I'm not quite sure why the issue has arisen now. My tack has not changed in a few years and we've had multiple completions in this tack with no girthing issues prior. But my hypothesis is that it's got something to do with finally going downhill with more speed, which with a lot of rides is something you just have to do to make up time - especially the OD rides. The "move out" sections are often on the gravel roads and those sections are commonly slightly downhill in nature. You wind up technical, rocky single track to climb the mountains, and then zip down gravel roads to descend.
I discussed the girth problem with seasoned endurance riders in October after it presented at the LD (mildly, we still completed, but Dr. Nick pointed out that I may want to pay mind to the issue and resolve it, so I am!) Those I talked to at the ride all recommended a centerfire rigging system. Well that's well and good, except that it would require a new saddle which I don't have budgeted in the slightest right now. Additionally, this saddle has done really well for us for the past few years and I really don't want to reinvent the wheel when a new spoke may be the answer, y'know?
And so I decided to look into new girth options.
I had asked for recommendations on this blog after the LD and received several recommendations from y'all including: apply baby powder at the start and at every hold to the girth, use body glide in the girth area, try contoured girths, try mohair, tighten her crupper and/or breastplate, tighten the girth.
From experience with Q and other girths I know the following: neoprene seems to give her heat/friction rash/galls quicker and easier than anything else; where mohair transitions to neoprene or another material where the buckles are gives her galls faster and worse than anything. So contoured girths that were anything other than wool were probably out, as well as mohair. I decided I could stand to tighten my breastplate and crupper regardless of what girth I ended up with, and baby powder/body glide would probably be added at some point regardless of the girth.
In the last year, I read quite a few wonderful reviews by friends for the TSF shoulder relief girths. I hadn't read a negative comment, in fact! I was leaning that way really strongly as those girths have an optional sheepskin cover, too, and then Saiph told me that it was what fixed Gracie's galling issues. Well, I'd witnessed Gracie's issue first hand and knew how much worse it was than anything Q had had up to that point. If this girth (with the sheepskin cover) could fix Gracie, I was sold!
I've tested it out for a few months now, though our rides haven't been too crazy in the grand scheme of things (you know, as they compare to the actual OD trails) until this past weekend. I figured I'd have a really good idea of how things were going to be during competition after riding in Canaan some; Dolly Sods especially is relentless.
|Not the greatest photo because her front leg is back and the saddle cover is misleading on saddle position,|
but it's the only one I have of Q in the saddle...but you can STILL see how the saddle now positioned thanks
to the girth.
From the rides I had done prior to the past weekend, I can say that I'm REALLY pleased with what this girth has done with my saddle position. The saddle is back further than it's been before while the girth is still right where it needs to be. Q's range of motion through her shoulder isn't impeded by the saddle at all - just what TSF advertised. I'm so pleased. Hell, maybe this girth is factoring into Q's confidence increases because she's more comfortable!
So, onto the real testing: this past weekend's rides.
Friday's ride had
Quick, easy fix. But damn, it would probably throw off my whole weekend re: results of how this girthing combo was going to play out over legitimate terrain. The gall definitely wasn't bad enough for me to throw in the towel for the whole weekend's riding (just enough of a hot spot that the hair had rubbed off), but I knew it would alter my results of my testing. The gall looked really amazing the next morning with no swelling and such a later stage of scab than I anticipated; if I hadn't known better, I'd have thought it was days old instead of hours!
The second day's riding had
For this day's ride, I had fixed the girth cover issue and I tightened her girth one more hold. Immediately following the ride, Q had no swelling, galls, soreness. The previous day's gall hot spot looked great! It hadn't been touched by the girth much, if at all based on it's appearance. However, the following morning, Q had small, equal swelling on both sides of her girth area an inch or two behind her elbow that was about 2½ inches vertically and ½ inch wide; so relatively minor - especially compared to swelling from October. She wasn't reactive to the swelling either unless I really pinched it. And, all that swelling was completely gone and she wasn't reactive to the areas by Monday. More evidence that it was minor based on past experiences where swelling and reactiveness lingered longer.
So, are we out of the woods yet? Nope. But we're definitely getting there, I think.
I'm going to add baby powder and/or body glide (I feel like that needs to be an "or" vs. and?) and I've tightened her crupper up some more based on observations on our Monday night ride this week (mountain sprint sets). No Frills will be a big tell. Fingers crossed that I've arranged the puzzle pieces to fall into the proper places for success.