How to Measure a Horse for a Girth

If you plan to ride your horse, then it is important to know how to measure a horse for girth. When you have the right size of girth, then the proper fit can help to ensure a ride that is confident and comfortable. It will allow the horse to move with more freedom with some added breathing room.

On the other hand, a girth that does not fit well may lead to rubbing. There may be issues with chafing. This can cause skin problems, cause irritation, and provide an experience for the horse which is generally uncomfortable.

How to Measure Your Horse for an English Girth

There are 5 basic steps to follow if you’re trying to find the proper size for an English girth. The goal is to make sure the girth is snug, but not too tight against the body. It must be tight enough so that the saddle does not slip or move, which could cause an injury to the horse or its rider. Before implementing these steps, make sure that the horse is standing on a level surface and that the horse has not recently eaten. 

  • Set your saddle pad and saddle on the horse. Make sure that you don’t attach the girth just yet. Place the saddle pad and the saddle on the horse where it will naturally be supported by the strong bones of the spine.
  • Locate the heart girth. This is typically located about 4 inches behind the elbow of the horse. You’re going to want to look for the slight curve that is located on the side of the area around the stomach.
  • Begin the measurement process. You’ll want to hold the start of the measuring tape at the second hole from the bottom of the billets. Different saddles can have different billet lengths, so you may need to change the size of your girth depending on the saddle that you prefer to use.
  • Wrap the measuring tape underneath the horse. You’ll want to take the loose end of your measuring tape and then wrap it underneath the horse to the location of the heart girth. Your tape should stretch from the second hole in the billets on your side of the saddle to the heart girth location.
  • Calculate your final size. Take the measurement you have obtained from the previous steps. Then you’ll want to calculate what your girth size is going to be. The measurement of your horse’s heart girth is divided by 2 and then subtracted by 3 to obtain the final size. For an English girth, most are only provided in an even-numbered size. If your calculations produce an odd number, then you will need to round up instead of rounding down to get the correct size. 

There really isn’t a shortcut to this process. Some owners may measure an older girth and then use that measurement for the new girth, but an old girth has probably stretched out. Always follow the 5 steps of measurement and your English girth will fit as comfortably as possible.

How to Measure Your Horse for a Western Girth

If you prefer a Western saddle instead of an English saddle, knowing how to measure a horse for girth is essentially the same process. If you don’t have the saddle that you will be using, then all you need to do is pass the measuring tape around the body where the girth will rest. When the two ends of the measuring tape are snug, look at the number.

Then you’ll want to use the same calculation to determine girth size as the English saddle rider. This means if your heart girth measurement is 72, then you’ll need to divide it in half so that it becomes 36. Then subtract 3 from that number, giving you 33. Since that is an odd number, you’ll want to round upwards, giving you a girth size of 34 inches.

But I already have the Western saddle I plan to use. If you already have the saddle that you plan to be using, then just place the saddle and saddle pad or blanket on the horse. Then you can follow these two steps to determine the correct size.

  • Determine the space from one rigging ring to the other. When you need to know the size of cinch that your horse is going to need, the measurement of the horse from the saddle is extremely important. You’ll want to measure the space that exists from one rigging ring to the other. Once you’ve obtained this measurement in inches, you’ll want to subtract 16 inches from your result so that the space for the latigos is accounted for.
  • Fit the actual cinch. You’ll want to place the middle of the chinch behind the front legs of the horse. Allow for the ends of the cinch to drop around 7-8 inches from the bottom of the D-rings that are on the saddle. Make sure that the D-rings have been fastened with the latigos so that your measurement is accurate.

Once you’ve obtained the measurements, you may also wish to refer to a sample girth sizing chart to see if you’ve calculated the correct size. 

Should There Be an Elastic Girth Option?

As you ride your horse, the girth is going to stretch out over time. This is a given. If your saddle feels looser than normal, then this might be the issue you are facing. Instead of purchasing a new cinch to have it fitted, you may be able to remeasure your horse and make an appropriate adjustment to the current cinch.

Because the goal of the girth is to remain tight, some may come equipped with an elastic strap built into the product. The elastic can help to fit more body styles with one general girth product, providing a more accurate fit. It expands and contracts well. It can also create moments of instability when the ribcage contracts during a ride, which may be difficult for beginner riders to handle. 

If you have a horse that has been described as “wide” or “flat,” then you may find that an elastic girth is an option to consider.

Knowing how to measure a horse for girth will ensure that you and your horse will be comfortable and confident during your next ride. Follow these steps, whether you have your preferred saddle or you do not, and you’ll be able to obtain an accurate measurement.