Find out how and why the Shoulder Relief Girth works
It is no secret (at least to saddle fitters) that saddles ride up and interfere with a horse’s shoulders way too often. This can be caused by a handful of reasons, but some of the most common reason are:
- Poor Saddle Fit – Any saddle that is out of balance, the wrong shape for the horse’s back, or has improper billet placement can cause a saddle to ride up onto the shoulders. Usually the saddle’s instability lets it shift around and over a few minutes finds it’s way into a horse’s range of shoulder motion.
- Forward Girth Groove – A horse whose narrowest part of his barrel is set forward past the scapula will cause a regular girth to sit too far forward relative to the saddle, and will actually pull a saddle forward. This is because the saddle initially girths up with billets angling forward, and over a few minutes of riding the natural nature of the saddle is to creep forward to line up with the girth. This inevitably pulls the saddle into the shoulders.
- Big Shoulders – Big movements, some horses have big shoulders that come back quite a ways into the saddle. Even if a horse doesn’t have a forward girth groove or bad saddle fit, they can still be impinged due to their conformation and where the saddle naturally wants to sit with a regular girth.
Traditional Girth Saddle Placement
See your horses shoulder moving as their leg reaches forward, the saddle block the natural movement
Shoulder Relief Girth Saddle Placement
The SRG designed to give a 2 inch offset allowing your horses movement.
Traditional girths bring the saddle too far forward causing the saddle to block the natural movement of the shoulder.
This is due to a basic physics problem: the girth pulls the billets forward, which then pulls the whole saddle into the shoulders (even on properly fitting saddles).
The SRG It fixes the physics problem by utilizing the offset in the girth to redirect the billet line and prevent the saddle from being pulled forward.
In addition to the offset design, there is also additional elbow clearance with the cutback feature.
See how your horse moves.
When you walk next to your horse you will see their shoulder moving as they reach their leg forward. The scapula actually rotates backward as the front leg moves forward. This is because of the point of connection where the soft tissue attaches to the scapula. So this means that even if a saddle is clearing the shoulders in the cross ties, it actually needs an additional 1-2 inches of clearance to account for the movement.
The Shoulder Relief Girth
The Shoulder Relief Girth actually changes the position and angle of the billets to prevent the saddle from interfering with the shoulder. The center of the girth is set forward to sit in the horse’s natural girth groove. While the sides of the girth are cut back to meet the billets 2 inches behind where the horse’s natural girth groove lies. This brings the billets from angling forward, to becoming perpendicular to the ground (in the case of a forward girth groove horse), which reduces the saddle’s tendency to be pulled forward into the shoulders. With horses that have shoulder interference without angled billets, it simply moves the billets back to keep the saddle farther away from the shoulders.
The secondary benefit to this shape, is that it is cutback at the elbows. This gives more room for elbow movement as well, and prevents galls in the elbow area.
What is the ideal girth length? For dressage/monoflap jump girths we recommend the girth be 4-6 inches from the bottom of the saddle flap. This will keep the buckles above the elbow, allow for greater pressure distribution, and prevent the edge of the girth from resting on the horse’s pectoral muscles.
Does every horse need the Shoulder Relief Girth? No, some horses are lucky enough to have the conformation perfectly shaped for saddle fit. However, many horses do need it, and sadly there are way more horses that feel the pain of interference from the saddle than you might imagine. And as horses are more frequently bred to be big movers, the need for shoulder freedom becomes more and more of a real issue.
What if I have a perfectly fit custom saddle? First off, congratulations! Second, if your horse exhibits any of the above conformation characteristics then you (and he) could benefit from the Shoulder Relief Girth in a big way. No matter how well a saddle fits, if it is being pulled into the into the shoulders by “external forces” then it could cause an issue that would benefit from the proper girth.
Check out these reviews on you tube for the
Total Saddle Fit Stretch Girth
and this one on the web