Swelling in the Girth Area

Swelling in the Girth Area

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q. My horse is swollen under his girth area on both sides of his body. There isn't a sore; the area just seems very tender when I groom it. The girth does not seem to be rubbing. What could be causing this problem?

Jackie Harper, via e-mail

A. This is not an uncommon finding you are describing with your horse but one that can be a bit tricky to figure out.

Though you mentioned it does not appear to be the result of rubbing, I would check your tack closely to make sure that excess pressure in the cinch or girth is not occurring at the swelling site.

If you ride in a western saddle, the length of the cinch can sometimes create pressure at the “D” ring where the latigo attaches to. Even an otherwise properly fit saddle can create “hot spots” or pressure sores in the girth region related to the contact site with the cinch.

These scenarios are less likely to occur with an English saddle, but still worth a closer inspection.

I have also seen horses develop allergic reactions (contact dermatitis) to a cinch based on their makeup (cotton, neoprene, etc.).

During this time of year, a horse’s longer coat can trap in moisture underneath tack leading to higher incidence of skin reactions or dermatitis. Sometimes an obvious rash is not always present. Even irritation from tack pulling on the coat can lead to inflammation and irritation of the area. This will hopefully improve within a week or two if the horse is not saddled during this time.

It is also recommended that you contact your local veterinarian to get his or her advice. A bacteria or fungal infection is possible in that location (including ringworm) and treatment will depend on many variables, including the horse’s general health, age, and geographic location. Please have your veterinarian examine the horse if you continue to have concerns.

About the Author

Casey Gruber, DVM

Casey Gruber, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he specializes in podiatry and emergency and sport horse care. He’s a graduate of Colorado State University.

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