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.
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?
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.
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.