The Ba­sics of Mod­ern Girthing

This es­sen­tial piece of tack is avail­able in many types. Here’s how to choose the best girth for your horse.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Reina Abelshauser with Cor­dia Pearson

How to choose the best girth for your horse

When you walk into the girth sec­tion of a tack store, it’s easy to get over­whelmed by the abun­dance of shapes, styles and sizes of­fered. A girth is no longer just a means to keep the sad­dle on the horse. new in­sights into equine er­gonomics have pro­duced girths that are anatom­i­cally shaped and de­signed to im­prove com­fort and per­for­mance. Which one is right for you de­pends on your horse’s con­for­ma­tion and your per­sonal taste. Be­fore you shop for a girth, be sure that your sad­dle fits cor­rectly, as good girthing starts with proper sad­dle fit.

Types of Girths: Short or Long?

Depend­ing on the bil­let length of your sad­dle, you’ll need a short or long girth. Short girths are de­signed for sad­dles with long bil­lets. Most dres­sage riders pre­fer a short girth be­cause it keeps the area un­derneath the thighs and/or knees bulk-free. The down­side is that the buck­les are lo­cated far­ther down, di­rectly on the horse’s body. For this rea­son, when us­ing a short girth, select one with ad­e­quate pad­ding un­derneath the buckle area to pre­vent bruis­ing.

Long girths pro­vide the best sta­bil­ity even though they are con­sid­ered old-fash­ioned by the dres­sage com­mu­nity. They have the dis­ad­van­tage of cre­at­ing bulk un­der your legs, es­pe­cially if they aren’t the cor­rect length. To avoid this prob­lem, the buck­les should not be far­ther up than two to three holes from the bot­tom of the bil­lets on both sides when the girth is tight­ened. Some top dres­sage riders, such as WeG com­peti­tor Cather­ine Had­dad Staller or Olympian In­grid Klimke are still be­ing spot­ted us­ing mostly long girths.

For a short dres­sage girth: The length of the girth must take into ac­count the horse’s in­di­vid­ual anatomy. The buckle sec­tion must sit higher than the horse’s el­bow level to avoid in­ter­fer­ence dur­ing move­ment. even if you are us­ing a short girth, al­ways use the long­est girth pos­si­ble. This is be­cause the far­ther the girth is from the sad­dle tree, the less sta­ble the con­nec­tion with the tree. The ends of the girth should be close to the sad­dle pad without in­ter­fer­ence. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to fit about two fin­gers be­tween the bot­tom of the sad­dle pad and the top of the girth.

For a long girth: The girth should sit below the crook of the rider’s knee, about two to three holes from the end of the bil­let, depend­ing on the length of the leg. Although long girths pro­vide more sta­bil­ity, if the girth is too long and the buck­les too high on the bil­lets, it di­min­ishes the sta­bil­ity and in­ter­feres with a re­laxed dres­sage leg. To get an es­ti­mate of the cor­rect size, put your sad­dle on the horse us­ing your old girth. Mea­sure the dis­tance be­tween the mid­dle bil­let holes. The num­ber of

inches you get on the mea­sur­ing tape is the size you need.

Shaped or Straight?

Er­gonom­i­cally shaped girths are clearly dom­i­nat­ing the mar­ket. Two key fea­tures are cutouts to pro­vide max­i­mum room for the horse’s el­bows and shoul­ders, which also pre­vents wrin­kles, bunch­ing up and rub­bing, as well as a wider cen­ter, which helps to dis­trib­ute the pres­sure in the area of the breast­bone bet­ter.

Anatom­i­cally shaped girths work well for horses with a well-de­fined girth area, which gives enough room be­hind the el­bows. These girths have cutouts for the el­bows on both long sides.

Asym­met­ri­cal girths work well for horses who have a less-de­fined girthing area that is closer to the el­bows, caus­ing the girth to sit far­ther for­ward. These girths have a more pro­nounced cutout for the el­bow, but only on one of the long sides of the girth.

Cres­cent- or moon-shaped girths are de­signed for horses with short backs, wide rib cages and nar­row chests, where the sad­dle tends to slide for­ward. These girths are de­signed to take up the rounder shape of the rib cage, pre­vent­ing the girth from mov­ing for­ward and col­lid­ing with the el­bows.

Straight girths have been around for cen­turies and come in a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als. If your horse has a well-de­fined girthing and easy-to-fit sad­dle area, a good-qual­ity straight girth might be all you need.

Riders now have many op­tions for girths. The one that is right for your horse de­pends on his con­for­ma­tion and your per­sonal tastes.

Does your horse need an er­gonom­i­cally shaped girth or would a straight girth be bet­ter for him? Each kind has FKSěKNEě DGNGĂěS

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