Horse Equipment - Girths
Girth versus Cinch
There are two main terms used for the strap that holds the saddle on - girth and cinch. In general, western riders use 'cinch' and English riders use 'girth'. However, even English riders might talk about 'cinching up' on occasion, rather than 'girthing up'.
Correctly, then, 'girth' should be used with an English saddle and gear and 'cinch' with western. The two words are, however, sometimes used more or less interchangeably.
Girth and Cinch Materials
The most expensive girths and cinches are made of leather. Leather looks good, lasts well and is generally comfortable for the horse. However, it does need regular cleaning and oiling. Dirty leather is likely to give a horse 'girth galls' (sores under the girth).
Many people use a leather girth only for showing and a cheaper girth the rest of the time. Western people are more inclined to use leather cinches all of the time than English, especially if using two cinches.
Neoprene is the common 'cheap' alternative. A form of strong webbing, it tends not to slip and is a good girth for horses that are 'round', but many horses dislike neoprene or web girths and they can be more inclined to cause sores.
String girths are a good idea for sensitive horses. They can be made of nylon, but more expensive string girths are wool or mohair. A string girth can be enough to cure girthiness on its own and is always worth considering as an option (They look horrific but many horses seem to like them).
Both leather and webbing girths can be made with stretch nylon panels just below the girth straps. Many horses find a stretch girth more comfortable. Girths made of stretch webbing are also available. A lot of English girths have stretch panels on only the near side, intended to make it easier to tighten the girth.
A shaped girth is designed to be thinner just behind the horse's elbows. This kind of girth is also good for sensitive horses. It allows a little more freedom of movement and prevents the girth from coming into contact with the back of the front legs.
Both girths and cinches can be found in shaped designs. Shaped girths can be made of both leather and neoprene.
Dressage saddles require special girths that are much shorter than normal English girths. The straps on the saddle go down below the flap.
This means that the girth buckles are not under the flaps, allowing more comfort for the rider's leg and closer contact with the horse. However, this style of girth can be hard to tighten when in the saddle.
A roper cinch is a western cinch that was originally designed to provide greater stability when a rope is secured to the saddle horn. It is much wider underneath the horse. This also spreads the pressure out, making it more comfortable for the horse. Because of this, some western riders use them even when not roping.
Girth or Cinch Size
The girth or cinch needs to be the right size for your horse. If you do not have a girth or cinch that you know fits the horse, then you will need to measure it.
Place the saddle on the horse, then use a tailor's tape to measure the horse's belly. With a western saddle, you should measure from the middle of the fender. For an English girl, measure from the middle of the billets. If you have an odd number of inches, round up. A slightly longer girth is always better than one which is too short. (The girth should not be tightened immediately after putting the saddle on, but rather first fitted loosely and then tightened slowly).