For this month’s blog we’re turning the spotlight on girths. A simple piece of equipment but one that’s very necessary to a comfortable ride for you and your horse.
Girths have been around in various forms since riding horses began. Some of the earliest girths were used as decorations for saddle cloths – a basic type of girth can be seen in artwork from as far back as 600BC showing Persian and Assyrian Warriors.
The name ‘girth’ is actually derived from the Proto-Germanic source “Gertu” which also makes up the basis of words like “Girdle” and “Gird”. Western riders use the term ‘Cinch’ which also describes the action of tightening the apparatus around the horse’s stomach.
Since the beginning of time girths have been made from a variety of materials. Everything from a basic rope or mohair construction to the latest lightweight water resistant materials.
In the same way that Horse Boots started to be mass produced in the 1960s and 1970s, so girths also followed the same pattern. With the need to manufacture large numbers quickly and cheaply, Neoprene was favored by lots of manufacturers. This was a material that held up well, was cheap and readily available and used by most of the Asian factories churning out girths by the thousands.
But, just as neoprene is no longer the ideal material to wrap around your horse’s legs. So there are some considerations to make before using a neoprene girth.
Below we break down each category of girth and what to consider:
- English AP (ALL Purpose) Girth
These girths are made to be used with an All Purpose or Jumping Saddle and usually come in lengths between 42-54 inches. AP girths can be made in lots of different outer materials with fixed or roller buckles. They usually have elastic on both ends but can sometimes have one side only. With an English girth, the important thing is to have something lightweight and breathable, with roller buckles so that you can adjust from your saddle if you need to. The more modern girths have an ergonomic shape to clear the horse’s shoulder when jumping. Heat under the girth is a real issue so look for a non neoprene liner with breathable construction. Fleece can work well as can more modern bio foam materials.
- Monoflap Girth
These girths are designed to work with a monoflap saddle and may have elastic ends or non elastic ends. These girths are shorter and often come with a belly guard area. Sizes are usually 20-32 inches. Monoflap girths can be synthetic or leather.
- Dressage Girth
This type of girth is short like the monoflap girth but likely to be shaped for comfort. They can be made from leather or synthetic material and are usually black in color. The shape of a dressage girth is extremely important as the horse bends and stretches its body in a variety of ways and needs a girth to flex and not interfere with movement. Traditionally these girths have been made of leather, but top riders are now starting to favor synthetic girths with lightweight breathable liners. These girths are sized for a monoflap saddle.
Horses can show intense reaction to being girthed. We have even coined the term ‘girthy’ for horses that may back up, kick or show even more extreme reactions to being girthed. Sometimes this reaction is from a memory of harsh handling in the past, but sometimes it may be your horse’s way of telling you that its uncomfortable. Did you know that a large number of horse’s are allergic at some level to neoprene? While some may show a severe reaction with hive like bumps, lost coat or sores, others may show very little outward reaction but still feel the effects of the allergy. If your horse has a tendency to be ‘girthy’ even without showing any outward symptoms, it may be a good idea to switch your neoprene girth out for a non neoprene version to see if it makes a difference. We have seen many horses that were sensitive to girthing completely settle down and work calmly and safely when we have switched out their girth for a Majyk neoprene-free version.
top: allergic reaction to girth
bottom: ill fitting, badly made girth
Fit, Form, Function
These three words are extremely important when it comes to choosing an ideal girth. For everyday schooling and jumping you need a lightweight girth that will not interfere with your horse’s movement. You may also have a need to attach training aids so look for a girth that can accommodate that. Majyk Equipe girths are the only girths with magnetic D rings that can be used for training but then tuck neatly away when not in use.
All our girths are also ergonomically shaped to make sure that they sit exactly where they should. Our dressage girths have a ‘moon’ shape and also feature spur save buckle covers – a common complaint when your spur is clanking against the buckles on your girth. The biofoam inner liner on all our girths is designed to overlap with a 'buffer zone' giving your horse a cushion all around the girth and protecting it from any sharp edges.
Many eventers favor our monoflap girths for their extremely lightweight construction. These girths have an extra large stud guard ‘belly’ plate to protect the horse as it tucks over a jump. Our D rings tuck nicely away with a magnet so there is no chance of a stud getting caught up in the girth. Because they are so lightweight, the girths don’t weigh your horse down – especially important when competing during a rigorous cross country round where every gram of extra weight counts.
So the next time you look into girths, try to look for the following:
- Neoprene Free (especially important if you have a sensitive horse)
- Lightweight and Breathable (to avoid heat build up and heaviness)
- Ergonomic Fit (For a comfortable ride)
- Strong and flexible closures
- Medical Grade Elastic (Cheaper elastics may overstretch and cause the girth to get looser over time)
If you follow that advice you can’t go too far wrong. A well fitting girth can make an enormous difference to your ride and make for a happier horse so remember to really consider all of the above when purchasing a new girth.