A while back after writing the Saddle Fitting Saga series, I promised a follow up on how girths affect saddle fit and how different girths may work for different shaped horses and why. And of course, since then, I promptly hurt my back and finally was forced to take the time off from riding that my doctors told me to take three years ago, and six years ago, and … oh, several times wherein I of course, like a true eventer, completely ignored them.
So here we are, heading into winter and I have a stack of girths to try and a field of horses getting fat. In the meantime, however, my good friend Lauren Schwartzenberger had ordered one of the girths I was hoping to test, but in the dressage version. She purchased the Total Saddle Fit Stretch Tech girth and shared a review on Facebook with her friends, which I asked if I could share on here (since no riding makes it harder for me to blog about … um … riding) and she kindly agreed!
She owns three chestnut mares (I know, she’s crazy, right?) that are warmbloods — one is retired and the other two she tested the girth on. Compliments of Lauren, here’s her review.
The Total Saddle Fit StretchTec girth can be purchased with neoprene or leather backing. Both can be removed and swapped but only the leather backing allows the full stretch of the center elastic at the sternum. I opted for the leather backing as it was more cost effective to purchase it first and later purchase the neoprene separately if the elastic proves to have too much give.
The girth came with a ballcap! I’m a hat person so will probably wind up wearing it around the farm doing chores in the summer. The quality of the girth itself was impressive right out of the box. Nice quality leather, strong stitching, attention to detail and craftsmanship are clearly present in this product.
I purchased this girth because Ella’s conformation encourages her saddle to slide forward and onto her shoulder. This is very upsetting to her, understandably.
I rode both Ella and Gratulantin with this girth yesterday and apart from my Thinline pad I haven’t been so impressed with an “innovative product” before!
Ella went first and the saddle stayed in the same spot with substantial elbow clearance and the shoulder was completely free. At all walk and trot work the saddle stayed in its place. When we work on canter lately we use a small cross rail for departures and she jumped it as though it was four feet tall and landed with a buck before continuing on. While the saddle did come a bit forward at her exuberance, it was nothing like before this girth!
Ultimately I need to either shim my Thinline or put a narrower gullet in my saddle, and I think our issue won’t be fully addressed until her shape changes again and she grows (she is 7). Long term she will need a custom saddle — I am starting to compare makes and am leaning towards N2 or Custom for my own preference based on their seats’ balance. Apart from the saddle fit, and because of it, she felt much more comfortable and relaxed.
Gratulantin was next and has no saddle fit issues (yay!). Because of this I didn’t expect to notice much of a difference in her way of going – boy was I wrong! She noticed the difference before I walked her down to ride her, looked back breathed in and out and nudged me. She’s definitely one that lets you know what she thinks and really leaves no room for confusion!
Immediately she was forward but relaxed — no tension, just forward. She also had a new bit on so the rest is slightly speculative but I’d say the combination of the Myler 33 Level 3 bit with the nice generous port with independent movement maintained on either side and the Total Saddle Fit StretchTec girth are a win for her! She has a fat tongue and narrow palate and I’ve spent a few hundred on bits this year trying to figure out something to give her tongue a bit of room, this was clearly the right track. I am excited to see what the next few weeks bring with her.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this girth to anyone who rides dressage or has a monoflap with long billets. I will be purchasing a long girth from them when they offer it with the StretchTec option. With the research out there supporting the need for a piece of equipment like this to accommodate the expansion of the horse’s rib cage while breathing I see no reason to pass it up!
Bottom line: this product lives up to its claims. Gratulantin, Emperatriz, and I give it two thumbs up!
Thanks so much Lauren, for sharing your excellent review, and for buying me some time until I am back in the saddle. I am curious to see for myself how the different sized/shaped/contoured girths work for me and my crew, as I am guessing it won’t be a winner-take-all situation.
I have three different horses I will be testing girths on, including a high withered, short backed OTTB with a relatively broad/round rib cage; an Oldenburg that is a bit wedge shaped both front to back and top to bottom with some rather large withers for his breed; and a Dutch Warmblood that’s a lot boxier typical of the heavier warmblood breeds.
It will be interesting to see how my experiences compare, and how the hunter/jumper girths work in comparison to the dressage style girths so that we can be covered in all phases of competition. Go Eventing!