« The "Touch" Game - Part 1 | Main | What's Really Going On Here? »

February 22, 2005

Donkey Saddle Cinches

Have you ever had trouble with your saddle cinch sliding forward when you saddle up your donkeys? Here's a little trick I learned to help keep the cinch where it should be.

From what I have read and heard, Donkeys shoulders are built a little differently than horses, and they don't have the same kind of withers that horses do either. Because of the shape of their withers and shoulders, and how their shoulders move, it is most comfortable for them if you can position their saddle behind their shoulders so that their shoulders can move freely without bumping the saddle tree every stride. Their girth or front cinch should also be a little farther back, so that it doesn't rub up in their elbow area and make them sore.

On my donkeys, especially the chubby ones, I find my front cinch often trying to slip forward out of proper position. A few years ago I learned several trick that really help keep that cinch where it belongs! I have to give credit to Vicki Knotts Abbott for first sharing some of these ideas with me. I learned about some of them when I bought several donkey saddles from her, and have since used the same ideas on my other saddles with excellent results.

Your saddle will need to have rear cinch D's or in-skirt slots for the rear cinch. If you do not have them already, you will need to purchase flank billets (the straps that attach the rear cinch to the saddle) for your saddle. You will also need appropriately sized cinches for both the front and back. I prefer to use string cinches. You will also want a short connector strap to go between these two cinches (see picture below) so that they can't slide farther apart than where they are supposed to be.


Third, you will need the pieces to make front cinch keeper straps. At your local tack store you should be able to order leather "replacement throatlatches". My local tack store usually has a nice selection in stock, but if yours doesn't you should be able to just order them in. You will want two "replacement throatlatches", two square or rectangular metal loops that are the right size for the throatlatch leather to fit through twice. And you'll need a leather hole punch. Here is a picture of the pieces you'll need. I only had one "throatlatch" and one square metal loop in the picture, but you'll need two - one for each side.


Install the front and rear billets and cinches on your saddle. Thread one of the square metal loops onto one of the "throatlatches, then run the "throatlatch" through one of the rear cinch rings and back through the metal loop. The buckle end should be on top like toward you, and the other end loops through the ring and back down underneath like this:


Now you will probably need to use the leather hole punch to make a few more holes in the "throatlatch" leather so that you can buckle it farther up. Once you have completed these steps on one side of the saddle, repeat the process on the other side of the saddle.


Now your front cinch keeper straps are installed. When you are ready to saddle your donkey up, first set the saddle in the correct position on his back. Next start doing up the front cinch, but only take the slack out of it - don't tighten it up at all. Then run the other end of your keeper straps through the rings on the front cinch on both sides, and buckle so that there is no extra slack in them, but they are not pulling the front cinch out of place. Next buckle the rear cinch (front and rear cinches should be connected with the small connector strap by now).


Now you can start gradually tightening each of the straps. The front cinch and cinch keeper straps should be tightened little by little together so that when you are finished the front cinch is hanging vertically, with the keeper strap holding it there and not pulling it too far back or letting it slide too far forward.


In the pictures above, the front and rear cinches are not hanging quite vertically, but if it was on one of my donkeys and the cinches were tightened up properly they would be pretty close to vertical. Here is a picture that shows a saddle with this type of rigging on a donkey.


If your donkey is not used to using a rear cinch, you will want to tighten this one slowly and gradually so that he can get used to it. The rear cinch is an important part, and I usually tighten it to where it is snug and stays in place, but isn't too tight. Lead your donkey around a bit to let him get used to the new feel of the rigging before you get on.

I have really been please with how this arrangement has helped keep my saddles and girths in the proper position while I am riding.

Kristie Jorgensen

Have an idea you'd like to see discussed in a future article?
Send an e-mail to us by clicking here and let us know what's on your mind.

Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at February 22, 2005 06:05 AM


i have a 20 mo black gelding and a 6 mo jenny. i have been desperately trying to find donkey saddles,( for cody, the 20 mo) western style. do i have to have a britchen or just that peice you just talked about do you have any good condition used saddles that come equipped for a standard donkey i am in so. ca. 92345 thanks for any help in this regard. what happened to vicki abbott?

Posted by: ruth mackenzie at October 9, 2006 05:24 PM

Hi, My name is John Nuttall and my family has worked donkeys on the beaches of England for almost a 100 years. we to have allways used a rear girth, we call it a back strap or belly stap. There isnt anywhere in the UK that supplies these saddles, but now there is , it is us. We have gone into the manafacture of all donkey saddles and bridles, even the collar bells that go round the necks,if you want any tack get in touch, Regards John Nuttall.

Posted by: John Nuttall at January 14, 2007 02:17 AM