Without a girth, your saddle won’t stay in place. But the type of cinch you choose can influence your horse’s stride.
A 2015 study from the United Kingdom has shown that girths that have high-pressure points can interfere with limb protraction and extension. Girths designed to eliminate pressure points gave greater hind limb and forelimb protraction and greater carpal (knee) and tarsal (hock) flexion.
The study was designed to try and determine the location of peak pressure under different girths and to compare horse gait between a standard girth and a girth designed to avoid detected peak pressure points.
The researchers used “pressure mats” under the girths to determine pressure. The first part of the study revealed that in standard girths, “peak pressures were located over the musculature behind the elbow.” This standard girth was referred to as Girth S in the study. The girth that was designed to avoid pressure points was referred to as Girth F.
In the second part of the study, the researchers used 20 elite horses/riders with no lameness or performance problems in the experiment. The horses were ridden at a trot in Girth F and Girth S in a double-blind crossover design (meaning each horse was ridden with each type of girth). The researchers used the pressure mat data and high-speed videos of forelimbs and hind limbs to look at protraction and maximal carpal and tarsal flexion during leg movement.
“Pressure mat results revealed that the maximum forces with Girth S were 22% (left) and 14% (right) greater than Girth F, and peak pressures were 76% (left) and 98% (right) greater (P < 0.01 for all),” noted the study.
“On gait evaluation, Girth F was associated with 6–11% greater forelimb protraction, 10–20% greater hindlimb protraction, 4% greater carpal flexion, and 3% greater tarsal flexion than Girth S (P < 0.01 for all),” the researchers found.
“Peak pressures were located where horses tend to develop pressure sores,” the researchers noted. “Girth F reduced peak pressures under the girth and improved limb protraction and carpal/ tarsal flexion, which may reflect improved posture and comfort.”
By Kimberly S. Brown