The girth is a critical piece of tack that has been largely overlooked over the years. We’ve all been guilty once of grabbing ‘any old girth’ from the tack room before hopping on board, and our ‘girth checks’ consisting only of doing it up so tightly that we won’t embarrass ourselves halfway round the clear round ring!
However, as in all areas of the equestrian world, times have changed for the humble girth. Thanks to some brilliant research, new thinking and technological advances, girths have been revolutionised. And not a moment too soon for the comfort and happiness of our equine friends.
Here’s why you should spend as much time finding the right girth for your horse, as you do your saddle and bridle.
A 2013 study conducted by a panel of experts, in partnership with the Animal Health Trust, looked into girth pressure and how we could improve girth design to alleviate it.
The team placed small calibrated pressure mats under the girths of horses across various disciplines, while they worked in their usual routine. They found that high peak pressures (areas where horses typically developed pressure sores) could be avoided by using a better design, which could also improve limb protraction and carpal/tarsal flexion.
Many girths on the market today now curve back from the sensitive area behind the elbows. This helps to give a much freer movement and also for the saddle to sit in the correct position behind the horse’s shoulder, rather than sitting too far forward and digging in.
Various problems you may experience with your horse, from girth sores and galls, to restricted movement, sensitivity and ‘blowing up’ can all be down to your girth.
As well as spreading pressure evenly over the entire area, a girth should be breathable, which brings both the style and material into play. Although more ‘high tech’ girths can be pricey, it’s a well worth investment given all that they can influence.
Here are three common beliefs about girths and why you may want to rethink them…
1.Your girth doesn’t necessarily get looser when you go faster. We all have a tendency to have a quick check before having a canter or jumping a fence, don’t we? In fact, girth tension varies with pace and tends to be lower in the walk than standing, but increases again in trot and canter.
2 . Most of the pressure of a girth falls behind the elbows, not on the sternum. Although that might be hard to believe when you’re struggling to do it up on a rotund belly, it’s true. That’s why girth galls tend to appear in this area.
3. An elasticated girth is not necessarily comfier or better. It can cause instability and there’s a risk you will over-tighten the girth. You want the girth to be flexible, but this doesn’t have to mean elasticated.
The burning question
Last year while exhibiting at Your Horse Live, one question stood out for us here at Comfy Horse: What girth is best for my horse?
We understand the volume of girths on the market, together with all the new thinking to take into account, can be a bit overwhelming. With that in mind, we’ve put together our recommendations of the comfiest girths based on common problems and horse types.
What girth is best for my horse?
My horse is just so sensitive! Try the Stubben Cord Girth.
If your horse knows exactly what comfort feels like to him, then chances are he’s letting you know that your current girth isn’t cutting the mustard!
This is a great, simple girth for sensitive horses; it’s breathable and comfy, comprised of soft synthetic fibre, perfect for sensitive skin. It’s not elastic, but flexes with the horse’s movement due to its construction.
Comfy Horse customer Christin says: “ My horse isn’t girthy anymore, the rubbing has stopped and it keeps the saddle nice and secure.”
My horse is prone to rubs. There are two options here to try – the Christ Lammfelle sheepskin girth for dressage saddles and the Stubben Equi-soft girth with sheepskin pads.
The Christ Lammfelle sheepskin contoured dressage girth has a supersoft 100% Merino lambskin lining. The depth of pile is approx 30mm providing a soft, light and breathable surface against your horse, which means it’s great for sensitive horses or horses prone to rubbing and girth galls. The lambskin lining is even rolled over the edges to distribute pressure and stop chafing.
The Stubben Equi-soft girth comes with soft leather or lambskin replacement pads, perfect for the different seasons to account for your horse’s coat.
My horse is girthy and will pull his best ‘faces’ while I’m doing the girth up! Try the Tapestry English Comfort Girth.
Whether they’re pinning their ears, kicking, tensing their body or just moving around, a girthy horse is not pleasant.
This girth is the girth that hugs your horse. Riders who have tried it say they can see the increased performance in their horses – longer striding, more relaxed canter, deeper and more relaxed breathing, and many have said they find the distances between jumps easier to achieve. It is said to be able to change your relationship with your horse.
Comfy Horse customer Stephanie says: “I changed to this from [my old girth], which was causing some rubbing and discomfort. My horse feels like he has more freedom of movement and is not bothered when doing up the girth when previously he would look a bit cross!”
My horse’s movement appears to be restricted. Try the Stubben Equi-Soft or Tapestry girth above.
The Stubben Equi-soft girth is made of elastic strips which allow a perfect girth-pressure-distribution. Its special design allows the horse to expand its chest when needed during exercise. The elastic rings expand and contract with the rib cage, maintaining a uniform tension. A comparative study of various girths certified that all horses, without exception, maintained lower heart rates when using the Equi-soft girth.
My horse has a forward girth groove. Try the Christ Lammfelle sheepskin half moon dressage girth.
This girth is curved to follow the natural contours of the horse and the even contact helps prevent pressure points. It’s fully lined with 100% Merino lambskin. This shaped girth is useful for horses with strong, far back reaching shoulders, round belly line and/or a forward girth groove.