Also I had this post beautifully laid out and written (coherently!) but then blogger ate it. So if there's a passive-aggressive undertone, it's because I'm shooting laser beams of hate at blogger as I retype the whole damn thing. (hate hate hate).
But since I can't quite get my act together on Gus' Big Adventures, or my progress (if we're calling it that) with Prair, I'll move on to a more pressing matter:
I've been on a bit of an obsessive kick with trying to get Prair a new girth. Our current model, the Dover Split End, is lovely, and wearing well, but it's been feeling a bit thin and tight recently - and given Prair's recurring tenderness on her sternum and left pec, I've been daydreaming about a bigger, wider, squishier option for her. (I've been using the Dover girths for two years, in two different sizes and love them, I'd recommend them and note that they end upon sale fairly regularly)
Anyway, I'm not sure a new girth is going to be the difference maker for Prair, but you know me - once I'm hunting for tack... it's hard to stop until I've bought at least three options. Whee!
So, I started looking. I'm a big fan of CWD, but I sort of hate their girths. They feel hard and boring to me, and since I'm looking for not hard and not boring, they were out right from the start... I did a cursory search amongst the "big" saddle makers and either didn't find what I wanted, or couldn't find it for under $400....
What I was really looking for was a jumping equivalent of all those beautiful wide, heavily padded Dressage girths out there. I own a couple short girths that are lovely, but lack any similar long ones...
Initial searches were not that fruitful. My most important criteria was a wider than normal girth, with secondary considerations given to padding and shape.
Dover had very little that was intriguing to me. The only real temptation there is the Tad Coffin Performance Comfort Girth, which does indeed look wide, and I'm certain is made with fabulous leather, but at $350, it's a very expensive horse belt.
Then I headed to SmartPak to see what they had. There were a couple of good options worth perusing, covering a variety of price points.
On the lower end of the spectrum were the SmartPak brand nylon/fleece/air girths. There are several models, all with pretty decent reviews that looked like they might fit the bill, but I personally hate cleaning fleecey girths and strongly prefer a leather girth for the show ring so I bypassed those options.
Equifit had an interesting offering with their T-foam Shaped Girth. I'm a big fan of their boots (mmm boots), and the width and shape seemed to be what I was looking for.
At $270 it's not cheap, and at $270 with only negative reviews... I nixed it. Apparently the foam padding has a tendency to split.. and one girl even reported her girth snapping in two. (put that on the list of things I like to avoid).
The SmartPak Wellfleet Hunter Girth had promise as well. It boasts a wider portion in the middle (though not a fully "anatomic" shape) and the reviews seemed incredibly positive in terms of quality and softness. There were a few comments about it being nearly Edgewood-Orange out of the box, but I'm a pro at darkening so those didn't scare me. At $160, it's not outrageously priced and in the cart it went.
The other SmartPak contender was the Arc de Triomphe Anatomic Girth for a rather pricey $240. It looked wide, sported more shape, and had excellent reviews. Initially I was considering a very similar looking Marcel Tolouse version, but several reviews lambasted the latter's leather and specifically said the AdT was worth the extra $50... So we went for it. The offset buckles are not something I've tried before, but since you can return sized items to Smartpak with no hassle, I threw it in the cart.
The long girth looked lovely - wide, shapely, etc.. and since I've never used their products or seen one in person, I simply had to get one in the name of good "research."
|Shoulder Relief Girth by TSF|
The Smartpak order arrived first, so the Wellfleet and AdT got an initial side by side comparison. Right out of the box, both have a nice feel to the leather and appear to be of quality construction. even stitching, good finishing, etc. I'd give a slight edge to the Welfleet based on its softer padding and extremely soft leather on the underside (for anyone with an uber picky pony).
|AdT on the left, Wellfleet on the right|
|Detailed center portions|
The second thing I noticed is that the sizing was totally bonkers.
Prair fluctuates between a 54" (when she's skinny) and a 56" (when she's plumper) which makes sizing a bit tricky. If she's skinny a 56" runs out of holes, and if she's chubby you won't even be able to buckle a true 54".
Bearing that in mind I ordered a 54" of the Wellfleet and a 56" of the AdT since the reviews said it ran small.
So imagine my confusion when the 54" Wellfleet was actually longer than the 56" AdT. A tape measure confirmed that the supposed 56" AdT measured a true 53.5" (????) and the supposedly 54" Wellfleet was actually 55".
I understand vanity/variable sizing in some things (like shoes and designer denim..) but GIRTHS. Can they not just be the literal measurement they say they are? I'm willing to accept a slight undersizing to allow for elastic to stretch during break-in, but this is just absurd.
Since there was no way the AdT was going to fit around Prair's stall-rest-belly, I left that one at home and took the Wellfleet to the barn for a test spin.
I liked how the taper fit her rib cage, and it seemed to be a very traditional looking girth while still offering a better pressure distribution than our previous model, so I pulled the tags and rode in it.
My girth didn't snap and nothing bad happened, so I'm calling that a positive review. The girth came home for a darkening and will get a few more outings to confirm it's suitability as our new show girth.
The box from Total Saddle Fit arrived over the weekend, so I haven't been able to take it to the barn yet, but I am really impressed with the girth right out of the box. It's definitely the widest of the three options I ordered, which gets it points in my book, and also the nice people at TSF included a cute baseball hat so that gets more points.
|squishy doesn't photograph well.|
If all goes as planned, the TSF will become our daily driver, and the Wellfleet will be our "dress" girth - but we will have to wait for a final determination.