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.
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