Making Cinches

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When my friend K picked up her horse Roland about a year ago, he was a super skinny four-year-old who was taking his time to mature. The times I rode him last summer, I used the itty bitty cinch I used when I was starting Piper.

When I started to prepare for riding Roland again this year, I realized that old cinch was no longer going to work. This guy has grown. He’s closing in on 16 hands and has put on some serious girth. But naturally he’s still not quite thick enough that the cinch I use on Steen will work for Roland too. (Steen’s cinch is very old and quite stretched out and a bit long for him anyway.)

We have some spares but nothing that was right. So I needed a new cinch. I started looking around at options and mentioned it to K, who then realized the cinch she bought last year for Roland is also now too small. Beyond that, K’s husband M is starting to get interested in riding. He’s been shopping for a saddle. Chances were good he’d also need a cinch in the near future.  I started poking around the internet looking for some place to order from and gradually came to the realization that it would make a lot more sense to learn to make my own cinches.

My first hurdle was making a cinch loom. But this ended up being super easy because we happened to have the leftover edges of some shelving we’d installed in the study closet of our old house. We didn’t need these shelf ends in the new house but I’d held onto them anyway. It didn’t take me long to modify one into a functional approximation of some looms I saw online. I just cut out the middle supports and put in a new one at the length I wanted the cinch to be, added some spare hooks I had lying around, and was ready to go.

Meanwhile … colors. You can make cinches in so many colors! I knew it would make the most sense to start with a basic design but I was nevertheless overwhelmed with options. I decided to order my mohair from And then I lost my mind for a while. I was like a bad joke version of a graphic designer for a few days. I may have actually created a cinch template in Photoshop just so I could mock up many dozens of color combinations. I colored it in by hand first and then switched to rendering over 100 designs digitally.

Once I got the mohair ordered, the hard part was over. I settled in with Caroline Spurgeon’s Youtube videos and watched them all. And then my materials arrived. They were beautiful.

So I got going. Of course the first cinch was a bit painful. There were lots of starts and stops and I definitely made a large number of errors. I didn’t line the knots of the warping up quite right and I wove the detailing too tight. That first cinch is a bit … organic-looking as a result.

But it works! I rode Steen in it a few times and tested all three gaits to make sure my novice-level cinch wasn’t pinching or causing any discomfort. Then I tried it out on Roland and that went fine too.

So I moved on to the next phase. K and M chose colors for their cinches. I placed a second order. Materials arrived right around the same time as M’s new (to him) saddle. I got to work. Their cinches came together far more easily than the first.

Then I made a fourth from leftover 8-ply from K’s cinch and some natural mohair from an old cinch that I took apart. I started playing with some different techniques and had a lot of fun with that one. I did a lot of taking it apart and putting it back together and testing different things. My technique improves with each effort, which is always gratifying.

I have also been working on a design for a cinch loom that I plan to make out of nicer wood. My starter loom is a little beat up since I have experimented with a few different ways to attach the cross-piece and moved it several times to make different sized cinches. It’s now  adjustable, which is good. But one side is splitting because I’ve drilled into it so many times. At some point I’ll make a new one. Happily, the one I have will work in the meantime.

So now I’ve got four cinches under my belt and a start on a fifth. I plan to make a few spares cinches of various sizes. I might even list a few for sale. They are quite fun to make and design possibilities are endless. At this point, I could make a functional cinch in any size in a couple of hours. I imagine that ability will come in handy in the future. It was definitely well worth the effort of learning to do this myself.

My Cinch Gallery

Woh! Hey, look at you reading this entire post!

That's a bit of an accomplishment in our attention-deficient age. Kinda makes me wonder if you like to read things that are even longer than blog posts? Like ... books?

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3 months ago

Haha, I won’t tell you about all the templates (and sometimes small software tools/programs) I’ve made in order to do color tests and mock-ups of one-off personal projects. Or the amount of 3d printing filament I’ve ordered in search of “just the right shade of red-brown” or similar. The cinches look nice! And that’s actually a pretty useful skill to have! Nate was thinking of getting a custom colored cinch for Jessie at some point (although the one we bought seems to work fine), and I do think it’d be fun to be able to make them in any color/shape/size.… Read more »