Wednesday 22 March 2017

Girths, Girths, Girths

In the above post I talked a bit about the beginning of my girth saga. For anyone too lazy to go back and read up (I don't blame you), the short story is that my new saddle that I got in August has necessitated a different girth and it's taken me several rounds of trial and error to figure it out.

From top to bottom:
Girth A - 32" Leather Contoured
Girth B - 24" Neoprene
Girth C - 30" Black Country Anatomic
Girth D - 28" TSF Stretchtec Shoulder Relief
Girth E - 24" Prolite Anatomic

Problem #1: My new saddle requires anatomical girth (there seems to be some inconsistency between the terms "contoured" and "anatomical", but I mean the one where the center is offset from the buckles) because the billets hang behind her girth groove.

Trial of new saddle - you can see billets are pulled forward
when using a straight girth (Girth B pictured)

Problem #2: Kachina is only 15.2hh and narrow. She's well proportioned but her size means that she does have a smaller barrel and shorter heart girth than other horses. I have short legs so this isn't usually an issue, but it means that there is only a narrow range of acceptable girth lengths where the buckles aren't too near her elbow but also aren't interfering with the saddle pad.

Small distance between elbow and bottom of saddle flap

Problem #3: There are limited numbers of anatomic girths available. Also almost all of them have several inches of leather between the buckles and the end of the girth, this is all well and fine from a padding point of view, but it completely fills up the aforementioned range on my horse's barrel, so if the buckles are far enough away from her elbows, the top of the girth is still interfering with the saddle pad. I've also had to contend with the fact that a lot of the anatomic girths are $$$.

Problem #4: Apparently Kachina is also picky about her girth. However, she's not immediately reactive, instead I have to try a new girth for an extended period of time to figure out what her opinion about it is. (This is also really inconvenient for the purposes of exchanges).

Combining the above issues, plus the fact that shipping in Canada can be slow, you might now realize why it took me 7 months (!) to find an appropriate solution (I bought my new saddle in August 2016).

So, in case you are a person struggling with similar issues, here are my brief reviews of several different girths (and most of them are now for sale, contact me if you're interested, possible discount available for bloggers, will ship at buyer's cost):

Girth A - 32" leather padded contoured dressage girth

- It has no brand marked on it but it's a good quality girth
- really soft leather padding
- great durability
- no elastic
- has leather guards behind the buckles but they aren't excessive, so the entire girth end to end is shorter than the 30" Girth C
- this was the first dressage girth I owned, I bought it for my previous mare Ellie who had a larger barrel, it was always on the long side for Kachina but was okay with my old saddle. I also love this girth, it is really nice quality leather and has a nice shape and feel to it. Unfortunately it is definitely too long for my new saddle and also doesn't have the anatomic shaped I need.
- For Sale, $100cdn obo

Girth A in action with the old Jaguar saddle

Girth B - Kieffer (I think) 24" neoprene contoured dressage girth

- no elastic
- easy to clean
- super basic
- fairly straight, small contour
- buckles located on end of girth (which is good for problem #2 above)
- I've also had this girth for a long time, I got it cheap and it was my back-up in case my other girth ever had a catastrophic failure. This size was actually pretty good on Kachina with my new saddle, but the fact that it is straight caused it to pull my saddle forward.
- For Sale, $40cdn obo

Girth B after a ride, has pulled saddle forward onto shoulder

Girth C - Black Country Saddles 30" anatomic leather dressage girth

- no elastic
- has offset so good if your horse has a forward girth groove
- I got this used so it is a few years old, can't find a link
- as seen in photo, the leather goes substantially past the buckles, making it a longer girth than the measurement would suggest
- a friend was selling this used soon after I got my saddle, pretty much as soon as I figured out that I needed an anatomic girth. It's too long for Kachina but worked well enough to use while I was figuring out a next option. The leather is a little stiff right now, but it's a good saddlery brand and I imagine it would be a nicer girth with some good leather conditioning (which I haven't done yet).
- For Sale, $100cdn obo (what I paid)

Girth C in action - keeps saddle where it needs to be

Girth D - Total Saddle Fit 28" Stretchtec Shoulder Relief girth

- has the leather lining option
- large offset to keep saddle back
- wide elastic panel in center for horse comfort and to prevent gapping
- a lot of bloggers swear by these girths
- I had really high hopes for this girth: it has a large offset, I had heard good things, I thought Kachina would like the elastic, I figured the 28" would be a good size. Unfortunately, the combination of the elastic and the pieces of leather that come past the buckles mean that the 28" is still too long (also it actually measures more than 28" buckle to buckle). Also, even though other horses are big fans, Kachina did not like this girth. I rode in it for a couple months and she slowly got more girthy. I like the idea of the elastic panels but the execution didn't work for me (or my horse). I also didn't like how stiff the girth was from the velcro between the main girth and the lining material.
- For Sale, $150cdn obo (I know I didn't exactly give the girth a glowing review, but these girths are pricey and are in relatively high demand so I still think this is a fair price)

Stretchtec girth at clinic in September

Girth E - Prolite 24" anatomic dressage girth

- This is the same shape and technology as the much gushed about Fairfax girth (the one that the Olympic equestrian teams from Great Britain used in the London Olympics), but it has a synthetic outer instead of leather, and is less than half the price. This isn't a cheap imitation though, there is Prolite material inside the Fairfax version, and Prolite makes their girth under the same intellectual property. It seems to be hard to find in North America so I was shocked when I stumbled upon it on Greenhawk's website (for what is actually a decent price when you look at what the mark up generally is on tack from England).
- Offset to keep saddle back
- soft edge design that has been scientifically developed to allow the muscles to move under the girth
- other cool science
- soft padding
- no elastic
- after the Total Saddle Fit 28" girth was too long, I ordered two sizes smaller on the Prolite girth (because I had finally wised up to the issue of the leather overhanging the buckles). Unfortunately this went too far the other way and the buckles ended up sitting in a really bad spot for Kachina's elbows.
- Sent back and exchanged for a larger size (see below)

How it sits on belly

Buckles too close to elbow
(was pinching when she bent body)

Girth F - Prolite 28" anatomic dressage girth

- see above for info
- this is the girth I've finally settled on. It is a little too long and interferes with the saddle pad slightly (without half pad), but it's only a little long and I really like it otherwise. Also, if I add a halfpad or fleece girth cover, that might make the length better. (In case you are wondering, the shape of this girth means that I couldn't go 26" or the buckles would still interfere with Kachina's elbows)
- It keeps my saddle in place and Kachina has become less girthy in the time that I've been using it. I call that a major win.
- Super soft and supple, nice shape.
- Really easy to clean - the official cleaning instructions are to dunk it in a bucket of soapy water and use a nylon brush! Though be aware that the girth does absorb moisture so leave lots of time for the girth to dry before you next need it. I'm generally a leather traditionalist, but girths always get dirtier than other tack so this is one piece of tack that I'm happy to have synthetic.
- Not for sale but I highly recommend you get one of your own!

Sorry, crappy photo, but shows the longer Prolite girth


  1. Great post! My pony has a forward girth groove and large barrel so the girth struggle has been real! She also will not tolerate a leather girth at all...I ended up finally finding a Tekna girth that works...after a lot of buying/selling/exchanging :)

    1. Having the no-leather restriction would certainly make things even tougher. Glad you eventually found something that works though!

  2. Haha the girth struggle is real. So glad you found something that works for you.

    1. I wasn't expecting the girth search to be so much harder than the saddle search! I'm really happy with what I ended up with though

  3. If your TSF wasn't too big for what I'm looking for I'd snap it up in a heartbeat!

    1. Aw, that sucks that it isn't the right size, that would have been perfect!

  4. That was quite the search but I'm glad that you found that one that works.

  5. Thank you so much for the review! I am curious how thick the pro light is? I'm loving my Stretch - Tech but I'm always curious about other options :)

    1. The Prolite is thinner and more flexible than the TSF Stretchtec. It's fairly thin, probably comparable in thickness to a standard neoprene girth, but it has a bit more structure to it. Not sure the best way to describe it, other than I think it's the perfect in between :)

  6. My mare had similar fit issues with anatomic girths bc she was so narrow through the chest.... It's so frustrating! Glad you found a solution tho! The billets on my dressage saddle are actually adjustable so the way they hang can be modified, tho I'm not sure that's standard or even common?

    1. Adjustable billets would be amazing. I first learned of those during my saddle search last year and they would definitely help, but finding a used saddle in my price range that fits both Kachina and I AND has adjustable billets... it wasn't in the cards =P

  7. I keep wanting to try an anatomic girth, but can't quite pull the trigger on spending so much money just on something to try :-/

  8. Hi - I'd be super interested in your Stretchtec dressage girth!

    1. I still have it! Please contact me using the "Contact Me!" tab at the top of the page :)

  9. Where did you purchase your prolite?

  10. Great blog post. I just wanted to speak up and let you know the County girth does have elastic, but it is inside the leather sheathing. Its a strong elastic, that doesn't flex all that much, but the stitching pattern on the girth is actually holding the elastic in place. If you can imagine one piece of elastic held together by the V stitch.

  11. I have spent hours researching girths. I too dream of the Fairfax girth as well.
    What is the popular opinion about purchasing a used girth versus a new girth. Certainly lots said about the potential downside of used saddles.

  12. Thanks for the in depth view of your search. My saddle fitter just recommended the prolite. I bought one and can't wait to try it.

  13. Thanks for giving such a great information about horses
    Horse girth looks unique and beautiful on your horse
    I'm very crazy about horses. and if you really want to enjoy your riding than you should wear.
    keep doing well.
    horse girth