Monday, January 26, 2015

Girth Hunt

Man, I have LOTS to catch up on (mostly with Gus and adorable pictures of him with cute kids).

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 Wellfleet

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.
Finally, Facebook always spams my newsfeed with posts from Total Saddle Fit, and I was curious enough to wander over to their site and see what they had for Jump options.  Their marketing tends to focus on their short girths (so much easier to find squishy short girths!!), but I've heard tell that they do actually have a long girth option so we took a peek.

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
Supposedly they are magical things.  And with a price of $150, if they are magic, they are also a bargain.

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.
Truthfully though, of the three options I ordered, it boasts the squishiest padding and is the closest thing to all those fluffy, soft dressage girths that I've been able to find.  it's consistent 4.5" width also makes it the widest of the three.  Sadly the 54" measures a true 53" so I am exchanging for a 56" that I'll be able to actually girth up. 

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. 


  1. I have had the TSF jump girth for a year and I completely love it. It still looks brand new after being my daily driver for a year, and my saddle doesn't move or ruffle the hair on Connor's back anymore since I got it. Two thumbs up.

    1. Ooh I'm excited to hear that, so far I've heard only positive things, I'm excited!

  2. I learned a lot about girth sizing on my search for any big enough to fit Stampede. The issue is that most girths than come from outside the US are made to a centimeter measurement and for some reason after the conversion to inches the number is usually (but not always) rounded up. So chances are no matter what girth you are looking at it will not measure the number of inches it was advertised as. Exceptions I've found are Smartpak brand girths I've tried and Red Barn.

    Otherwise, I was one of those bad equifit girth reviews. I loved the equifit padding on the girth, but the leather was so ridiculously crappy.

    I really want a TSF girth, but they don't do custom sizes (I need 60" for Stampede). My favorites in the not cheap and fleece category are the Red Barn with velcro on sheepskin and the old style thinline with leather backing (not the ones that break). I had contacted Thinline and was told they will still make the old style by request and in any size which is impressive, but I ended up ordering the Red Barn in a custom size (60") for Stampede. Of course I haven't been able to ride him since it came!

    There is a synthetic girth I'm looking at getting for Phoenix that has gel in the sternum section, but the name is escaping me right now. If you are interested let me know and I'll look at the name again since my friend has one.

    1. well that makes a lot of sense. But I think a 2.5" deviation is total crap. :)

  3. I am seriously into the TSF girth, but I have a girth that fits and works, and my saddle doesn't slide around and I don't really need another girth and and and. But I'm excited to hear how it works out once you get the right size!!

  4. You are the best researcher in the history of researchers. The end :)

    1. I remain a big fan of my *only* scientific method which is buy-all-the-things. :)

    2. I love that you do this research. Also you're making me want the TSF girth more now. STAHP.

  5. Girth drool. My girth is similar to the smarkpak one. But now I want a new one..did ya send that adt back yet :p

  6. I use an Albion girth. Ran me around $200. It is super, super soft and well made. It looks and feels pretty much just like my big soft Albion dressage girth, but in jumper form. Love this post though - I never really investigated girths before.

  7. nice! i actually have been lusting after the total fit girth ever since Jen from Cob Jockey reviewed it last year... but then just had the pessoa anatomic girths on SUPER discount... so i am now eagerly awaiting that in the mail!

  8. I've been intrigued by the TSF girth too.

  9. I'm shocked the sizing was that off. Bananas!

  10. Ahhh :( Blogger ate my well crafted comment :(

    Anyway..I had the TSF when it first came out for my mare who makes saddle fit a nightmare. Her saddles tend to slide over her neck as she loves to have the girth right in her elbow. Anyway the forth was really nicely made and the company super nice, but it did not keep the saddle stable and actually was the only girth of many to cause chafing. If you horse is more normally shaped, it shouldn't be a problem.

    I was told me a well known fitter that the County Saddlery anatomic girth is the best there is, so I tried that too. It didn't work either, but of the many I tried it was definitely the closest to doing its job and was the absolutely best made. It was a shame it didn't work, but the company was wonderful to work with.

    1. The County Logic is nice! I wouldn't say it's very cushy though... or very wide

    2. If you still have the original TSF, you might talk to them. There was a poster on the COTH forums who had one too, and the company made an account in order to reply and tell her that they changed their materials and design after that first batch, and sent her a new one for free by way of apologizing. They didn't even make her send the old one back.

  11. Ohhh how I love this post :) I <3 Devoucoux girths, but I can only speak about the short ones. On the cheaper end, I really like neoprene and professional's choice. They're very gentle!

  12. I love the TSF girths! The one you ordered looks gorgeous!

  13. Thanks for the note. I think I may need to get a TSF girth!

  14. I am also a leather girth fan and a tsf is in my list of things to get, I'm very excited to hear what you think about it!

  15. You must buy all the things so I can completely be informed for whatever purchase I may need. That is the rules.

  16. I love my shoulder relief Prestige dressage girth. It is the fanciest piece of tack that I own and so totally worth it. Not sure if they make a jumping version.

  17. I just got the TSF girth and it is LOVELY. Fits exactly how it's supposed to on my pony with a very forward girth groove and a laid-back shoulder, and lets me put the saddle where it should go! Huge thumbs-up for the TSF! Plus yeah, the cute hat.

  18. You must do a review of the TSF girth. All on it's onsies. Kthx

  19. Too weird about the sizing! I would like a review of the TSF girth as well :)

  20. I love the ease and low-maintenence of my PC synthetic, but you and I have different girth needs :) I trail ride in mine and often let my horse up to his belly in water and this thing cleans up like new.

    But the leather ones are SO pretty...And I can smell the smell from here!


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