Understanding and Treating Girth Galls and Itches in Horses



Horse health is of paramount importance to every equestrian. Among the various challenges that horses can face, girth sores, itches, and girth galls are common issues that can cause discomfort and pain for our equine companions. In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into what girth sores, itches, and girth galls are, their symptoms, how to prevent them, and what to do if your horse experiences these problems.


What Are Girth Sores?


Also know as: Girth Galls, Girth Itches & Girth Blisters

Girth sores, girth itches, and girth galls are skin conditions that horses can develop, often as a result of friction and irritation caused by tack and equipment. Girth sores are typically sore, hairless patches on the horse's skin around the girth area, while itches manifest as areas where the horse excessively scratches or bites its skin due to itching. Girth galls are another related condition, where pressure or friction from ill-fitting tack can cause open sores, often with a distinctive saddle shape.


Symptoms of Girth Galls

Before we discuss prevention, it's crucial to understand the symptoms of girth galls, as they are closely related to girth sores and itches. Common symptoms include:

  • Redness: The affected area often appears noticeably redder than the surrounding skin.
  • Swelling: Girth galls may cause localized swelling, which can be visible and palpable.
  • Tenderness: The horse may exhibit signs of discomfort when the affected area is touched or pressed.
  • Hair Loss: Hair loss commonly occurs around the girth area, leaving the skin exposed.
  • Open Sores: In some cases, girth galls can progress to the point of developing open sores, making them more prone to infection.
  • Irritability: Horses with girth galls may display behavioral changes, such as irritability or restlessness, especially when grooming, tacking up, or during rides.
  • Sensitivity: The severity of these symptoms can vary based on factors like the duration of the issue and the horse's sensitivity to the discomfort.

These symptoms can vary in severity and may depend on factors such as the duration of the issue and the horse's sensitivity.


Diagnosing girth sores, itches, or girth galls typically involves a visual examination by an experienced horse owner or a veterinarian. Owners should carefully inspect the affected area for signs of soreness, redness, and hair loss. It's important to rule out other potential causes of skin irritation, such as allergies or dermatitis. If there is any doubt, consulting a veterinarian is highly recommended. Veterinarians have the expertise and tools to provide a precise diagnosis and develop a tailored treatment plan.



Treatment for girth sores, itches, and girth galls aims to promote healing and reduce discomfort. It may include:

  • Cleaning and Disinfection: The affected area should be cleaned gently with a mild, non-irritating soap and water. This helps remove debris and bacteria that could impede the healing process.
  • Topical Medications: Medicated creams or ointments prescribed by a veterinarian can help soothe the affected area and prevent infection.
  • Bandaging: In some cases, especially with girth galls, bandaging may be necessary to protect the area and promote healing.
  • Pain Management: Horses experiencing discomfort may require pain-relief medications. Consult with a veterinarian for appropriate pain management options.
  • Rest and Reduced Pressure: To allow healing to occur, it's essential to temporarily discontinue activities that cause friction and pressure on the affected area. This may involve adjusting the tack or giving the horse some time off from riding.
  • Follow-up Care: Regular follow-up examinations with a veterinarian are crucial to monitor the progress of healing and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.



Preventing girth sores, also known as girth rubs or girth dermatitis, is essential for maintaining your horse's comfort and well-being. Here are some steps to help prevent girth sores:

  • Proper Saddle Fit: Ensure your saddle fits your horse correctly. Consult with a professional saddle fitter if needed to confirm that the saddle is the right size and shape for your horse. An ill-fitting saddle can cause excessive pressure and friction in the girth area.
  • Girth Selection: Choose a well-padded girth or cinch that distributes pressure evenly and minimizes friction. Neoprene or fleece-lined girths can be more comfortable for the horse.
  • Regular Grooming: Maintain a consistent grooming routine to keep the horse's skin clean and free from irritants. Pay particular attention to the girth area when grooming.
  • Clean and Dry the Girth Area: After riding, clean and dry the girth area thoroughly to remove sweat, dirt, and debris. Use a damp cloth or sponge to clean the area and ensure it's completely dry before putting the tack away.
  • Sweat Management: During rides, especially in hot weather, monitor the horse's sweating. Excessive sweat can contribute to girth sores. Use moisture-wicking saddle pads and consider riding in cooler parts of the day.
  • Proper Tack Adjustment: Ensure the girth or cinch is appropriately tightened, so it doesn't move excessively during rides. It should be snug but not overly tight.
  • Regular Tack Inspection: Check the tack for wear and tear regularly. Replace any worn components, such as billets, that could cause friction or pressure points.
  • Regular Breaks: If your horse is engaged in long rides or activities, provide breaks to relieve pressure on the girth area. Allow the horse to rest, and remove the saddle to prevent prolonged contact.
  • Sensitivity Awareness: Be attentive to your horse's individual sensitivities. Some horses may have more delicate skin and require extra care to prevent girth sores.
  • Veterinarian Consultation: If you suspect girth sores are developing or persist, consult a veterinarian for a professional evaluation and guidance.

By following these preventive measures, you can help protect your horse from the discomfort and potential health issues associated with girth sores. Prioritizing the horse's well-being and comfort is crucial for a positive riding experience.



In conclusion, girth sores, itches, and girth galls are common problems that can affect your horse's well-being. Understanding their symptoms and early diagnosis is crucial. Prevention through proper saddle fitting, grooming, and the use of padded girths is essential. If your horse does develop girth sores, itches, or girth galls, early diagnosis and consistent treatment are key to a successful recovery. Always consult a veterinarian for professional guidance when necessary. Your horse's health and comfort should be a top priority.





1. Why Do Horses Get Girth Sores?

Girth sores, also known as girth rubs or girth dermatitis, can occur for several reasons:
  • Friction and Pressure: The most common cause is the friction and pressure generated by the girth or cinch as it rubs against the horse's skin during riding. Ill-fitting or improperly adjusted tack can exacerbate this issue.
  • Saddle Fit: A saddle that doesn't fit the horse correctly may lead to girth sores. When the saddle is too tight or pinches, it increases the likelihood of girth sores developing.
  • Improper Grooming: Neglecting proper grooming practices can contribute to the accumulation of dirt, sweat, and debris in the girth area, which can exacerbate irritation.
  • Sweat Buildup: Excessive sweating during rides, especially in hot weather, can lead to sweat-soaked girths that can cause chafing and irritation.
  • Sensitive Skin: Some horses may have more sensitive skin, making them more susceptible to girth sores even with proper tack and grooming practices.
  • Neglecting Girth Area Hygiene: Failing to clean and dry the girth area after riding can allow sweat, dirt, and bacteria to accumulate, increasing the risk of girth sores.
  • Inadequate Padding: The absence of sufficient padding, such as using a non-padded girth, can contribute to increased friction and pressure in the girth area.
  • Overuse: Overworking a horse without giving it adequate rest may result in girth sores due to prolonged saddle and girth contact.


2. What is the difference between girth galls and girth itch?


Girth galls are sores that emerge from the friction between the girth and the horse's skin. They commonly occur in horses with poorly fitting girths, unclean or inadequately maintained tack, or concurrent skin issues like ringworm or allergies. Girth galls can be painful, making riding uncomfortable.

Conversely, girth itch is a fungal infection characterized by hair loss, redness, and crustiness in the girth area. It is more prevalent in young horses, those with weakened immune systems, or those living in humid or congested environments. Girth itch isn't as painful as girth galls but can be itchy and discomforting for horses.

In cases of uncertainty regarding whether your horse has girth galls or girth itch, it is imperative to seek guidance from your veterinarian. 


3. Are girth galls contagious?


Girth galls are not contagious in the traditional sense, meaning that they cannot be spread from one horse to another through direct contact or through the air. However, they can be caused by a number of factors that can be spread from one horse to another through indirect contact, such as through shared grooming supplies or tack. This is especially true if the girth galls are infected. That is when they become itchy and are called girth itch.

If you are concerned that your horse may have girth galls, please contact your veterinarian. They can help you to identify the cause of the girth galls and recommend the best course of treatment.


4. Is girth itch contagious?

Yes, girth itch is contagious. It is caused by a fungus that can be spread from horse to horse through contact or shared grooming supplies.

To prevent the spread of girth itch:

  • Isolate infected horses
  • Disinfect grooming supplies and tack
  • Avoid grazing horses in contaminated areas
  • Treat infected horses with medication

If you think your horse has girth itch, contact your veterinarian.


5. How to prevent the spread of girth itch?

  • Clean and disinfect all grooming supplies and tack after each use.
  • Avoid using shared tack unless it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Keep the girth area clean and dry.


6. How to prevent girth sores on horses?


Prevention is key to keeping your horse healthy and comfortable. Here are some essential preventive measures:

  • Proper Saddle Fit
  • Regular Grooming
  • Padded Girths
  • Tack Inspection
  • Proper Sweat Management


7. How long do girth galls take to heal?

The time it takes for girth galls to heal is influenced by their severity and the underlying causes. Mild galls, with addressed causes, can resolve in days or weeks, but severe galls or unaddressed issues may necessitate several weeks or months for complete healing.

To expedite the healing process, consider the following:

  • Regularly cleanse the area using mild soap and water.
  • Apply a soothing ointment or cream to the affected region.
  • Ensure the area remains dry and clean.
  • Refrain from riding your horse until complete healing.

If girth galls show no improvement after several weeks or worsen, it's advisable to consult your veterinarian. They might recommend antibiotics or other medications to facilitate the healing process.