Choosing the ideal saddle girth
The girth is quite an important part of a horse’s saddlery, which we owe a lot to. Without a girth, we would presumably have to ride everywhere bareback, where the majority of us would need to develop an almost superhuman degree of balance to cope with the implications of that! Think about the implications of the girth on the horse: it is a small but very important item of saddlery that can cause all sorts of discomfort if fitted incorrectly. As with most things in the equine world, there is a vast number of girth available on the market, but there is a great deal of considerations to be made before launching into an impulsive purchase.
Firstly, the size of your girth will be your primary concern. The best way to find your horse’s girth size is to use either his current girth, or borrow a girth which fits well, and measure that. Of course, if his current girth is too big or small, you may add or subtract an inch or two depending. You can also measure the distance around your horse from the middle girth straps, but this may not be as accurate as you might hope. Girth extenders are a possibility if you are already lumbered with a too-short girth, but they can look untidy so it is best to invest in something which does fit.
As with any piece of saddlery, the quality of the material you choose for your girth will affect the welfare and comfort of your horse. Leather will make for a good quality durable product, however it has been known to rub in the elbow crevices of some horses. If this happens, it may be due to the stiffness of the leather, which is a common problem with new girths. Whilst your horse is wearing it in, it will mold to him better, but try to soften the leather up with a specialist leather cream. Ask your saddlery retailer for their recommended brand, as a good quality leather cream will not only keep the girth in good condition, but should prevent it from rubbing your horse. Obviously, if your horse continues to rub, then it may not be appropriate to persist. Consider a neoprene covered girth; These are specifically designed with comfort in mind. They can cause heating under the girth area, but do reduce the pressure points that can happen with a cheap webbing girth. Webbing girths are great for your pocket, they are very reasonably priced, but do believe that your horse is comfortable. Also remember to check for any signs of wear, as these girths can be less durable over time than other materials, and a snapped girth could result in an injury.
The style of girth you choose for your horse, like many saddlery accessories, will often depend on your discipline. For example, if you showjump or event, a stud guard will be essential, as will an overgirth for the latter. For the serious dressage rider, a specialist dressage girth would be ideal, to free up the movement of the elbow and maximize performance. Despite the confusing array of styles available, the main principle to remember is: the greater the surface area of the girth, the more the pressure will be spread out, increasing the horse’s comfort. A girth which is contoured around the elbow, whilst widening between the forelegs would be ideal for everyday purposes.
Overall, you must have a very clear idea of what works for your horse, and tailor the girthing process to meet his needs. Do not forget about saddlery accessories such as girth sleeves and elasticated girth straps to adjust the fit and comfort that a girth can provide. Finally, ensure you girth your horse up steadily and gently to avoid any issues developing around the girthing procedure. Once you’re pleased with your tack, you and your horse will be ready to enjoy a good ride- whatever it is that you do together.