Girth lengths: how to measure at home

  • Of all the essential parts of a horse’s saddlery, the girth is often the most overlooked item. Knowing how to measure a horse’s girth correctly is vital for your safety – this is not a piece of kit that you can muddle through if it’s a little on the small or large side.

    The most straightforward method of making sure you buy the right size, is to measure your old girth if it fitted correctly, or – if it’s a new horse or a new saddle – to try a friend’s to see what length fits your saddle and horse best. Your girth should naturally fit around the middle hole of the straps, to allow room for tightening a few holes – going up evenly on each side – and also to be able to do it up gradually.

    Girths are measured from end of buckle to end of buckle, i.e. the full length, and normally come in two-inch increments. However, taking your old girth into the shop will ensure there’s no guesswork. Bear in mind that old girths or ones with elastic can stretch over time. Also, if the girth’s buckles are set back, as on some dressage girths, it might measure slightly longer and affect which size of girth will fit correctly.

    With long billet straps and a short girth, you should have about three fingers between the top of the girth and the bottom of the saddle pad. This will keep the saddle stable and helps avoid the straps pinching or the horse’s elbow hitting the buckles.

    For a long girth, the buckles should not be so high under your thigh that they feel bulky – this means that the girth is on the long side. Ideally you should have at least two billet holes above and at least one below the buckles.

    How to measure a horse’s girth at home

    Find a piece of string of at least 60in long or a fabric tape measure. Place your saddle, pad and whatever else you normally use under your saddle on the horse in the usual position. Pass the piece of string or tape measure from the middle hole on one of the girth straps and pass the string under your horse, about four inches back from his elbow, to the corresponding girth hole on the other side. Measure the length of the string (or consult the tape measure) in inches and this is the size girth you need.

    As a very general rule, the average 15–16hh horse will use a 46–48in long girth; and around 26in short girth. However, it depends a good deal on the saddle and type of girth as well as the horse’s breed and condition.

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