Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Choosing a girth

Samples of acceptable girths for the Ansür Saddle in order of preference:

1. Girths without elastic.

2. Equilizer girths.

3. Girths with elastic in the middle and not on the ends.

4. Girths with elastic only on one side.

5. Girths with elastic on both ends-one side sewn so that the elastic is not stretchy.
This particular girth is the Professional Choice and it must be pulled apart into its two halves--they Velcro together). When they are separate, sew through the 2” black strips and the Velcro backing so there is no longer any way to stretch one side of the girth. Then the two pieces are simply stuck back together again. (This separation is how the you are supposed to clean the girth after riding. that way you don’t have to get the whole top side with buckles, elastic, etc. wet.) Goes without saying that the “sewn up” side is then used on the off side.

Test: You, the rider, puts on a leather belt to hold up your pants or as a fashion accessory. So, think about it. Do you crank it as tight as you can get it? And after you walk around a few minutes do you tighten it some more? How would that feel to you if you then had to perform athletic feats with your belt on as tight as it can be pulled? How do you think your horse feels about his girth? And we wonder why they get “cranky” at girthing time.

OK, so we need to have it snug so we can mount and not pull the saddle off to the side. Snug, but not tight is the operative term. There are riders who can mount a large horse from the ground without a girth and there are riders who have trouble getting on a small horse and can dislodge even treed saddles. Most riders are somewhere in the middle between those extremes and having the girth to stabilize the saddle when mounting is a comforting thing.

Another test: Place your fingers under the front of the saddle and have someone else tighten the girth until you say stop! That hurts! By this time your horse is rolling his eyes at how his beloved rider has managed to get their fingers stuck under his saddle. This may help you understand what “too tight” feels like.

Check to see if you can slide your fingers under the saddle in several areas at the front. If it is easy to slip your fingers under the saddle, you may tighten the girth one more hole and check again until you can get your fingers under the saddle but it’s not as easy. This is most likely tight enough. The horse needs to breathe!

If you tighten the girth too much, you will cause the saddle pad to tighten on the withers, so be careful to watch that it stays in the gullet. Those center and edge seams can cause pain. Over-tightening the girth will also change the balance of the saddle’s seat. Check that once more.

You say, so what’s wrong with my double-sided elastic girth? The rider tends to over-tighten these stretchy girths just because it’s easier and they can. Most riders tighten them so much that they aren’t stretchy anymore…which in turn stretches out the elastic and the rider tightens it once again. When the horse trots, jogs, gallops or canters, that stretchy girth acts like a bungee cord allowing the saddle to bounce up and snapping it back down. The Ansur saddles are designed to sit in contact with the horse’s back at all movements and gaits.

Try another test. Put your girth on at light to moderate adjustment—not flopping but a bit too loose for you to mount. Lunge the horse briefly at walk, trot and canter and observe how the saddle sits, moves with the horse and magically doesn’t slide off.

So the bottom line is: sit level in the middle of the horse and be safe without over tightening your girth. Then both horse and rider can enjoy the ride!