How to Fit a Girth or Cinch on a Horse
Do you have a favorite riding memory? We've heard heartwarming stories of riding through creeks, cantering across open fields or winning first place at a tough competition. But, we've yet to hear a favorite memory about a saddle horizontally shifting, sending the rider plummeting to the ground.
Your horse's girth is crucial to a comfortable and safe ride. Learning how to fit a girth to your horse is simple once you know the right steps. Consider these FAQs if you think you need a girth fit upgrade.
Why Is It Important to Fit a Girth to a Horse?
If you're new to the equestrian world, it's important you learn a girth's primary function: to keep the saddle in place and prevent any unwanted shifting during your ride. On either side of the saddle, there are two or three leather straps, called billets, that attach the girth using buckles. The girth rests under the horse on the horse's heart girth area.
Fitting a girth to your horse is important because it allows the horse to move freely, ensuring a comfortable and confident ride. If your girth doesn't fit right, it can lead to problems like girth galls, pressures sores or unsettling swelling. Avoid these problems by frequently checking your girth and, if needed, purchasing one that fits your horse better.
What Is the Difference Between English and Western Girths?
The biggest distinction between English and Western riding styles is the type of tack the horse wears. Western riding has a larger and heavier saddle, while English saddles are thinner and lightweight. The girth's fit is just as dependent on the saddle as it is your horse's size, meaning you should properly fit your saddle before fitting a girth.
Each style uses different girths. Technically, "girth" skews more towards English tack, while Western tack uses what is referred to as a cinch. They both do the same thing but are different in size and shape to accommodate the differences in saddles.
Does Your Current Girth Fit Right?
First, make sure your girth lays flat against your horse's underside. Then, to see if it fits properly, you should:
- Check for any wrinkles or folds, and make sure your horse's skin isn't being pinched.
- Look for any swelling, which may indicate the girth is too long or pulled too tight.
- Examine the buckle placement. They should rest comfortably behind your horse's elbow, and the metal shouldn't pinch your horse.
The billets are also a good way to check if your girth is fitting right. If it is, you should be able to adjust the girth on the same billet holes on either side of the saddle. If you find yourself over-tightening your girth or notice a buildup of bulky leather under your leg, you may need to get a smaller girth.
How to Measure for an English Girth
Gather your horse from their pasture or stall and place them on cross ties or tie them to a stall. To measure, all you'll need is your saddle, saddle pad and a soft measuring tape. If you don't have a flexible measuring tape on hand, use an extra piece of bailing twine.
1. Locate the Heart Girth
With your horse on the cross ties, place your saddle and saddle pad on as you normally would. Don't attach the girth just yet. Here, find your horse's heart girth, usually 4 inches behind their elbow.
2. Grab the Billet
Starting with the billet on one side of your saddle, hold the end of the measuring tape on the second hole from the bottom. Saddles, whether Western or English, have unique billet strap lengths. If you're planning to use more than one saddle, stay mindful that you may need more than one girth size.
3. Position the Measuring Tape
During this step, think of the measuring tape like a girth. Take the other end of the measuring tape and wrap it under your horse to match it with the second or third hole on the saddle's opposite billets. Make sure the measuring tape lays flat against your horse's underside for the best measurement.
4. Record the Measurement
Once you have your tape measure accurately placed, record the measurement in inches. With that number, calculate an English girth size using the following formula:
- (Recorded measurement ÷ 2) - 3 = English girth size
For example, if you recorded 102 inches, you would divide that number in half to get 51. Then, subtract 3 from 51 for a long girth size of 48. Girths are typically available in even-number size increments, so if you get an odd number, round up.
Your horse's girth size depends on their hand size and your saddle, but in general, they're as follows:
- 13H to 14H: 38-40 for a long girth and 18-20 for a short girth
- 14H to 15H: 42-44 or 22-24
- 15H to 16H: 46-48 or 26
- 16H to 17H: 50-52 or 28
- 17H and over: 54-56 or 30-32
If you're riding in an English saddle or jumping, you're likely going to need a long girth. Short girths are usually for dressage. The girth shouldn't feel too tight, but tight enough that the saddle won't shift while riding. When checking, make sure there's enough space to fit three to four fingers between the girth and your horse.
How to Measure for a Western Girth
Measuring a horse for a Western cinch follows similar steps to measuring for an English girth. The main difference is the type of girth and larger saddle. Gather your horse from the paddock or barn and place them on cross ties.
1. Place the Saddle and Saddle Pad
Place your saddle and saddle pad on your horse. Give them a treat for being so patient, and after their fitting, use this opportunity to give them a horse pampering day. Any reason to increase your bond with your horse is a good excuse.
2. Locate the Heart Girth
Next, find your horse's heart girth. As a visual, look at the highest part of your horse's withers and make a vertical line behind and below your horse's elbow. This underpart of your horse, usually marked by a slight natural indent, is where your girth will lay.
3. Position the Measuring Tape
Using your soft measuring tape, place one end on the dee ring, the metal loop that holds the billets. Following the horse's heart girth, wrap the measuring tape under your horse and connect the other end to the opposite side's dee ring.
Make sure there are no twists in the measuring tape for the most accurate measurement.
4. Record the Measurement
Read the measurement in inches, then subtract 16 inches from that number. These 16 inches account for the 8-inch spaces on either side of the saddle between the saddle dee and cinch buckle.
Like English girths, cinch sizes are commonly made in 2-inch increments, so round up if you get an odd number. For a general guideline, sizes are as follows:
- 13H to 14H: 30
- 14H to 15H: 30-32
- 15H to 16H: 32-34
- 16H to 17H: 36
Of course, these sizes are just estimates. If your horse is naturally more rounded, you can expect going up in measurements, and vice versa.
Do You Measure a Girth From Buckle to Buckle?
If you're looking for an upgrade to a current girth that fits well, you can measure that girth as a reference. We still recommend measuring your horse for the best fit, because there's a good chance your used girth stretched over time.
To measure an old girth, lay it on a surface and straighten it until flat. Using a soft measuring tape, simply measure it from buckle to buckle, recording it in inches. If you need help, many tack stores are willing to assist you in finding the best replacement.
Browse Our Large Selection of Quality English and Western Girths
At Horse Tack Company, we love helping you and your horse Love the Ride. If you're in the New Holland, Pennsylvania area, come visit us in person. We'd be more than willing to help you find the best girth for your horse. You can also browse our large selection of quality English girths and Western cinches online.
If you have any questions, fill out a contact form for more information today.