Balding Girths

Brent Mccoy
• Thursday, 24 June, 2021
• 8 min read

It is sometimes used to refer to the varying sizes of people and animals (“He has a larger girth than the two of them put together”). It can also be used by the postal service as a means of pricing an item to ship.

gag balding waterford dever
(Source: www.deversaddlery.com)


It passes under the barrel of the equine, usually attached to the saddle on both sides by two or three leather straps called billets. Several types of girth are shaped to allow ample room for the elbows.

The Balding style is a flat piece of leather cut into three strips which are crossed and folded in the center, and the Atherton style is a shaped piece of bag hide with a roughly 1.5” wide strip of stronger leather running along the center. Unshaped girths are commonly made of flat, heavy cotton, or padded cotton with nylon webbing reinforcement, or out of leather as in the trifold or threefold girth, popular among sidesaddle riders and traditional fox hunters.

Fleece girth covers are often used on sensitive horses to protect the barrel of the horse, and some styles of girth come with attached or removable sheepskin liners that perform the same function. This is because the dressage saddle has longer billets, to keep the buckles out from under the rider's leg, and so a shorter girth may be used.

Made of leather or nylon with an elastic insert (for racing), the over girth completely encircles the horse around belly and the saddle's seat. It is used by stock men, events, polo players, in flat racing, and by steeplechase jockeys to provide more security in holding the saddle in place.

Some girths (those used on jumpers and events) have a belly guard (or stud guard), to protect the belly from being stabbed by horseshoe studs as the animal tucks his legs up underneath him over a tall obstacle. The number of cords used varies with width and design, but the standard range is from 17 to 30 strands, creating an end product that is 4 to 7 inches wide at the widest point in the center of the cinch.

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(Source: www.westernhorsereview.com)

Wider cinches are narrowed to fit the cinch ring by allowing two layers of cord to form at the ring, sometimes aided by decorative weaving that stabilizes the cords. One of the first non-traditional designs incorporated 1/2” thick felt backed by nylon webbing on the side away from the horse.

The Latino is a wide, flexible strap, usually of leather, though nylon webbing is also seen. A girth should first and foremost spread pressure evenly over the entire area.

Many riders also choose a girth that allows for extra elbow room, so the horse is not restricted as his leg moves backward. This not only allows the rider a spare should one break, but can also provide an adjustment option.

For horses on which the saddle sits nicely, neither slipping forward nor back, the first and third billets should be used. These also provide an adjustment option and have a front girth strap which is connected to the saddle tree point, and a rear girth strap giving it a Y shape and stability.

However, dressage girths are much shorter as they attach to billet straps which are long and fasten below the saddle flap so that the buckles do not interfere with the lower leg position. Whether you require a dressage or regular length girth, they all come in different shapes, sizes and materials.

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(Source: www.emusician.com)

The material can affect the fit, performance and durability of the girth and its comfort for the horse. Leather girths that are good quality are the most expensive but if well cared for will last a long time and provide a comfortable option for your horse.

It is curved around the back of the elbows so this section is narrower, allowing better freedom of movement. However, non-leather Atherton shaped girths are available and the ‘waffle’ design can encourage airflow.

Leather is a popular choice and a shaped design is preferable for allowing maximum movement of the horse. Modern technology has very much been brought into girth designs of today and has significantly improved the styles available.

The design of girths has been seen to significantly contribute to horse’s performance so bear this in mind when purchasing July 16, 2013, In a related post I have told you we solved the girth problem.

I heard a story a while ago at a clinic, while showing some girths to an interested crowd. It goes like this: A friend who also rides for pleasure, was walking through CDI stabling at Dressage World Cup, witnessed a bunch of ears back, tails swishing behavior at tack up.

gag bridle balding polo gray
(Source: grayspolo.com)

Here I am also going to tell you quite simply how we finally managed to make the horses more comfortable. The solution came about by trying things we suspected would work.

If you do this as a job and watch carefully without investment, the so-called perfect answers really don’t work as much as you’d hope. We liked our cord “mohair” girths –and on investigation found they were no longer made of corded mohair, but nylon with no give whatsoever.

We thought unlimited stretch fabric girths would be nice. We didn’t like short girths –too much hardware in moving places.

We still don’t like short girths and the horses have gotten over the bruising from trying the standard models. Eventually we came up with one fitted with carefully measured–buckles as high as you can get them that actually works.

A tiny bit of elastic, a girth shield added–see lump like full snake in middle–and a girth cozy–no more ugly faces. We thought anatomic girths would be nice.

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(Source: www.improbable.com)

They might work with a hunter saddle designed to be ridden up over the withers. They cause a huge amount of elbow infringement in a “normally” placed saddle.

(Try one on and stick your fingers in the front side of it and walk the horse. It is meant to check your saddle fit, but it worked very well on the bottom side of the horse too.

The spots that bottomed out–you can see light through them–are just behind the elbows at the base of the ribs. And it bottomed out every single time we tried–a lot of pressure was being exerted there at the base of the rib cage.

So then off to the Internet and much study of anatomy and other people’s tests on race horses and girth tightening pressures and many hours into it, we came up with something that worked. The Girth Shield concept allows the horses to breath naturally while securely holding your saddle in place.

And that is what the horses are trumping about when you tack them up–when a normal girth is tightened it is hard for them to breath, and it hurts. Melinda got her Silver Medal, I dusted off my Gold and then stuck it back in the car’s ashtray.

(Source: www.equusport.com)

We found a way to give room for normal rib expansion by creating what is in effect a second tree for the base of the horse. A length that puts the buckles where you want them and a measurement across the pectorals.

The X Girth is above, and it is about as simple as you can think of–other than it is hard to make because of the continuous loop. We call it the dry martini of the girth world.

(Strong hint–the nasty faces and peg legs for a start.) The heavily padded shield at the base of the girth creates a place for the horse’s ribs to expand when the girth is fully tightened.

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age balding
(Source: www.youtube.com)

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(Source: www.reddit.com)

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balding thinning
(Source: stylesbyg.webs.com)

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