A bodyworker's perspective on common underlying causes of tension- Part 3

Contributed by Equine Bodyworker Stephanie Tattersall

How tight should your girth be?

Many new clients often mention that their saddle tends to slip to the left, right, forwards or backwards.. My answer is never to fasten the girth up tighter as it’s more often than not tight enough and there is usually a simple and easily rectifiable reason.

Some reasons could be uneven musculature, poor saddle fit, an inappropriately shaped girth, an unbalanced rider, high-low syndrome, conformational faults and postural issues.

When do you tighten the girth?

One of my personal niggles (I know I’m going against the grain here) is tightening the girth whilst mounted. We have a tendency to tighten it far too tight once we’re aboard as it’s a lot easier than tightening it from the ground.

I’m aware that horses like to ‘puff up’ when the girth is being fastened and so instead, try walking your horse around for a few minutes to encourage him to ‘deflate’, scratch him in his favourite itchy spot or give him a cheeky handful of grass to distract him from his sudden oxygen strike.

A girth that is too tight can cause discomfort, a drop in performance and cardiovascular issues by hindering the expansion of the ribcage.

It can also cause your saddle to slip forwards or backwards depending on the shape of your horse’s back and girth groove.

In an ideal world, the girth should be tight enough to secure the saddle in place with minimal movement but not too tight to impede the powerhouse of muscles that lie beneath it such as the ascending pectoral, the latissimus dorsi and the serratus ventralis thoracic.

Hinderance of these muscles will lead to a loss of power of the forelimb and substandard shoulder extension.

There is of course no set rule for girth tightness as all of our horses and ponies backs and girth grooves come in all shapes and sizes.

This is exactly why it is imperative that your horses saddle and girth is checked biannually by a professional to ensure the best size, shape and fit for your steed.

Rider balance is also of paramount importance, not only for saddle security but also for the general well-being of your horse’s musculature and joints.

Saddle and Girth Fit

Where to check girth tightness

When checking your girth tightness, check it underneath the sternum instead of behind the elbow.

Due to the shape of the barrel of the horse the girth naturally falls into an upside down triangle shape. There will therefore always be a bit more give along the longer sides that drape the ribcage.

To get a more reliable idea of how tight the girth is, check it at the ‘point’ underneath the horse’s torso.

There is always a reason for saddle ‘slippage’ and the answer should never be to simply fasten it up tighter.

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