Saddle Sore Spots

Saddle and girth sores are common in horses that are ridden hard, or ridden with poorly fitting tack, or ridden with tack that moves around too much or puts pressure on certain areas.

No account yet? Register


Like an ill-fitting pair of shoes that makes your feet sore—or creates a blister on your little toe—a saddle can create a sore on your horse's back if it doesn't fit right. A girth sore might show up the first time you ride your horse in the spring. This could seem strange because you used that same cinch all last summer and it didn't cause a problem. However, your horse is soft and fat after his layoff and his skin is more tender. The girth rubbing on tender skin (with a layer of fat underneath it) was like you suddenly doing a lot of hand work without gloves; unless the skin on your hands has a chance to toughen up gradually, you will get blisters and raw spots.

Sore Story

The first sign of trouble might be a dry spot when you take the saddle off (the extra pressure in a small area has inhibited circulation and the horse was unable to sweat) or ruffled hair. The pressure or rubbing might break off some hair, leaving a rough-looking area at that spot. The hair might be standing up rather than lying smoothly. If you keep riding that horse with problem tack, he will develop a sore.

A sore starts as inflammation of the skin, and you should be able to feel it before you can actually see it. If you run your hand over the horse's back, you might find a raised, hot, or swollen area. If you continue to use the horse, this lump is subjected to more rubbing (since it protrudes upward), making the condition worse.

Too much pressure in one area can kill skin cells due to lack of proper circulation; blood is pressed out of that spot. A sore results if enough cells die. The affected skin sloughs off. The tissue death is called pressure necrosis. Sometimes there is no broken skin, but the new hair comes in white, creating a permanent mark. An old open sore that heals might also have hair grow in white

Create a free account with to view this content. is home to thousands of free articles about horse health care. In order to access some of our exclusive free content, you must be signed into

Start your free account today!

Already have an account?
and continue reading.


Written by:

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

Related Articles

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with

FREE weekly newsletters from

Sponsored Content

Weekly Poll

sponsored by:

What do you think: Can pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) be managed by medication alone?
170 votes · 170 answers

Readers’ Most Popular

Sign In

Don’t have an account? Register for a FREE account here.

Need to update your account?

You need to be logged in to fill out this form

Create a free account with!