with sensitive skin, and they require special attention.


Saddle soars and girth galls might be minor rubs with only the hair lost, or they can be extremely inflammatory, open, blister-like lesions. The hair may not be wiped off, and the gall or sore may appear under the skin as a swollen lump, similar to an unbroken blister on your foot. The lump might be little or huge. Girth galls most typically develop below the horse's elbow in the girth area, although they can develop anywhere the girth or cinch is worn. Saddle sores that are really acute might develop deep 'holes' that can get infected. If left untreated, the skin and underlying muscle might suffer lasting injury and scarring. Saddle sores can develop everywhere the saddle is worn, but they are most frequent behind the cantle and just beneath the pommel, around the loins and withers.


Apply a saline solution to an open sore and the region surrounding it, then cover it with a soothing ointment or lotion. Many people prefer calendula or aloe vera creams or lotions. Purple gentian spray is another option. Please get advice from your veterinarian on the best course of action for your horse. The most important objective is to maintain the region clean and healthy. Zinc oxide cream or diapers can also assist to heal and calm.

Gallstones or ulcers under the skin that look as a swelling might be left alone. No equipment should be placed over the region until it has healed, whether it is open or closed. Wearing a girth, harness, or saddle over an inflamed region will be painful for your horse. (Your horse's discomfort may manifest itself in undesirable behavior.)


Maintain a clean tack. Sweat and grit can irritate a horse's skin, resulting in a sore. Twigs, burrs, seeds, and other foreign items can become stuck between the horse and its equipment during trail riding. Leather and string girths or cinches can stiffen with age, causing uneven rubbing or pinching, so inspect your tack on a regular basis.

To avoid sores, it is important to groom. If your horse 'pecks' at their chest region to bite at flies, saliva and chewed hay pieces may fill the area between their front legs. You must clean this region thoroughly to ensure that dirt does not accumulate and develop an infection. Because dirt might get encrusted, wash the area with water with a sponge before tacking up, then spritz with grooming spray to make the work simpler next time.

Make sure your equipment is appropriate for your horse. If your saddle rubs back and forth while you ride, it might be an indication of a bad fit. A girth or cinch that is too small or too broad might also be problematic.

Many individuals believe that tightening cinches, girths, and surcingles on harnesses is a good idea. This may result in pinching. Your hand should be able to fit between the girth and your horse. Try a new shape or material if your saddle pad or blanket bunches or moves. A moving pad or blanket often suggests a saddle that isn't properly fitted. Chaffing can also be avoided by using a soft girth or cinch cover.

Prevention for Horses With Sensitive Skin

You may discover that despite your best efforts, you are unable to prevent girth galls and saddle sores. This is common in horses with extremely sensitive and thin skin. This is a common condition in and other fine-coated horses. You'll have to break in your horse's equipment the same way you would a new pair of stiff running shoes that are creating blisters on your foot. Some individuals recommend using saltwater to toughen up the skin in blister-prone regions. Another technique is to gradually increase the amount of time the horse is ridden or driven so that the skin can toughen up.

To provide a soft barrier between the horse and the gear, acquire a fleece girth or cinch cover. Pads can help saddles sit more comfortably, but it's like putting thick socks in new shoes: the cushion may temporarily alleviate the problem. However, if the saddle is an English saddle, it must suit the exact horse or it may need to be re-stuffed.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.