The Effect of Girth Type on the Movements of the Ridden Horse

Introduction

The importance of saddle fitting and its effect on performance has been recognised in almost every discipline. However, little attention is paid to girth fit, even though the conformation of the horse at the girth area and the girth itself can greatly change the fit and position of the saddle. Girth pressure and tightness have been shown to affect the performance of the horse. Currently, many girth types are available on the market made out of different materials and designs. In recent years, girths claiming to reduce the pressure behind the elbow and increase the range of motion of the joint have been designed, with little evidence to support these claims.

Materials & Methods

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of girth type on kinematic variables associated with performance in the competition horse. Six horses were used in this study, all of similar height and fitness. The horses were subject to four treatments, their own girth to act as a control, a stud girth, a gel girth and a pressure relieving girth (Fairfax). The horses were ridden through a runway at all three gaits and over a fence. High speed video footage (30Hz) was collected and video analysis was carried out using the software Image J. The following performance parameters were measured; stride length, stride duration and stride frequency, knee protraction, knee height and knee angle, elbow, hock ,stifle and top line angles at all gaits and jumping. SPSS statistical analysis package was used to analyse the data.

Results

The results showed that there was no significant difference (P>0.05) of girth type on the movement of the horse at any gait. However, trends were seen on the stride length between the gel girth (1.28 ± 0.088 m) and the Fairfax girth (1.41 ± 0.072 m) at trot. The Fairfax girth gave the horse a longer stride length at trot. There was a numerical difference seen at the elbow angle between the Fairfax girth (80.1± 3.53°) and the control (75.0± 3.34°) at canter. This shows that the control girth gave a higher elevation of the forearm at canter. At walk, there was a numerical difference at the protraction angle of the forelimb between the stud girth (40.5 ±1.20°) and the gel girth (47.9 ±7.45°).This shows that the horse gave a higher lift of the forearm during extension with the gel girth. There was no significant difference (P>0.05) of girth type on the jumping technique of the horse. Even though not significant, there was a numerical difference on the knee retraction angle at take off between the stud girth (57.6 ±3.44°) and the Fairfax girth (68.4 ±7.86°).The stud girth showed a lesser angle indicating a higher lift of the forearm at take off. Top line angle had a numerical difference between the stud girth (167.3 ±4.13°) and the Fairfax girth (163.6 ±5.22°).This indicated that the stud girth gives a larger angle giving the horse a better shape over the fence.

Conclusion

A desirable expressive gait of a horse is associated with a long stride length, high forelimb protraction and a rounded top line. This study shows that the type of girth used ridden did not have an effect on gait quality on riding school horses. Girth type also did not have an effect on the jumping technique of the horse.