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Improve your riding in a Murdoch Minute - Tightening your girth while mounted
The rider’s foot is in the stirrup with her leg over the flap. She is tucking the flap underneath her thigh while keeping both reins in her other hand on the horse’s neck.
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Do you struggle to tighten your girth while mounted? Do you feel too insecure while in the process? Do you have to get off, or use both hands or find someone to help you to get the job done or look for someone to help you? Here’s a quick tip to make sure you can safely tighten your girth while mounted.
Next time you ride, notice what you do to tighten your girth. Do you take your foot out of the stirrup? Do you have to use both hands, thereby dropping the reins on the horse’s neck? Does your horse move around when you attempt to tighten the girth? These situations can be dangerous if something startles your horse because you are not in a secure position. Tightening the girth in traditional military fashion can alleviate all of these problems.
I think it is extremely important that every rider using a long girth in an English saddle be able to properly tighten the girth while mounted. It is a question of safety, not simply tradition. Yet I see people fumbling with both hands, dropping the reins and unable to tighten the girth one-handed. This is an important technique to practice and should be used whenever you are mounted so that it becomes habit.
Keep your foot in the stirrup to safely tighten your girth while mounted. Take your leg in front of the flap. This is the safest way because if the horse should startle or jump forward, your foot is still in the stirrup and you can quickly return your leg to its normal position. If your foot is out of the stirrup or you are using two hands, there is a much greater likelihood of becoming unseated. Next follow the steps outlined below:
- Place both reins in the hand opposite to the side being tightened.
- Shorten the reins so that you can press your fist into the horse’s neck while maintaining a light contact on the horse’s mouth. This way, you will feel if he starts to fidget and can correct him without having to make a big move.
- With your free hand, lift the flap and tuck it under your thigh so that it stays out of your way.
- One buckle at a time, take hold of the billet strap with your free hand, thumb towards the billet above the buckle and fingers below.
- Pull up on the billet until the buckle releases.
- Slide your index finger up to seat the buckle in the hole above.
- Replace the flap and return your leg to its normal position
Use this Murdoch Minute whenever you tighten your girth to form a good habit and keep you safe. It will take some practice at first and may feel a bit awkward until you get used to using this method. However it will serve you well in the long run. It only takes one time for your horse to startle while tightening the girth to realize the value of practicing this technique and always remember to – enjoy the ride!
Wendy Murdoch resides in Washington, VA. She teaches riders of all levels and disciplines how to improve the horse’s performance by improving their body position. On-line join Wendy’s Facebook group Fans of the Murdoch Method and find more articles, blog and her new book 50 5-Minute Fixes to Improve Your Riding, based on the Murdoch Minutes at: www:murdochmethod.com.
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