Knowing how to measure horse girth goes a long way in improving your riding experience.
Girths come in many sizes and styles and finding the appropriate one can be challenging.
Whether you want to get the right cinch size for your horse or want to track your horse’s body weight, I’ve got you covered.
In this post, I will discuss all you need to know about measuring a girth for horses and how you can use this measurement.
Check: The Best Anatomical Girth for Horses
What is a Horse Girth?
Also known as a cinch in western riding, a girth is a piece of belt-like device that helps secure the saddle in place while making your horse comfortable as you ride.
When riding a horse, you move often, and sometimes the saddle will slide and come to the side, forward, or back.
You wouldn’t want that since this distracts both you and the horse and makes riding uncomfortable.
Girths can either be made of cotton, leather (leather girths are a popular choice), webbing, or a combination of these materials. Synthetic girths exist, but they are not always durable.
The ideal girth is strong enough to handle any strain, enhance the correct saddle position, but still comfortable for the horse.
For instance, they should allow movement along the rib cage as the horse breathes.
To effectively secure the saddle, girths attach to the saddles’ billet straps using buckles and go around the horse from the withers, down through the rib cage, then a couple of inches behind the front-limb elbows (also known as the horse’s barrel), and to the other side of the saddle.
Most of them are also adjustable to make sure they have a firm grip without pinching the horse. Some may even cause sores known as girth galls if they’re not appropriately attached.
Maintaining them and repairing them regularly helps increase their lifespan and protects your horse from chafing by damaged girths.
How to Measure Horse Girth
There are two ways to conduct horse girth measurements; with the saddle and without the saddle.
How to Measure for a Horse Girth Without the Saddle/Cinch
This method works best for a western cinch.
Have the horse stand on level ground.
Hold one tip of the tape measure at the base of the withers and run the tape down to the natural girth groove (about 4 inches behind the elbows).
Then, run the tape up to where you started. Pull the tape measure so that it fits snugly and record the measurement. In this example, we will use 60 Inches as our heart girth measurement.
Once you get the measurement, divide by 2 and subtract 3. Below is the equation based on our size above;
(60/2) – 3 = 27
So, our girth size will be 27 inches. If you have an odd number, you may have to round it off to the nearest even number since most girths are sold in even numbers (or 2-inch increments).
In this case, we will round off our girth size to 28 inches. I will explain how to measure the correct size of the girth in a minute.
You can also check the video below for an actual demonstration:
How to Measure a Horse Girth With the Saddle
This method is easier and more accurate since you will have the saddle you will be using. It works great when measuring English-style girths and dressage girth sizes since they have different girth lengths.
Have the horse stand on level ground.
Place the baby pad, saddle pad, saddle, and everything else you use with your horse.
Hold one end of the tape measure on the second-last hole of the billet straps. If your saddles have longer girth straps, place one end of the tape measure on the middle hole of the billet straps.
Note: Always use a fabric tape measure since regular tape measures can’t curve as required around the horse. You can also use a string or baling twine.
Run the other end of the tape measure down to the natural girth groove, then to the second-last or middle hole of the billet strap on the other side. As I said, it depends on the saddle type you’re using.
Record the measurement.
Measuring the Actual Girth
Once you have the correct measurements for your horse, it’s time to get the appropriate girth. Girths should be measured from buckle end to buckle end.
Make sure the buckle’s tongue flushes with the buckle, then, using a tape measure, measure until you find one that matches your horse.
Fitting the Girth
Always make sure that the girth fits snugly, not too tight, and not too loose.
To do this, slide your palm in between the girth and the horse’s body.
If they can go through and the girth feels firm, then it’s a good fit.
If your fingers slide through in and out too easily, it’s too large. And, if you can’t fit your palm, it’s too tight and needs to be adjusted.
When fitting the best dressage girth for your horse, leave a 3 to 4 fingers distance (4 to 6 inches for English saddles and 8 inches for a western saddle) between the end of the saddle pad/saddle flap and the end of the girth to prevent pinching around the rib cage.
This also ensures the stability of both the girth and the saddle. Below are more tips for fitting the girths;
- According to Riding Warehouse, the right girth should have the buckles slightly above the elbows to allow flawless elbow movement.
- There should be some space between the horse’s skin and the billet straps. This is to prevent chafing along the rib cage by the billet holes that aren’t in use. It also allows free blood flow and prevents damage to soft tissues.
- Make sure the girth buckle ends flush with the end of the girth material. If it’s too long, adjust by going for saddle pads with shorter drops or get a shorter girth.
- If you’re unsure where the heart girth is due to your horse’s body type, fit a loose girth and walk your horse for some time. The idea is to let the girth slide to the proper position as the horse moves.
ALSO READ: How to Use Dressage Girth
Why Do You Need to Measure Horse Girth?
As mentioned earlier, measuring helps get the right girth for your horse, depending on what activities you’re involved in. An ill-fitting girth may not serve its purpose.
It inhibits your horse’s movements. Or even worse, it causes injuries, irritation, and excess pressure.
Horse girth also helps in approximating the horse’s weight. A horse’s weight is essential when determining how much food and medication you need to give them.
You may not get the most accurate weight, but it’s a more straightforward method when you don’t have a scale at hand.
You need a weight tape that only measures the heart girth or a regular weight to get both the girt and body length and use a formula to get the weight.
Do you include the buckles when measuring a girth?
Yes, you do. To get a saddle fit girth, measure from buckle end to buckle end. In most cases, the girth material will flush with the buckle end. But if it’s longer, make sure you accommodate for that when fitting the girth to prevent pinching.
What Size Girth Do I Need for My Horse?
Horses come in different sizes and conformations, and so do the girths. All you need to do is measure the girth size from the 2nd or third billet hole to the corresponding billet hole on the other side of the saddle.
Measuring girth sizes for horses shouldn’t trouble you anymore. All you need is a measuring tape and some basic math knowledge, and you’ll be good to go.
Remember to regularly check the girths for wear or damage.
- “How Do You Determine the Length of a Western Cinch for a Horse? – Horses.” 2019. Extension.org. July 31, 2019. https://horses.extension.org/how-do-you-determine-the-length-of-a-western-cinch-for-a-horse/.
- “How to Measure Cinches and Girths.” 2021. Equipedic.com. 2021. https://www.equipedic.com/How-To-Measure-Cinches-and-Girths_c_35.html.
- “How to Measure, Size, and Fit a Dressage Girth for Horseback Riding.” 2020. Ridingwarehouse.com. Riding Warehouse. 2020. https://www.ridingwarehouse.com/lc/training/tack/how-to-measure-fit-a-dressage-girth.html.
- Riding Warehouse. 2014a. “How to Measure for a Horse’s Cinch Size without a Saddle.” YouTube Video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me_YnbtJ4bg.
- ———. 2014b. “How to Measure Your Horse for English & Dressage Girth Size.” YouTube Video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy5aQoRUOsA.
Did you get the whole process of measuring horse girth? Let us know below in the comments
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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