Guidelines for Proper Use & Adjustment of the Running Martingale

A running martingale is designed to help a horse learn to carry its head in the position that will allow it to use its body correctly to drive from behind and with collection. Running martingales should be used with direct pressure bits such as snaffles.

When the horse raises its head the martingale applies pressure through the reins to the bit. The horse brings its head down and back to get relief from the pressure. The signal is consistent each time and the relief is immediate making it easy for the horse to understand. At the same time if the rider pushes the horse forward with seat and leg cues this combination of signals allows the horse to find the position where it’s easy to use its body to travel in a relaxed and more collected manner.

A running martingale consists of a neck strap that loops around the base of the horse’s neck to hold the martingale in place. A chest strap runs from the base of the neck strap, through the front legs, and attaches to the cinch with a snap. Two straps with steel rings at the ends run from the chest upward. The reins are threaded through the rings. A safety strap runs from the top of the neck strap, under the swells of the saddle and up over the horn so the loop cannot slide forward on the neck if the horse unexpectedly drops his head too low.

Bozo Rogers, AQHA and NRCHA judge, NRCHA Bridle Horse World Champion, and 3 times AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Honor Roll Awardee explains proper fit. “When the horse is standing naturally the forked straps should be just long enough to come within an inch or 2 of the horse’s jaw when held taut. You want to have a straight line from the point of the horse’s mouth up through your elbows. A martingale that’s too short will cause the horse to break at the point of the withers to get relief from the pressure. This will leave the horse strung out behind instead of up under itself driving forward. A martingale that’s too long won’t have any affect.” The neck strap should be adjusted so you can run a hand between it and the horse’s neck. The strap running from the chest to the cinch should be snug but not too tight.

“I like to ride my young horses in a running martingale to get them ready to learn collection” Bozo Rogers says. “It helps them but doesn’t confine them. There’s a little play there and once they raise their head the martingale applies pressure until the horse responds. It’s a great piece of equipment to help the rider teach the beginning steps of collection.”

Learning the intricacies of training for collection is a lifetime endeavor. If you aren’t experienced in the use of running martingales or in training for collection you may want to study with an experienced horseman. You won’t regret the improvements you’ll see from learning all you can about collection!

Dennis Moreland Tack offers a nice variety of handmade running martingales designed to fit and function. Click here or call 817-312-5305 to find the running martingale that meets your needs.

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