Galls really do hurt.
But they can make one tougher. The dictionary defines a gall as “a sore on the skin, especially of a horse, due to rubbing or chafing.” Many top performance horses carry marks or scars, typically just a hair color change and sometimes with a rougher feel to the skin, that were formed when the horses were galled.
These often are on the wither where the saddle rubs against the horse when doing strenuous work, such as dragging cattle or even continued riding and turning hard.
Marks can also show up on other places such as where the saddle touches the back, and where cinches and metal parts rub hard on the heartgirth, elbow pockets and
These revealing marks, generally from hard work, are often considered a tribute to the horse’s background. One horse with most obvious gall marks on his wither is Perpetualism, a many-time halter winner, multiple-times world champion and world class producer, shown by renowned Oklahoma horseman, now deceased, Jerry Wells.
Now, we’ve had lots of horses develop galls. Likewise, we’ve had sore spots in all of the aforementioned places of our own body from work on horse’s backs.
Opinions vary on harmfulness of horse galls. There are some people who become quite upset when a gall shows up. They’re quick to blame poor-fitting tack, wrong cinch type or contagious fungus on equipment spreading from one horse to another, or even mishandling and overwork of the horse.
We’ve always considered it part of the development program, and the horses will typically become accustomed to the pressure. Yet, all of the factors can contribute to the problem, and changing any one or all of them could, but might not, solve the dilemma. Problems are worse in hot, humid weather and often on thinner, pale-skinned horses.
Commercial medications are available to treat the ailment, but we’ve usually just kept right on riding without treatment. However, the predicament can become so severe that the horse absolutely can not stand any part of tack, or handler, touching the spots. Then management is essential, though recommendations call for continuing to work the horse.
Oddly, many horses, depending on conformation, body condition, skin hardness, and maybe even color, among other factors of which we are uncertain, never develop galls. That is regardless of how hard they’re ridden or what kind of tack is used on them.
Whenever our sores develop from riding, we keep going and soon become callused.
Actually, galls don’t have to be physical. There are psychological galls which make calluses and scars on us, but which make us stronger, hopefully in our faith in God.
It is a reminder of Job 2:7: “Satan went out from the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to his head.” Yet, there is the promise in Deuteronomy 30:6: “God will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God.” Thus, one must follow Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”