Girth Gall And Saddle Sores

Gall and saddle sores can occur for many reasons. Most are mild, but if left untreated, they can cause injury, scarring, and discomfort. Here’s how to recognize, treat and prevent saddle sores and saddle sores.


Saddle sores, saddle sores, and sores that occur under a riding harness are caused by friction. They are similar to blisters that form when wearing ill-fitting shoes. Sores can be caused by a dirty implement, where dirt and sweat accumulate and the dirt penetrates the horse’s skin. Saddlery that is too tight or stiff and inflexible can cause chafing, which can lead to sores. Occasionally, a foreign object, such as burdock, grass, or wood splinter, can get stuck between the tack and the horse and cause chafing. 


Saddle and girth sores may appear as mild abrasions with only the hair missing, or as severely inflamed, open, blister-like sores. The hair may not fall off and the gall or ulcer may appear as a swollen lump under the skin, such as an unbroken blister on the foot. The lump may be small or quite large. Girth gall usually forms just behind the horse’s elbow in the girth area, but can occur anywhere the girth or cinch is located. Wounds can form deep “holes” that can become infected. If left untreated, permanent damage and scarring can occur to the underlying skin and muscles.1 Saddle sores can occur anywhere the saddle sits, but most commonly under the cantle or directly under the pommel of the saddle, near the loins and withers.


For an open wound, dab the wound and surrounding area with saline and apply a soothing ointment or cream. A purple gentian spray can also be used. Consult your veterinarian for advice on what is best for your horse. The main objective is to keep the area clean and the skin in good condition. Diaper cream or zinc oxide cream can also help with healing and relief.

Bile or sores that appear as swelling under the skin may remain. Regardless of whether it is an open or closed wound, no equipment should be placed on the area until it heals. It will be uncomfortable for your horse to wear a harness, harness, or saddle over an already sore area (your horse may express discomfort by misbehaving).


Keep saddle gear clean. The accumulation of sweat and sand can irritate the horse’s skin and cause an ulcer. When riding, twigs, burrs, seeds, or other foreign objects can get between the horse and tack. Leather and rope girths can become stiff over time and cause friction or uneven pinching, so check the condition of the tack regularly.

Grooming your horse is very important to prevent sores. For example, if your horse “picks” at the chest area to bite flies, it may cover the area between the front legs with saliva and chewed-up pieces of hay. This area should be carefully cleaned to prevent dirt from accumulating and causing an ulcer. Since dirt can get trapped, wash the area with water and a sponge before tying the horse up, and use a grooming spray to make it easier next time.

Make sure the saddle fits your horse. If the saddle is constantly rubbing back and forth as you ride, it may indicate that the saddle is not fitting properly. A girth that is too narrow or too wide can also cause problems.

Many people believe that it is good to tighten the straps and webbing of safety harnesses. This can lead to bruising. You should be able to slip your hand between the harness and your horse. If the saddle pad or blanket buckles or moves, try a different shape or material. A slipping saddle pad or blanket often indicates that the saddle is not properly adjusted. A soft girth or girth cover can also prevent chafing.

Prevention for horses with sensitive skin

Sometimes, despite all efforts to prevent galls and saddle sores, you may not be able to prevent them. This is the case for horses with especially sensitive and thin skin. This is often the case with thoroughbreds and other fine-haired horses. Just as you get used to a new pair of stiff running shoes that cause blisters on your feet, you need to let your horse get used to his tack. Some people suggest washing blister-prone areas with salt water to strengthen the skin. Another strategy is to gradually increase the amount of time spent riding or leading the horse, so the skin has a chance to toughen up.

Fleece girth covers or girth covers can be purchased to create a soft barrier between the horse and the tack. Pads can help saddles sit better, but it is a bit like wearing thick socks with new shoes: the pad may alleviate the problem in the short term. However, the saddle must be fitted to the individual horse, or it may need to be relined if it is an English saddle.

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