2008 Cherry Hill ©
A surcingle is a necessary piece of equipment for a thorough training
program. A surcingle for ground driving should have appropriate rings for driving
lines, must fit a reasonable range of heart girths, be sturdy, safe, and easy
is an important part of a young horse's training. (Long lining is also referred
to as ground driving.) It teaches acceptance of girth restriction, accustoms a
horse to the presence and actions of a bit, and introduces bending. Long-lining
is also a valuable means for fine-tuning certain points with intermediate and
older horses: bending and flexion, flying changes, and upper level dressage movements.
A surcingle encircles a horse's heart
girth, acting as a mini-saddle and girth. For ground driving, the trainer runs
long lines through the surcingle's side rings in a horse's early training and
then through the top terrets or rings as the horse advances. A horse can be driven
in front of the trainer, beside the trainer as both walk along, around the trainer
in a circle, or in patterns such as figure eights or serpentines in the arena
Most surcingles are designed
to be used directly on the horse's back, with a surcingles pad, or with a regular
saddle pad. Some can be used over the top of a saddle. This is convenient because
if a horse needs to be long-lined prior to riding, you wont have to return
to the barn to change tack.
using a surcingle like this can create problems. It can slip from side to side
when turning (the smooth leather covering of the surcingle padding + the the smooth
leather of the saddle seat = slip, no friction). This is especially likely if
the horse made a sudden wrong move such as young horses do. Slippage can be avoided
if the surcingle is fastened excessively tight but extreme tightness can cause
even a seasoned horse to buck!
you might find when using a surcingle over the top of a saddle that when you are
asking the horse to perform serpentines and flying changes, the long line of the
"old bend" can get caught on the cantle of the saddle after the horse
changed to the "new bend". To remedy this, you can either "pitch
a wave" in the line (without bumping the horse's mouth) hoping to get the
new outside line over on top of the seat of the saddle again OR you must stop
the horse, gather up the lines, walk to the horse, lift the line from behind the
cantle and then resume. After several such instances occurring just after a spectacular
flying change where we couldnt reward the horse with forward movement (instead
had to stop and regroup), youll likely abandon over-the-saddle driving and
use the traditional surcingle position, that is directly on the horse or with
the use of a normal saddle pad.
surcingles are comprised of a top portion and a girth. The top portion is made
up of the saddle and the side pieces. The saddle consists of a padded pommel that
sits on or behind the withers. The padding varies from a flat profile (1/2"
or less) saddle consisting of a thin layer of padding in the wither area to a
high profile (2" or more) saddle made up of two triangular-shaped blocks
of padding. The padding and its covering varies from very soft to hard.
The saddle and side pieces have attached to them various terrets, large D rings,
and small D-rings. The standard configuration is 2 large rings (or terrets) on
top, 2 large rings on the sides, and 3 pair of small rings in between. Terrets
are rigid, fixed rings that are screwed into the top of the saddle at the approximate
position a rider's hands would be. Because terrets do not move during the driving
process, they are very desirable. In lieu of terrets, most surcingles have large
D rings sewn or sewn and riveted into the top of the saddle. Some Ds stand in
a rigid position - others are floppy. Rigid top rings are desirable because the
lines flow through them freely.
addition to the top terrets or rings, there is usually a set of large D rings
on the side pieces of the surcingle for using the long lines in lower positions.
These D rings might be sewn or sewn and riveted in place and vary from almost
rigid to floppy. Either seem to work OK in the side position though I prefer rings
that stand out to the side so the long lines can run freely through them.
There are a varying number and size of smaller D rings (customarily 3 pair) on
the top of the surcingle for attaching side reins and other training equipment.
Most surcingles have two standard billet
straps on each side such as are found on English saddles. Some surcingles have
a single wider billet on each side. Most girths are a separate piece. The girth
of a surcingle will vary in length depending on the design of the top portion
of the surcingle and the size of horse the surcingle is intended for. The girths
can range from 16 to 30 inches in length. The standard girth has two buckles on
each side to correspond to the 2 girth billets. Most girths have at least one
D ring sewn on the bottom side for the attachment of training equipment between
the horse's front legs.