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The girth just holds your saddle on, right? Actually, choosing and fitting a girth requires as much careful consideration as the rest of your tack — not every girth is suitable for every horse, and it’s always worth consulting a saddle fitter.

“The girth has to be used in the right way — if your horse doesn’t have the conformation the girth is designed for, then it will cause a bigger problem,” says master saddle fitting consultant Lauren Knott.

Once you have selected an appropriate girth for your horse, check out our top tips for ensuring comfort, safety and longevity of your girth.

1. Feel around your horse’s girth area before putting the girth on, checking for lumps, bumps, cuts, mud and dirt.

2. Always use girths with roller buckles. Rollers ensure the straps stay healthy; buckles without rollers scrape and weaken the leather each time you use them and ultimately wear them out.

3. When untacking, make sure you undo the girth on both sides before placing it over the saddle.

4. When putting the girth on, do it up incrementally on either side so that the girth is always on a similar hole each side.

5. Once the saddle is in the correct position, the girth should sit in the horse’s natural girth groove and attach to the billet straps, which it lines up with vertically. It’s imperative that the girth is attached to the correct straps; if none of the straps point directly to the girth, then new ones need to be added.

“The girth should be vertical,” says Lauren Knott. “If the girth is slightly forward or backward, then that’s a red flag it’s not fitting correctly, so speak to your saddle fitter.”

6. Ensure you regularly check that the buckles, stitching and other materials that form part of the girth, such as elastic, are in good working condition.

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7. Don’t neglect the care and regular cleaning of your girth.

“I frequently see girths which have not been cleaned and consequently are rock hard with sharp edges and sides,” says qualified independent saddle fitter Steph Bradley. “Care of your girth is so important, particularly when the horse has been clipped, as it lies on such a sensitive area.”

Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (18 January 2018) for our products special issue