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A vet is praising a tack manufacturer for testing a girth to prove its worth as a performance tool — and is urging other companies to do the same.

A paper published last month (20 August) in The Veterinary Journal showed that the Fairfax Performance Girth — used by Team GBR at last summer’s Olympics (feature, 30 August 2012) — is scientifically proven to boost performance in horses.

“There is not nearly enough rigorous scientific research into tack,” said Rachel Murray from the Animal Heath Trust, who led the writing on the paper in The Veterinary Journal.

“People accept that a horse needs to be comfortable to be at its optimum but there has been very little scientific testing into how to improve the interaction between horses and types of tack.

“Very few companies invest in research as it is expensive. I hope the publication of this paper encourages other members of the industry to follow suit, and think more about how tack can benefit both performance and welfare.”

The girth was designed after finding that high levels of pressure occur under many girths, particularly just behind the elbow where the muscles are contracting when the horse puts its foot to the floor.  A girth designed to avoid this pressure point and reduce the pressures  was tested on 22 World Class performance horses in February 2012.

Using the specially designed girth, there were lower pressures under the girth in trot, and gait analysis found horses wearing the girth reached further forward with their front and hind legs, and flexed the knee and hock more.