Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission on some of the items you choose to purchase.
There was a time when a girth was simply an underbelly strap to keep the saddle from slipping, but now there are a bewildering number of girth types on the market.
Your girth choice will be partly dictated by the girths of your saddle. Traditional GP and English saddles usually have short girths, requiring a longer girth; while dressage or monoflap saddles need shorter straps to attach to the straps that attach under the saddle flap (so as not to interfere with lower leg position). Regardless of the length of the girth, like any other piece of harness, it must fit your horse correctly, as this will affect its comfort and therefore the way it walks.
Signs that you may be using the wrong type of strap include:
- your horse has sores on the girth
- your horse flattens his ears when you clench or bare his teeth
- your horse wags its tail when you tie
- your girth is on the penultimate or top hole on both sides
- your horse seems uncomfortable in front during exercise
Girths come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, and there will be one to suit your horse and saddle.
These fit most traditional GP or English saddles. Here are the main options:
- Right Circumference: typically made from a breathable, padded fabric, without shaping, this is an affordable all-around strap.
- Contoured Circumference: these are designed for freedom around the elbows and are usually made from padded anti-chafe fabric to prevent chafing, such as the Shires Anti-Chafe Contour Girth. They are usually available with elastic at both ends to help even out the pressure and prevent pinching.
- Anatomical Circumference: even more streamlined than the contoured webbing, they are specifically designed for jumping, providing maximum room behind the elbows and therefore less restriction on the front legs. This should give the horse an increased stride length and more freedom in the air. More high-tech versions have additional details to absorb pressure and improve comfort, such as the Lemieux Gel-Tek Anatomic Curve jump strap, which has gel pockets.
- Fleece lined strap: the side of the girth touching the horse’s belly is covered with a soft woolen material, usually synthetic, which helps prevent sores and chafing. The QHP Ontario has three rings so that support reins can be attached if needed. It is also possible to purchase a sheepskin sleeve to fit over your usual strap to prevent chafing.
- Circumference of Atherstone: a traditional leather strap, often padded to provide a high level of comfort. They are often contoured and elasticated, such as the Shires Blenheim Leather Atherstone
- Rope turn: these were all the rage for Pony Club kids of the 1980s, but the stringy old prototype tended to pinch and chafe. Modern versions, such as Shires Busse String Girth or Stübben Cord Girth, are made of flat synthetic fabric and flex with the movement of the horse. They may be suitable for horses with a difficult saddle position
- Neoprene strap: designed to reduce friction and sweat buildup to help protect against chafing and sores
- Memory foam strap: designed to provide ultimate comfort to the horse. These are usually made of memory foam padding, with anti-friction neoprene and shaped for freedom of movement. The Shires version has a nylon strap on the outside to prevent overstretching, while the Collegiate version has a central D-ring for attaching training aids
These are used on dressage or monoflap saddles with long billet straps under the saddle flap.
Like long girths, these come in a variety of shapes and fabrics to suit your horse. Many are shaped to varying degrees, from the ergonomic design of Mark Todd’s Padded Short Dressage Girth to Rhinegold’s Softee Comfort Dressage Girth.
Freedom of movement being a priority for competition horses, many anatomical straps are also elasticated to allow for lateral expansion of the rib cage. Some are elasticated all over, like Wintec’s Elastic Girth, rather than just near the loops, aiming to create even pressure.
When it comes to the shape of the strap, there is a huge range of designs, ranging from straight or contoured to H or X-shape.
These can be short or long, depending on the billet straps, and are designed to protect the horse’s belly from its own spikes as it tucks its front legs while jumping. They are usually anatomically shaped to allow freedom of movement, like the LeMieux Gel-Tek Anatomic Curve Stud Girth, and come in a variety of fabrics, with and without elastic, like the Mark Todd Deluxe Elasticated Stud Girth.
What is most important is that the saddle stays in place and your horse is comfortable, moving freely to the best of his ability. And if a new strap can make a difference, it’s worth a try…
You might also be interested in reading…
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Discover this selection of the best long straps on the market
Credit: Rolf Vennenberg/PA Images
Wearing cleats while jumping reduces the risk of your horse slipping and the cleat straps are designed to provide important protection
Experts give their advice on the cause and treatment of circumference wounds
The girth just holds your saddle, right? In fact, choosing and fitting a strap requires as much thought as
Horse & Hound magazine, published every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and features, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, veterinary advice and training. Find out how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service which brings you the latest news and reports plus other benefits.