Many horses are adept at inflating their bellies like balloons, making it near impossible to get your girth tight enough before you mount. Especially when you are riding cross country, or foxhunting, getting that girth up another hole or two can make the difference between a saddle slipping or staying put.
The problem is that vulnerable moment when you have one leg forward and one billet strap not in the hole. Practical Horseman ran a post about this recently, where Holly Hugo Vidal recommends keeping your foot in your stirrup while bringing your leg forward. Not to mention not goosing your horse with your spur.
Tightening the girth from the saddle puts you in a vulnerable position. To do it safely, keep your left foot in the stirrup as you raise your leg up and in front of the saddle. Bridging the reins and holding them in your right hand, use your left hand to lift up the saddle skirt and tighten the girth. Then return the skirt to its original position and lower your leg back to its correct place. I don’t like to see riders dropping the reins on their horses’ necks and taking their left feet out of the stirrup while reaching down with both hands to raise the skirt to adjust the girth. In doing this, the stirrup always ends up behind the saddle and dangles. If a horse spooked or took off, the rider would have no control and, more than likely, would fall off.” –Holly Hugo Vidal
I’m not sure that this technique makes adjusting your girth that much safer. If your horse takes off when your leg is forward, you also run the risk of getting hung up in your stirrup. At least if it’s behind you, there’s no chance of getting your foot caught. I one hundred percent agree on bridging your reins. That’s a given.
Of course, since all my saddles, even my jumping saddles, now use short (dressage) girths, I’m going to need to practice leaning over rather than moving my leg forward. Just don’t try that while moving! Better yet, get help from the ground!
How do you adjust your girth while mounted?