Best Girths For Dressage

Christina Perez
• Thursday, 14 January, 2021
• 7 min read

Shaped leather dressage girths are available in shoulder relief, straight or recessed and anatomically fit. Fleece lined dressage girths offer extra protection and padding.

ventech leather girth choice girths professional monoflap brown professionals eventing nyls samuels modeling three 1675 nation eventingnation
(Source: eventingnation.com)


Fleece may be of either synthetic or genuine sheepskin on leather or nylon webbing. Originally just straight girths, dressage girths are now available in different shapes to better fit the horse and provide a full range of motion.

Anatomical fits and shoulder relief shapes are now part of the dressage rider’s choices in girths. When you walk into the girth section of a tack store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the abundance of shapes, styles and sizes offered.

New insights into equine ergonomics have produced girths that are anatomically shaped and designed to improve comfort and performance. As an Amazon Associate, Dressage Today may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our site.

Depending on the billet length of your saddle, you’ll need a short or long girth. Most dressage riders prefer a short girth because it keeps the area underneath the thighs and/or knees bulk-free.

For this reason, when using a short girth, select one with adequate padding underneath the buckle area to prevent bruising. Long girths provide the best stability even though they are considered old-fashioned by the dressage community.

(Source: www.hookseurope.com)

To avoid this problem, the buckles should not be farther up than two to three holes from the bottom of the billets on both sides when the girth is tightened. Some top dressage riders, such as WEG competitor Catherine Haddad Smaller or Olympian Ingrid Like are still being spotted using mostly long girths.

The buckle section must sit higher than the horse’s elbow level to avoid interference during movement. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to fit about two fingers between the bottom of the saddle pad and the top of the girth.

Two key features are cutouts to provide maximum room for the horse’s elbows and shoulders, which also prevents wrinkles, bunching up and rubbing, as well as a wider center, which helps to distribute the pressure in the area of the breastbone better. Crescent- or moon-shaped girths are designed for horses with short backs, wide rib cages and narrow chests, where the saddle tends to slide forward.

The downside of leather is that you need to regularly clean and condition it to keep it smooth and prevent it from chafing. While conventional leather-tanning techniques use chromium salts or formaldehyde, which are considered harmful to humans and the environment, vegetable tanning is an old-world process that uses tannin acids naturally found in some plant species and is considered 100 percent biodegradable and nontoxic.

On the downside, like many synthetic materials, neoprene can retain heat, causing skin irritations or rubs. Synthetic girths tend to be low-maintenance, but can also retain heat and cause skin irritation.

girth girths crescent horse singel anatomic een bridle ride between
(Source: www.bridleandride.com)

Simple as they are, they offer no padding, which can be a problem when using a short girth for a long-billeted saddle, as the buckles are in direct contact with the horse’s body and can cause bruising. String girths provide good airflow and move with the horse’s body.

Some top dressage riders still prefer to ride with these simple girths. Nonslip girths feature a drippy surface usually made of rubber or neoprene.

These girths are a great option if you have a horse who is challenging to fit with a saddle because he has a wider, rounder barrel and flat withers, such as many pony breeds. The drippy material is designed to stabilize the panels, providing a more secure fit.

Fleece-covered girths are good at wicking away moisture and supposedly keep the skin drier and cool. Cotton fleece breathes well, and synthetic lining can help wick away sweat and keep the horse dry and comfortable.

Fleece girths do have the tendency to allow saddles to move around, especially if not fit properly. Natural sheepskin regulates temperature, wicks away moisture and is well tolerated by sensitive skin.

girth dressage choice ventech professional enlarge
(Source: www.tallyhofarm.co.uk)

Sheepskin covers can twist and cause pressure points and skin sores. Horses with extremely sensitive skin will sometimes react to synthetic sheepskin when they sweat.

Most modern short girths have a bigger footprint and give you more square inches of contact than older designs. Both are designed to adapt extremely well to the horse’s body and reduce pressure points.

When using a short girth, look for one with generous padding around the buckle area to prevent pressure points on the skin. Elastics: Some girths come with elasticized center panels, which distribute pressure more widely through the girth area, allowing the rib cage to expand and contract for more comfort and better breathing, and keep the saddle centered and secure.

Poor condition: Avoid girths that have lost their shape, and cause uneven pressure. The key is that when the girth is adjusted correctly, it should sit symmetrically in the center, with the buckles on each side at about the same height.

If the girth is adjusted correctly, you should be able to slide your flat hand underneath it on the left or right side. There should be a positive response to the body, like a polite handshake as opposed to someone crushing your fingers.

anatomic mattes girth dressage bespoke short horse
(Source: www.pinkequine.com)

Imagine tightening a belt around your body too vigorously, and see what it does to your level of comfort and breathing. “In terms of back pain, it’s especially kissing spines and osteoarthritis of the dorsal articular processes.

But conversely, there is a huge amount of undiagnosed problems that have to do with orthopedic issues in the back. Both of those will cause back pain and both of them will commonly exhibit as a horse who has a birthing problem, is cold-backed or girth.

To look at the dorsal processes takes a greater effort, as one needs a big, ceiling-mounted machine or a nuclear body scan, which can only be done in an equine hospital setting. Dr. Allen adds that a poorly fitted or too-tight girth can also bruise the horse’s sternum.

If you routinely overtighten the girth or crank it up without feel, most horses will react by tensing the rib cage. Other warning signs can include sensitivity in the elbow and breastbone area (where the girth pressure is highest), unwillingness to go forward or pinning back ears, swishing the tail, biting or kicking when the girth is tightened.

A smooth finish and appropriate padding around the buckles on short girths are a must, as is the right size. If your horse is girth, consider getting a proper veterinary exam to make sure it’s not a more serious problem.

thorowgood girth dressage curved girths accessories horse elastics aeroform saddles category gp t8 guards stud saddle saddlery bonnetts straps marjoman
(Source: www.thorowgood.com)

If you follow these principles, you might find your new girth is just what you needed to improve your competitive edge. Cordial Pearson is a Society of Master Saddlers qualified saddle fitter.

A lifelong dressage rider and Morgan breeder, she and her husband’s, Charles, foal is Avatar’s Jazz man, a U.S. Grand Prix Pony Champion. Based in Stacy, Minnesota, she saddles horses all over the world and will happily answer questions from her site saddlefitter.com.

A. Kent Allen, DVD, graduated from the University of Missouri in 1979 and has been practicing equine medicine ever since. He is currently certified by the International Society of Equine Loco motor Pathology (ISEP), serving as its vice president and executive director.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Ill-fitting, too tight short dressage girths can cause a number of problems for your horse’s health, comfort and way of going.

To combat this the best short dressage girths have a wider center part on the stronger, less sensitive sternum area allowing better distribution of pressure. For this reason, girths that are anatomically-shaped to allow space for the elbow to move can help improve your horse’s fluidity of paces which could increase your dressage marks.

saddle dressage saddles monoflap advantage steffen smooth english saddlery dover long steffens colors doversaddlery
(Source: www.doversaddlery.com)

And lastly, it is important that the girth has smooth, soft edges to avoid it rubbing and pinching your horse’s skin. It has been shown that horses maintain a lower heart rate when using this girth, which is available to trial.

This was the original girth to be based on scientific research and proven to improve the horse’s performance by dramatically reducing pressure, significantly increasing range of movement and helping eliminate gait asymmetry. This handmade, leather girth is contoured to avoid the pressure-sensitive areas behind the elbow and designed with edges that allow the muscles of the shoulder to move without hindrance.

It is made using triple thick elasticated ends for good saddle stability and an ergonomic cut to promote a more even distribution of pressure. This girth is well padded to increase comfort and designed with a wide center part to help with the even distribution of pressure.

This girth aims to maximize comfort and protect the sensitive areas with its fully padded underside and anatomical shape. This design gives your horse the chance to move more freely plus it includes the facility to clip on training aids.

Made from high quality soft leather, this dressage girth is padded for comfort, has elastic straps for even pressure distribution and is shaped to allow freedom of movement. Available exclusively in the UK from Shadow Horse, this girth has an anatomical cut that helps position the saddle well back from the shoulders and keeping it from interfering with any elbow movement.

dressage girth shaped premium skip beginning
(Source: www.ejeffries.co.uk)

It helps the horse achieve a maximum range of movement while preventing the saddle from moving during riding. We post weekly buyers guides on a range of equestrian products so why not bookmark us or put horseandhound.co.UK as your homepage to ensure that you don’t miss out.

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