More information about Girths

Press cutting March 2009

How some saddle problems can be helped with the correct girth

We have asked Birgit Michaux about the importance of girth. With her daily work helping her customers finding a suitable treeless saddle package she has also become an expert in accessories. In her eyes, it is absolutely vital getting the right accessories for both horse and rider. And this is important for treeless and for tree’d saddles alike.

Saddle Accessories – Myth’s about girths!

Elasticated and tight

  • Elastic on one side  - makes the horse one sided with more pressure on one side than on the other.
  • Cheap and very stretchy elastic is unsafe and will not keep the saddle in place. As the saddle moves on the horses back it could also cause rubbing or slipping.
  • A loose girth is not horse friendly but dangerous. If the girth is too loose, your saddle might slip and can cause rubbing as it is not fixed on the horse.

Position

The girth position of a horse is depending on how the saddle and the horse are built. Ideally the girth would be placed one or two hand width behind the front legs. Most people place the girth by far too far forward. Just imagine having a tight belt right under our armpits and than try to play volleyball - it is uncomfortable and we would not reach out very well.
To ensure you are not girthing too far back, feel for the breastbone under your horse’s belly, as you want to place a minimum of  ¾ of the width of the girth onto the breastbone.
Horses with hanging bellies or curved rib cages (pear shape) have a forward positioned girthing point due to their conformation. Their girth would always slide into the narrowest part of the body, which is most often right behind the front legs (picture a). If the girth has not been placed in this position initially, this can results in the girth becoming looser as it slides forward when the horse starts moving, and the saddle slipping and potentially rubbing.

“My horse blows out”

Horses can not hold their breath and keep air inside. But horses protect themselves and tighten their belly muscles to prevent a girth causing them discomfort due to bad quality or very narrow girths.
To keep this belly muscle tightened is hard work for a horse, they will relax those muscles sooner or later. As a contracted muscle is more bulky than a relaxed one, this could be one other reason why the girth becomes looser as you start your ride. Another reason for a girth to become looser after you mounted could be enormous amount of padding under the saddle that gets compressed as you are sitting down on it. It would be better to find a saddle and one suitable numnah or pad that fits properly so that you don’t have to ride like the “Princes on the pea” with lots of numnahs that compress once you sit down.

Shape, Position and Material

  • If the girth is too narrow the pressure is on a very small area and not spread. Remember how does it feel for you when wearing a tight narrow belt or a wide one.
  • If the girth is well padded your horse would be more comfortable as it cannot feel the buckles through the material, causing pressure.
  • It is important to girth up on both sides to avoid uneven pressure.
  • Make sure you have a suitable girth shape for the right tummy shape of your horse.
  • Check if after your ride your saddle and girth are still at the same place where you saddled up initially.
  • If the girth has moved towards the armpits than the horse probably has a curved or hanging belly. A curved belly benefits from a curved girth to prevent the saddle from sliding forward and pressing onto withers and shoulders
  • It is so important to find the right saddle (tree’d or treeless) for your horse, but also the right girth, suitable for your horse.

“The best pair of trainers (saddles) are no good if you have cheap or unsuitable laces"