When I was growing up, girths were kind of like saddle pads. They were basic. I remember when girths had no elastic, then elastic on one side. Double sided elastic girths seemed like a pretty exciting advance and, compared to one-sided elastic, are better at equalizing the pressure exerted on the horse’s pectoral muscles and rib cage. However, elastic ends can result in an over tightened girth that is uncomfortable enough to impact the way your horse moves under saddle.
In fact, although we spend a lot of time thinking about saddle fit, the choice of girth can significantly impact saddle fit and horse comfort. Think about it: In order to keep your saddle in place while riding, your girth needs to be tight enough to hold it there. And yet, if the girth is too tight, it reduces circulation and decreases the range of motion of the underlying musculature. Think back to those girths without elastic and you realize that they had absolutely no give at all, so when there were sufficiently tight to secure the saddle, must have prevented the horse from drawing a deep breath.
Fast forward out of the dark ages and there are more types of girths that you can count, and not just short girths or long girths. Now there are anatomical girths, athletico girths, asymmetrical girths, and more. There’s lots of talk about the location of your horse’s girth groove and how the right girth can help prevent saddle slippage. In fact, I’ve been looking closely at Zelda and trying to figure out which of the girths I have will work best on her (our problem is more about an expanding girth, but that should be a non issue once she’s back in work).
Today I read about an interesting new Free Space Girth from Wow Saddles that, according to their research, improves the way your horse moves by reducing pressure on the horse’s pectoral muscles. It accomplishes this by using a an Active Cushion Sternum Plate that secures the girth over the sternum and yet prevents pressure on the horse’s ascending pectoral muscles. The girth also appears to reduce saddle slippage that is caused by asymmetrical rib cages. I’m probably not ready to run out and buy one just yet as even used they run about $250, but it’s an idea worth exploring.
It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers start to introduce products with this type of design. A quick search shows that Stubben Equi-Soft Girth is also designed with a chest pad and elastic rings that expand and contract with the rib cage, maintaining a uniform tension during exercise.
I’d love to know if you’ve tried one of these girths and whether it helped your horse move better or accept being saddled more easily. Note: this is not a sponsored post, just my own curiosity as I look for a better girthing solution for Zelda.