Product Review: Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec Shoulder Relief Girth

I mentioned before that my 20" TSF girth was long on Connor, and the billets of my new saddle stuck out so far, they hit him in the elbow.

Just...not...attractive.  The billets, not the horse.  The horse is attractive.

I'm hesitant to cut the billets down because this saddle isn't a forever saddle.  So I decided to sell my 20" Total Saddle Fit girth and buy an 18" of the same thing.  It wouldn't fix the problem entirely, but it would mean 1" less billet sticking out on both sides.

20" TSF girth, now sold, for almost what I paid for it originally.  Hooray, lack of depreciation!

When I got to their website, I got distracted by the new StretchTec girth on my way to purchase the old style TSF girth.  I know that there is actual scientific data (albeit a small sample size) showing that "The type of girth and the tension at which it is applied affects athletic performance. Lower girth tensions and the use of elastic materials in the girth would appear to optimise performance."  (Though the girth material probably doesn't negatively affect athletic performance as much as overtightening your girth does.)

I spent several days trying to find reviews on it (and couldn't find any, I guess it's too new) and asking my personal saddle fitter Mary if she thought it was legit. (Her verdict: legitimately a good idea, lifespan may not be as great due to all the elastic, but definitely worth a try.).


In the end, I figured, hey, it'll make a good blog post, with TSF's 110% money back guarantee I won't lose money on it if it's terrible, and I'll apparently be the first person on the Internet to review it.

Here are their marketing claims:

  • Stretchy elastic center for maximum give/horse comfort
  • Removable/interchangeable panels (so you can switch between leather and neoprene if you want, or I guess have one set of clean panels and one set of dirty panels?  Multiple sets of panels for multiple horses without having to clean the girth in between?  So many possibilities!)
  • Contours to horse's natural chest shape better due to the elastic/even contact across the girth
  • Improves performance

When I pulled it out of the box, I noticed a few things.  First, the leather quality is just as good as my regular TSF girths:
Lovely and soft

Second, mine was shaped totally differently than the Stretchtec girth pictured on their website.  Compare the above picture from their website to the one below: the center area by the D rings is pointed and angled upward instead of toward each other:


As a result, there's an exposed area of scratchy heavy-duty Velcro in a place where it could possibly come in contact with and/or rub the horse.  Hmmm.

Exposed Velcro

Third, the strap included to go between the D rings was just weird.  It was hard to use and made the girth lay unevenly even on the last hole - I wasn't sure if it was the strap's fault or the D rings' fault.



I emailed TSF about the strap and the exposed Velcro, and quickly received a response: the 18" girth design had to be modified to make it in such a small size, which is why the center points are shaped differently and the Velcro is exposed.  Okay, that's fair.  There are so few anatomic girths that come in 18", I'm glad they're trying, even if they have to modify it.

Additionally, the strap I received was "weird" because it was the wrong size.  TSF offered to send me an appropriately sized strap for free.  Based on Connor's response to it (below) I was keeping it one way or another and told them that, and I said that I was planning on making little covers for the exposed Velcro.  They then offered to make little Velcro covers for me for free and send them with the strap!  How's that for good customer service?!  They weren't going to lose the sale and knew it, and still decided to go the extra mile.

Third time buying a TSF girth, finally got a hat!
Now for Connor's opinion.

One of the biggest complaints I've heard with the standard TSF girths is the uneven pressure and gapping at the front of the girth.  I'm really happy to report this girth doesn't seem to have that problem at all, and TSF is not kidding about the "even contact" they advertise.

The pressure at all of the points I checked was impressively consistent, with just a tiny amount of gapping at the front of the elastic, but even, consistent pressure where the panels actually come in contact with the horse.  

All pictures and impressions are done without the strap, which I don't have yet.

I tried to be as skeptical and impartial as possible as I judged Connor's reaction to it.  To my surprise, this was the first ride in a very long time in which he did not react to me tightening the girth in any way.  It's not like he bites at me or anything, but he always slings his head around when I tighten it and looks back at me.  When I tightened this one, he stood quietly in the crossties and appeared not to notice.

Interesting.

Velcro points shown, about 1/8-1/4" away from his skin.  I don't have the covers yet.

Shot from below without D ring strap.

I didn't notice anything different with this girth vs. his old TSF girth while under saddle, although it's not like we were doing gallop sets or running XC - it's a Dressage girth, and we did a Dressage ride.  It's currently only available in Black from sizes 18-34", though if TSF's past product history is any indication, they usually release the short black Dressage/monoflap jump girth before the longer brown standard jump girth.  I would be interested to try this out on XC.


Showing the removable/interchangeable panels - heavy duty Velcro lines the entire thing.
Bottom line?  The horse likes it, I like it, and the customer service was outstanding.  It's definitely unconventional, but in a good way.  With the way it solves the gapping problem of the original TSF, it's almost like a 2.0 version.  It will almost certainly not have the longevity of a primarily leather girth due to the elastic, but it's heavy duty enough that it should last a while.  At $199, it's $70 more than the original, but still cheaper than a lot of anatomic girths.  Thumbs up from me!

20 comments:

  1. Interesting, haven't heard of this girth yet. I wonder how it compares with the jumping girth, I have one of the original ones and I'm pretty unimpressed with the leather and wear on it. I've actually just gone back to my $40 fake sheepskin lined fabric girth over the TSF girth.

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    1. I would say it's the same construction quality as my TSF Dressage girth. I am less impressed with my TSF jump girth, which is one of the first ones they made. It's lasted fine, but the leather feels like plastic compared to both the Dressage girth I've had from TSF.

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    2. I would say it's the same construction quality as my TSF Dressage girth. I am less impressed with my TSF jump girth, which is one of the first ones they made. It's lasted fine, but the leather feels like plastic compared to both the Dressage girth I've had from TSF.

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  2. Really interesting girth! I've been wanting to try a TSF girth for stampede for a long time. They keep "inching" closer to making his size. They are now up to 60", but I need a 62".

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    1. I totally have been there, they only went down to 24" on the original one and I was dying for them to come out with Connor's size! Have you written them about it? Gotta show some demand.

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  3. Interesting! I hope they come out with a long jump girth soon - I do like my brown TSF jump girth and use it exclusively, as it does literally make the saddle fit... but the leather is starting to crack on the underside after a year and a half of use - and I clean that thing daily! The elastic design here is really intriguing and I would love to try it!

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    1. Interesting! I wonder why it's cracking. I've had mine for two years and I could almost still pass it off as brand new aside from some discoloration on the underside - and I most definitely do not clean it daily! Ha.

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  4. I'm really glad you took the leap and tried this one - it seems pretty neat! I've definitely seen plenty of internet folks talking about the standard one gapping in front. I'll be interested to see if they do make a jump girth in that style, and how the elastic holds up. I'd love to replace my ugly synthetic jump girth with a TSF one day, but I'm still a little sticker shocked... and the synthetic thing is curved enough that it kinda-sorta does the job. Kinda.

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    1. Haha. I justified it by selling my original for almost what I paid for it...that's how that math works, right?

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  5. I really want them to make this in brown dressage length. I love how mine helps with my saddle sliding back issues but it leached colour all over Dee in the beginning and now it's looking super rough despite me babying it more than I do my saddle.

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    1. Oh wow! I've never had one leach color, that's crazy. The color has worn off on my 2 y/o brown TSF jump girth in places on the inside, but you have to look really closely and in bright light to see it. I bet they will make it in short brown sizes. Last time it went black short > black long > brown jump mid range sizes and then they expanded the brown on both sides from there.

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  6. Hmmmmmmm

    I use a TSF girth daily and I don't love it, but it does the job and doesn't rub, which is more than I can say for the more $$$ girth I had. At that price point, I'm unlikely to jump right in and grab on, but I'm definitely filing this away and watching for more reviews.

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    1. Yeah, I was pretty desperate for reviews, which is why I did the Internet a solid by buying this thing (that's what I keep telling myself...gotta justify the cost somehow...)

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  7. I am so glad you did a review on this. I need a new girth badly and have been eyeing this one but was hoping to here opinions from real life people (not sponsored riders). Very interesting!

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    1. Right, it's ridiculous how few reviews there are on this thing! You are welcome to touch it in person next time you're up here!

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  8. Seems like an interesting design correction for the gapping problem. I would love to try one of these girths one day but my mare is so so so narrow through her chest that every anatomical girth that has been on her has rubbed up into her elbows - exactly the opposite of what it's designed to do. Le sigh.

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  9. I love that company and wish they made more products! They have great customer service - and I now have 2 hats :) So happy the new girth is Connor approved!

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  10. I need this for Yankee, thanks for the review!

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  11. Wow, I didn't know this was a thing! I'd been looking at the girthshield that someone makes on etsy but this makes more sense to me

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  12. Thanks for your review! I read it when you first posted it but at the time I wasn't girth shopping. Now, I'm looking at new saddles and have realized I need a new girth. I just purchased the Stretchtec!

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