Horse Girths Buying Guide
Girths comes in many different sizes, shapes, materials, and lengths. If you are contemplating buying one, you can easily be left scratching your head trying to pick the one that’s right for you and your horse from the vast selection that’s available these days. Use our buying guide to help you make the best choice.
What is a girth?
A girth is an essential addition to your saddle as without one your saddle is of little use. A girth is a long, broad piece of material often made of webbing, leather or cotton that secures the saddle to the horse, each offering unique benefits.
What does a girth do?
The girth is designed to keep the saddle on the horse, keeping it secure and to prevent it from slipping from side to side.
A horse’s girth attaches by buckles to your saddles’ “billet straps”. These are the three straps underneath the top flap, on each side of the saddle. The billets are securely attached to the saddle’s tree, so once a girth is buckled to the billets, it prevents the saddle from slipping.
What type of girth do I need for my saddle?
Different type of saddles will need different girths, there are two main types of saddles that will cause you to need different girths:
If you have a dressage saddle or a monoflap jumping saddle, the billet straps will be very long and extend beyond the bottom of both the saddle flaps. This is so the girth buckles don't end up under your leg and interfere with your leg aids. The girth you'll need for this type of saddle is very short.
If you have a General Purpose or Close Contact or almost any other variation of an English saddle, the billet straps are much shorter and usually don't extend beyond the bottom of both saddle flaps. For these types of saddles, you'll need a much longer girth. This will allow the girth to reach the short billet straps on these types of saddles.
How do I measure my horse for a girth?
Place your saddle pad and saddle on your horse along with any padding that you will be using underneath your saddle.
Have a helper hold a fabric measuring tape and hold at approximately the middle billet hole on one side of the saddle.
Stretch the tape under your horse, one hands width away from the back of the horse’s elbow to the same billet hole on the other side. The measurement that you get is the size of the girth that your horse requires.
What size girth do I need?
Having measured your horse and knowing what type of saddle you have, you can now work out from the tables below what size girth you need.
|Short Girths Size Chart|
|Size in Inches||Size in CM|
|Long Girths Size Chart|
|Size in Inches||Size in CM|
How do I correctly put a girth on my horse?
Firstly, feel the area where the girth will sit, making sure that there are no lumps, cuts, rubs or dirt.
Your horse, believe it or not, has a “natural girth groove”, i.e., the best place for the girth on him. The reason why a saddle has three billet straps means that you can position the girth where it will sit most naturally in your horse's own girth groove.
Attach the girth on one side on the loosest billet hole, then attach the girth on the other side. When adjusting the girth, do it up incrementally on either side so that the girth is on a similar hole on both sides, ensuring the pressure is evenly spread.
If the horse’s girth is adjusted correctly, you should be able to side your flat hand underneath the girth on both sides. Never crank up the girth as tightly as possible or very quickly, this can be uncomfortable for your horse. If your horse’s girth is too tight or does not fit them correctly, this could cause them to become girthy. Showing signs of discomfort or pain, this could include putting their ears back, not standing still, moving away or even biting.
What type of girth do I need for my horse?
The right type of girth will depend on your horse’s saddle, his shape, the way he moves and what discipline you ride in.
In recent years anatomical girths, or shaped girths as they are also known as have become more popular. They have been designed to be more comfortable for your horse, they are shaped around horse horse’s elbow to allow your horse to move freely. Some also have a wider panel to sit on your horse’s breastbone, this is to provide a more even pressure for your horse for added comfort.
These shaped girths can be very helpful in added security of your saddle, for example, large, shouldered horses can sometimes pull the saddle forwards and cause irritation with the horse catching his elbows, an anatomical girth offers maximum room for the elbow and shoulder. Good for horses that have an extravagant movement or with a large shoulder action. It can also be effective on horses that are a little rounder with not much of a wither, preventing the saddle from slipping to one side as the girth will contour to your horse’s body adding more security.
For horses with a girth groove less prominent or closer to the elbow area or where girths are situated far forward. The girth is cut back further in the front to allow extra distance to the elbow.
Anatomical horse girths are designed to allow the saddle to sit further back off the shoulders, whilst still allowing the girth straps to line up with the girth buckles. These anatomical girths are designed to relieve pressure and allow freedom of movement.
For horses with short backs, wide rib cages and/or narrow chest. The crescent girth shape gives room for the bulk of the rib cage and belly and prevents the girth from pushing forward.
For horses with an athletic wedge-shaped build. The special cut of the girth prevents the girth and saddle from sliding backwards.
What material are girths made of?
Girths are available in many different materials; they offer unique benefits to the horse and rider and vary in price.
Leather is one of the most popular choices as it comes in different colours so you can match it with other items of your tack. It’s smart and they often have padding for your horse’s comfort. Leather is soft and lasts a long time if cared for properly. They are easy to care for and quality leather becomes softer and more luxurious for your horse with care and conditioning. This type of girth may have elastic and can be found in straight or anatomical shapes.
Fabric girths are often more affordable and lower maintenance. Often made from cotton, they are soft for the horse and can often be machine washed and hung to dry.
Synthetic girths are popular due to their affordability, durability, and easy care. They are easy to clean and can just be wiped clean with soap and water. They can come in contoured or straight styles and are often lightweight and weatherproof.
Neoprene girths are great for reducing friction and moisture build up, preventing against rubbing and sores. The material is soft and comfortable against your horses’ skin, it’s also easy to clean.
Whatever material girth you choose for your horse, it’s important that it’s kept clean. A dirty girth is likely to rub your horse and make him sore.
Girth Features and What Else to Look for
Elastic vs. Non-Elastic
A girth has the potential to put a large amount of pressure on the horse’s musculature, you should aim to place this pressure evenly across your horse’s girth area. Horse girths can come with or without elastic, having elastic on both sides helps to the make sure that the girth distributes even pressure across your horse. On a short girth the elastic should be a maximum of 1” long and on a long girth a maximum of 2.5” long. This allows the ribcage room to move while keeping the saddle stable.
Some girths are available with just elastic on one side, the advantage of this is that the rib cage has room to expand, providing more comfort for your horse and providing more security than having elastic on both sides. However, this could cause your horses girth to slip to the side due to the sides being un-even.
A girth without elastic will provide more stability so if you have the problem of saddle slipping, a non-elasticated girth might help, once you have checked the fit of the saddle is correct.
Be aware that an elastic girth may wear quicker, this is due to the elastic stretching or fraying. This could compromise the fit and safety of your saddle. Always make sure that you check your girth while riding and watch out for fraying at the elastic and buckle attachments.
Built-in Belly Guard
Some girths have built-in belly guards and are commonly known as Stud Girths as the belly guards protect the horse from being injured from shoe studs while its hooves are tucked up tightly over the jumps.
Studs are often used when jumping on grass as they protect your horse from slipping. However, if your horse is neat in front, your horse could still easily strike themselves as they pick up their feet to jump.
It’s important that the middle part of your stud girth is of a suitable size to act as a guard to prevent your horse from injuring themselves. To get the best protection, you also need to make sure the stud girth does not pinch or restrict your horse’s movement. You can do this by making sure that your horses girth fits correctly, sitting in the right position and is made of soft, good quality materials with padded sides.
Lined girths can include anti-chafe, sheepskin, synthetic and wool lining. This adds to the comfort of the girth, especially helpful for sensitive horses and can also help to absorb sweat from the skin, preventing the chances of rubbing.
Some girths can have added features such as buckles and clips for the attachment of training aids, martingales, and breastplates.
A Girth extender can be used to add length to a girth that’s too small for your horse. A girth extender creates a bulk, so it should eventually be replaced with a longer girth.
These can be used to protect your saddle from damage from the buckles of the girth. They are often easy to attach, just sliding onto the billet straps of your saddle.
Shop the Shires Blenheim Girth Buckle Guards
Girth Sleeves can provide cushioning and relieve pressure from your horse, making them great for sensitive horses. They can also absorb sweat, wicking away moisture from the skin, helping to prevent rubbing. Girth sleeves need to be kept clean to provide the maximum benefit for your horse.
It’s important that your horse’s girth is kept clean, if it’s dirty, it can cause rubs and girth galls and make it uncomfortable for your horse. The care of the girth depends on the material, leather will need more care than some fabric girths. Leather will need to be cleaned and conditioned with leather conditioner whereas some fabrics may be machine washable in cool temperatures.
FAQs about Girths
Q1. What does “girthy” mean and do girths cause it?
This means that your horse is displaying negative body language when being girthed. This can include signs of pain and discomfort.
Q2. What is the best girth for a sensitive horse?
It’s essential that your horses girth fits correctly, a sheep skin girth sleeve or lining can offer added comfort for a sensitive horse. Anatomically shaped or anti-chafe girths can also help a sensitive horse.
Q3. How do you prevent girth sores?
You can help to prevent girth sores by keeping your girth clean and making sure that the girth is correctly shaped for your horse. It’s also important to make sure your horse is clean, and any sweat is washed away after being ridden.
Q4. What is the “girth groove”?
The girth groove is behind the horse’s elbows is where the girth naturally sits when on a horse.
Q5. Which girth straps should I use?
The 1st and 3rd straps are commonly used, however, if you are unsure, you should consult a saddle fitter.
Q6. What is the most comfortable girth for my horse?
The most comfortable girth for your horse is one that fits correctly, if you are concerned about the comfort, you could use a sheepskin lined girth or a girth sleeve for added comfort.
Q7. How tight should my horse’s girth be?
You should be able to slide a hand down the girth when it’s fastened, it should feel secure but not squashing your hand.
Q8. What is a shoulder relief girth?
A shoulder relief girth is a girth that’s anatomically designed to be cut back from the shoulder to allow more movement.
Q9. Can an anatomical girth make my saddle fit better?
A girth does not change the fit of a saddle, if you are worried that your saddle does not fit correctly then you need to arrange a saddle fitter to check it. Although a girth cannot change the fit of your saddle it can make a well fitted saddle more secure. Especially for rounder horses with flat withers, it can help prevent the saddle from slipping side to side.
Q10. What do I do if I still do not know what girth to get for my horse?
If you are struggling to find a girth that works for your horse, a saddle fitter will be able to help you find the right one and ensure your saddle is not causing the issue.
To some degree, there is no way to find out if you have the right girth for your horse until you try it out. You might find synthetic girths cause galls. Some may hold heat or irritate your horse's skin, but most are comfortable and easy to clean. Or you might find leather girths not quite right or even quite the opposite. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right one, but it’ll be worth it in the end!