Few items of tack can cause more misery for a horse than an uncomfortable girth. Girths can also cause discomfort for the rider due to bulk, buckle placement, and ease of adjusting while mounted. Happily, none of the girths we tested posed major problems for our horses or our riders.
We tested both short girths made for the long billets of most dressage saddles and longer girths made for the shorter billets of other English saddles. Our testers tried them on a variety of horses, but the real litmus test on comfort came from those horses who make opinions about girths crystal clear — those truly girthy horses and ponies.
We tested 18 regular, long girths. Again, the overall evaluation is that these are quality, comfortable girths. There’s a wide range of prices, and we found you basically get what you pay for in girths.
The Eisers Pessoa Jubilee is a beautiful piece of equipment. It’s sleek, elegant, refined and functional. It got high marks for durability, ease of use, and quality, even from the most girthy horses. We attribute this to the soft, pliable leather and that the elastic on the ends was flexible enough to fasten the girth easily. It didn’t lose its shape or stretch, showing almost no wear. We found this girth preferable to even some more padded girths.
The Dover Pro Split-End girth scored equally well on comfort and durability with its wonderfully soft leather and nice padding. It also received high marks for durability, with the elastic ends getting positive commentary for sturdiness.
In some models, comfort seemed to be sacrificed somewhat for durability. The Miller’s Crosby Chafeless Baghide girth is extremely durable, but we weren’t sure about its initial stiff, hard feel, which diminished only slightly throughout the test. On the other hand, the girth stayed in perfect condition.
The Dover Saddlery Showmark fleece-lined girth was used mostly by a pony who always needed a fleece girth cover. This girth, with its leather exterior and fleecy underside, seemed like an improvement over a girth cover — and it was, mostly.
The pony was just as content wearing this girth as his regular model with a girth cover over it. We were pleased, too, until it came time to wash the fleecy underside. We tried washing it by hand, as the directions recommended, but we felt we never got it adequately clean.
The well-priced Courbette girth showed quality leather, craftsmanship and design.
The moderately priced Whitman models were a nice balance between economy and cost, particularly the heavy leather overlay girth.
The Thornhill models were a little more expensive but were well-liked by our testers and quite durable. We had a 46” triple elastic split-end girth tested on a cranky pony with pleasant results. The pony did not protest during girthing, and the model held up well, even though it was used by a child rider who as often as not left the girth on the barn floor, stuffed in a tack trunk or twisted under the saddle after riding.
We tested four dressage girths. All received high ratings for durability and comfort. They retained their size and shape during rigorous use. All were easy to use without a breaking-in period. They were easy to clean, and all were comfortable.
The Whitman girth didn’t seem much different than the others initially, but two slight differences evidently increased the degree of comfort we noted from our test horses. The leather was somewhat softer than on the other models, and the elastic had a bit more give. The differences did not seem dramatic, but our girth-sensitive horses clearly noticed.
The downside to the extra give in the elastic ends is, of course, decreased durability. After four months of use, the elastic was not stretched but did look more worn.
However, we’re not willing to sacrifice comfort for durability and would rather replace or repair a girth more frequently to achieve a higher level of comfort.
The only critic of the Dover Pro Dressage #0222 was our most girthy horse, and even his objection was mild. This girth is well-designed with comfort in mind. The model is well padded, wide in the center, with rounded ends to avoid pinching.
The Dover Grand Prix #0228 dressage girth has a wide band of elastic through the middle with leather at the ends where there is usually elastic. Although this was a little more difficult to fasten without elastic at the girth ends, we got used to it. Again, the only objectors were our most girthy horses, probably due to the lack of flexibility where the girth is fastened.
As we stated, there’s not a girth in this test that isn’t a good choice. It was an incredible selection. However, we have favorites.
In dressage girths, the Whitman Smooth Leather #300607 offers a bit more in comfort, feeling softer and with a bit more give. Dover’s Pro #0222 is a solid runner-up.
In regular girths, we liked the Eisers Pessoa Jubilee best. It’s an incredible girth in terms of styling and comfort — if you don’t mind its price tag. Again, Dover is runner-up with its Split-End girth. Thornhill and Whitman also offer nice combinations of durability and comfort. For a Best Buy, we like Courbette’s $66.30 Chafeless girth.
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: Courbette Saddlery 800/848-8663; Dover Saddlery 800/989-1500; Eisers/EPC, Miller’s Harness and Whitman 800/526-6310; Saddlery Trade 800/446-7966; State Line Tack 800/228-9208; Thornhill 610/444-3998.