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Near-disaster – should Over-girths make a comeback?

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The moment of realisation.

Yesterday at Belton on the CIC*** track, only 2 easy fences from home after what looked like a great round, Beanie Sturgis pulled up Lebowski and jumped off near where I was standing. As the horse absolutely looked fine, spectators were bewildered… until we all saw the girth hanging down. She went to the other side and tried to fix it again, before realising that it was hopeless, as both girth straps had snapped clean off at the bottom of the saddle flap. Unable to continue, she led the horse away with a wry smile. Of course, things could have been worse… thank heavens she felt it between fences.

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You can see the girth straps still attached to the girth.

Not that long ago, just about everyone always used an overgirth for xc, the really strong webbing type that are still used on racehorses. They were a pain, because tightening your girth once you were on was a nightmare unless you had a groom, and fiddly even if you did if the horse started dancing around in excitement (as the buckle was always done up right under the horse’s tummy, so it didn’t rub the rider’s leg). I’ll often do my girths up and then decide, after a bit of warm-up, to go up one more hole. With an overgirth on, even loosely at first, this wasn’t easy, and I remember the struggles!

I think the late Polly Phillips was the first top rider to dispense with an overgirth (but iirc she did not usually ride in a monoflap saddle.) I believe that her reasoning was that if she’d hunt for hours without an overgirth, why did she need one for a maximum 11-minute xc?

 

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Look… no straps. 🙁 🙁 🙁

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Segment of pic of me doing N in 1994, you can clearly see the white elastic of the overgirth, the buckle was below it and the strap is hanging down on the far side… that’s what happened when you didn’t have a groom and used an overgirth!

Whatever the reason, a lot of riders, me included, soon followed suit. It was a relief to avoid the struggle!

I wonder whether the modern fashion for stud girths is another reason why overgirths went out of favour, since stud girths don’t have loops to put the overgirth through for safety.

Since I thought the overgirth made the seat of the saddle a little slippery, and hated struggling with doing it up, I followed fashion, gradually dispensing with one over time.

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Rather bewildered Lebowski… “but mum, we were having fun and I didn’t do anything wrong, why did we stop?!?!”

After seeing this happen yesterday, I wonder if riders who use monoflap saddles should think about using an overgirth again?

I was told by a saddler that the line of close-together stitches along the bottom of the flap works like perforations in paper, weakening the material. Also the stitches on the girth straps on a monoflap are rubbed by the rider’s boot, rather than being protected by the flap over them.

Simply having a gap between the leather flaps for the girth straps to disappear up into seem to be less popular now, unfortunately, although this would be safer. Traditional double-flap saddles where you can clearly see, check and soap the entirety of the girth straps should be less vulnerable to this, I think. 

Commiserations to Beanie, how utterly infuriating.

 

About the author

Kerry

8 Comments

  • I’ve never stopped using an overgirth. I don’t have a monoflap saddle but I used one for so long it became part of my ‘kit’. I always think it’s amusing that eventers spend so much on 5 point breastplates citing safety & preventing saddles slipping yet don’t use an overgirth.

  • Sorry to ask but is it really a monoflap saddle?

    it looks like a close contact saddle with extra long girth straps to allow for even closer contact? could be wrong but that would prevent rubbing by the riders leg?

    perhaps we should all be using an over girth?!

  • Hi Arctic Fox, you could be right, I thought it looked like a monoflap but wasn’t close enough to be sure. On our Facebook page an eventer from Zimbabwe has commented that overgirths are compulsory there, which is interesting.
    Yes, I think we probably all should be using one, Karla is right, it’s rather illogical to have a 5-point etc and not use an overgirth!
    I know of at least 1 person who’s had the girth snap xc but the overgirth has kept it all in place and they finished. Worth the effort, I think!

  • The exact same thing happened to me 4 from home in the 2*, but I carried on, definitely going back to mums old fashioned leather girth & over-girth, these fancy new elasticated ones are not safe.

  • Crikey Hazel, I’d like to see photos of that! I could see why Beanie stopped and jumped off, from on top she thought it had come undone somehow and could be done up again. This wasn’t an elasticated girth that snapped though, it was definitely both leather girth straps.

  • This must be so annoying! 2 fences from home!!!

    My old instructor said when he was eventing at the start of every year he would buy a new bridle, bit, reins, martingale, stirrup leathers and get the saddler to replace his girth straps and giove his saddle an MOT, as they may look okay but he said it was never worth the risk! He said he won an intermediate class as the person that should have won, their rein broke part way through the XC so they had to retire.

    I know I have seen ‘pros’ riding in saddles where the stitching on the flaps is fallin out, so how often will they be getting their girth straps replaced? Or stirrp leathers? Or reins? Yes it costs money, but surley completeing, getting ur prize, qualification and most imprtantly yours and your horses safety is more important?

  • I’ve had the girth straps snap while in a good gallop on a OTTB. Luckily for me, he had big withers and a broad but sloping back, so it was easy to keep the balance of the saddle. The photographer has photographs of my girth flying out to the side, almost parallel to the ground, as we rounded a corner!