Will the “right” girth help a stomach-sensitive horse feel better, be more content and more willing to perform? Anyone owning a horse that has stomach problems, or a generally sensitive stomach, knows that it’s usually during saddling and girthing, rather than during riding, when the horse first expresses discontent.

Feeding can be a thorny issue for horses with stomach problems. Order your  free Equine 74 Gastric feed sample here.

Right girth: Finding the problem

If you try to visualise where the horse's stomach is located and where the girth lies, it is not quite clear at first why girths often cause pain to horses with sensitive stomachs. Although the girth is placed further forward than the horse's stomach and in principle does not exert any direct pressure there, sensitive horses clearly demonstrate that they feel pain in the girth area.

Tightening the girth and riding increases pressure to the girth area, and horses often ‘puff up’ their stomachs to avoid this pressure. Both the pulling up of the stomach and riding movement, especially trot and canter, cause the stomach acid to move up into the glandless – and thus more sensitive – part of the stomach. This usually does not cause any problems in horses with healthy stomachs. However, if the stomach’s mucous membrane is already irritated or damaged, this attack on the damaged mucous membrane leads to pain and discomfort for the horse.

Many ‘girthy’ horses therefore benefit from saddle girths that are specially padded or have a larger contact surface. Through more even distribution of pressure from the girth through better padding and/or a larger contact surface i.e. over the pectoral muscles and the sternum, the abdomen is pulled up less, meaning that the gastric acid is more likely to remain in the lower part of the stomach containing glands and less likely to reach the sensitive areas in the upper part of the stomach.

It’s important to find the right saddle for YOUR horse.

Which girth is best suited for girthy horses varies from horse to horse. There are a variety of models available. Materials range from neoprene, leather and imitation leather to lambskin. Shapes also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, including extremely wide, anatomically shaped, and very large round contact surfaces.

It is also advisable to let the horse eat hay before riding, as saliva production will buffer the gastric acid and keep it from attacking the stomach lining. This also explains why a horse with a sensitive stomach should never work on an empty stomach.

Horses with stomach problems often demonstrate their discomfort quite clearly through tail swishing, trying to kick the girth with their legs, biting and bucking. You therefore need to pay attention to every sign from your horse, and act accordingly. Trotting and cantering is especially unpleasant for horses with acute cases, as the swinging movement causes the gastric acid to slosh back and forth much more strongly. In such cases, you should either completely refrain from riding him, or just walk him.

Equine 74 Gastric’s effect is similar to saliva production. This supplement buffers excess gastric acid, preventing it from attacking the damaged stomach lining. It’s therefore a good idea to give an extra dose of Equine 74 Gastric before riding to take advantage of its positive effect during training!

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