There are two fundamental styles of English girths to choose from, and these are designed to accommodate the length of the billet straps on your saddle. If you have a dressage saddle, you'll likely have very long billet straps that extend beyond the bottom of the flaps.
If you have a forward seat, all-purpose, close contact or almost any other variation of an English saddle, the billet straps are much shorter and likely don't extend beyond the bottom of the flaps. This will allow the girth to reach the short billet straps on these types of saddles.
Whether you need a dressage or regular length girth for your saddle, you'll find they come in a variety of materials as well. Deciding on the material your girth is made from is a matter of preference.
Functional quality leather girths are the most expensive, and with proper care can last a very long time. You'll also find girths made of cotton or synthetic string, neoprene, webbing and felt, and other high tech materials.
This elastic tends to wear out over time (it is replaceable on good quality girths), but can be more comfortable for the horse. Some may hold heat or irritate some horse's skin, but most are comfortable and easy to clean.
Lump Images/Dario Seen Collection Mix: Subjects /Getty Images Also called 'chaffless,' these girths are shaped so that the width behind the horse's elbow is narrower.
The Atherton is a leather girth that is shaped similarly, but is all one piece, or may have a single strap to which a thicker, shaped and padded length of leather is sewn. They're also the priciest girths, simply because of the materials and construction.
I've been using Pro-Choice Pro Choice SIX Dressage Girth | Dover Saddlery for several years and so far so good and no rubbing (the bottom is wearing out that's why I was looking into the new one). BTW, I LOVE Fen wick dressage pads as well as Back on Track.
Apparently the Nun Finer girths are nice, although I haven't tried them myself. I researched this one (before trying Nun Finer), but have seen quite negative opinions about it (the thin line part is VERY thin there and wearing out quite quickly).
I have a Cheese girth and its very nice and ergonomically shaped and doesn't interfere with the shoulder. I have also a Jaguar girth which is less shaped, but works well on horses with less movement. Look for something that is quite skinny in the shoulder/elbow area, doesn't have a lot of elastic, no neoprene, no cheap or fake sheepskin, and a high quality, thick leather.
If you do go for sheepskin, go genuine and make sure it is removable and washable. I splurged for a County Logic girth a few months ago and LOVE it.
Oz I'd definitely a bit girth with the Western saddle. The Thorn hill (not sure what model it is, but it's gorgeous) seems to fit him great all over except possibly an area right under the seat. We weren't able to ride him in it because he is still healing from an injury, but the seller offered to hold it and bring it back in a week or so when he's ready to be ridden again.
One of the other boarders was showing me a special wool half pad with removable inserts that she uses with her pony that has the same fit issue. She said the saddle is in great shape and the flocking under the seat might just need to be broken in better, although the seller said she's been riding in it for five years.
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Girths are made out of a variety of materials and are available in many types of sizes, shapes, colors and styles, each offering unique benefits to the horse. Ideally, for a long girth, the buckles will not be located high under your thigh where they can feel bulky.
If the girth comes too close to the edge of the saddle pad or flap, your horse’s skin can feel pinched. Have a helper hold a fabric tape measure with inch increments on approximately the middle billet hole on one side of the saddle, while you stretch the tape under the horse, one hand’s width away from the back of the elbow, to the corresponding billet hole on the other side of the saddle.
The various materials used to make girths offer unique benefits to the horse and rider, affect price, and even solve problems. Additionally, consider that girths are available in straight styles, fashioned like a belt, or with anatomical contours that are designed to provide room for a horse’s elbows during movement.
The most important aspect about the shape and material of your girth is that it works well with your horse’s unique conformation, movement, and skin to distribute pressure evenly along his barrel. It needs to work with the horse, moving ever so slightly with the hair (horizontally) and not against it (vertically) in such a way as to cause rubbing or chafing.
The belly guards protect the horse from being injured from shoe studs while its hooves are tucked up tightly over jumps. Elastic ends make the girth fastening process easier, and provide some flexibility and comfort for the horse as his rib cage moves during exercise.
Leather girths are offered in many shades of brown to coordinate with saddles, and in black for dressage. They are easy to care for, and quality leather girths become softer and more luxurious with conditioning.
This type of girth may have elastic on one or both ends, and can be found in straight or contoured shapes. Neoprene girths are typically wide and have elastic ends, so they offer a good amount of comfort for horses.
Synthetic girths are offered in contoured and straight styles and are easy to clean with soap and water. Made of mohair, wool, cotton or nylon string, this type of girth is a popular choice for combating slippage, for horses that get irritated skin in the girth area and to alleviate certain pressure points.
The strings that make up the girth can move and act independently of one another so that some horses do very well wearing them. Cotton string girths should be hand-washed in cold water (warmer temperatures may cause shrinkage) and hung to dry.
Genuine wool or synthetic fleece may be attached to fabric or leather girths to help horses who need a soft surface against their skin. Genuine wool lining has the added benefit of helping to wick sweat away from the horse.
The fleece on many leather models of this type of girth is attached with hook and loop closures for easy cleaning. Often selected for either the horse's preference for the softness or the affordable price, this simple type of girth can be machined or hand-washed in cool temperatures and hung to dry.
This is a temporary measure used to extend the length of a girth that is too short to fit a horse. They provide cushioning that relieves pressure points that can cause girth gall, absorb sweat, and alleviate sensitivity issues in horses with delicate skin.