Over the weekend we had a young girl (11/12?) stop by for a visit to play with the horses. I was in the process of tacking up Blue for a ride and, as I was pulling up the girth, this girl told me an astonishing fact: she had heard from her trainer that if you pull the girth too tight it can suffocate the horse and they could die. Even at her impressionable age, she had her doubts about this theory of her trainer’s, so asked me if I thought it was true. I stood back, smiled and pointed out as tactfully as I could that where the girth is located in relation to the air passages makes it reeeaaally unlikely that the girth can choke a horse, and the ribs and muscles do a pretty good job of protecting the lungs from girth pressure. In fact, I have on several occasions seen horses expand so much they break their girths when they reach their limit during a big effort, for example, over a large jump. To me, that makes the idea of tightening a girth enough to kill a normal, healthy horse seem even more unlikely. I just didn’t think that was a viable possibility. I explained that I had heard of girthy horses acting strangely and even collapsing or fainting when the girth is pulled up, but this is usually because of extreme pain, panic, or pressure put on a particular nerve that could be compromised if the girth was pulled too tight. [I have even heard of horses tensing up so much they hold their breath until they get lightheaded or faint,] but suffocation still probably wouldn’t occur.
I found myself pondering this further during my ride which, by the way, wasn’t all it could have been due to the fact that Blue is hardest horse in the barn to ride. Besides being lazy and unmotivated, he’s also exceptionally uncomfortable. But I digress. I decided to check out this suffocating phenomenon online. After much research the best I could come up with was the following article. If anyone has ever heard of or been witness to a horse suffocating from a too tight girth, I really would be interested in knowing the details, because I simply don’t think it’s possible this could happen.
Belly Bands: Girth Strap Tightness
From The Horse.com
by: Katherine Walcott
Every time you saddle a horse, you tighten a girth. But how tight should you make that girth? Just enough to keep the saddle on? With space to slip a hand under the girth? As tight as it will go? Furthermore, how well does a horse breathe with this tight band strapped around his lungs?
John Bowers, BVSc, MACVSc, and Ron F. Slocombe, BVSc, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, Chair of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, recently investigated this question in a study involving eight ex-racehorses. They found that most grooms in the Australian racing industry tighten the girths to a point that could have a detrimental effect on their charges' performance.
For the rest of the article please go to this link: The Horse.com
We really like our Le Tixerant girths because they relieve pressure on the most sensitive areas under a girth while allowing the horse’s chest to expand more naturally. As a result, they seem to be able to stretch out and relax more. [In addition, they grip well and don’t seem to require as much tightening as traditional girths.] We’ve also used the string girths and find the horses really like them for comfort and breathability. Over the years we’ve tried most of the standard girths and they worked fine. Of course, we’re careful never to over-tighten them, to the point of sometimes leaving them too loose! I found this study interesting and informative, but I still don’t think a horse can suffocate and die from an over tightened girth. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this subject?
Until next time
Quote for Today
If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy. - H.H. Isenbart