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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

March 6, 2009

Hooking up a Running Martingale

I'm ordering Phebes a Running Martingale from Moss Rock Endurance. However...I have no clue how to set one up. She is making me one that will work with my rope reins. I thought this might help with Phebe's head flipping, if not I'll ebay it. We've done all kinds of exercises for vertical and lateral flexion and she is great with those, but it does not translate to the trail. The only time she flips is going downhill. She wants to rush down steep hills so I end up putting some pull on the reins to slow her down and this results in her flipping her head. Don't want to get that to be a habit as a friend of mine got her nose broke and her teeth knocked loose when her horse did that.

So! If any of you have instructions as to how to hook this thing up I'd sure be grateful. Does it replace a breast collar? Or does it attach to the breast collar?

Lisa is also sending me a short strap for the no longer elusive royal blue sponge :)

Heading out to Clark State Forest tomorrow!!!!



  1. never tried using any kind of martingale or tie down. personally I don't like the idea of them - I can see a horse freaking out at being restrained and flipping back even harder, but again, I don't have actual experience with this.

    One suggestion is to teach Phebes to stop using this sequence, "Easy, Easy, Phebes, whoa." (emphasis on the whoa!)

    That is how the carriage horses I used to drive in Indy were trained, to stop at stoplights, so you wouldn't wear out whoa by saying it all the time. They typically stopped after the second easy, when you said their name.

    The key is that you HAVE to make sure that she actually stops moving when you say whoa, or the point is lost. They pick up on it quick enough, though, and start stopping with words alone. It's more pleasant for them than dealing w/ rein pressure

    I use this with Arabee, and so now once she hears the word "easy" she starts slowing down some. It took a while to get her there, but I just wanted to suggest another trick to put in the bag. That should get her slowing down w/out having to even touch rein.

    Tomorrow, I'll be sure to call you before 7am....goal is 6:45. Right now it's not looking good..I am BEAT! Gonna take a shower, and hoping the steam will ease my sore throat.

  2. Hello! I came across your blog and it inspired me to start my own for my current endurance horse. Anyway, I can answer your running martingale question! It will indeed help her with flipping up her head and avoiding bit contact if you have it adjusted properly. If its a regular biothane running martingale attachment then it will clip to the enter ring of your breastcollar and its a full running martingale it will go around their neck and connect to the girth between their front legs. When its on your horse, the two rings shouldnt go any higher then approx half way up her neck to be functional. The idea being when a horse tosses their head to avoid bit contact, the reins instantly 'hit' the rings of the martingale which gives you more leverage and control, and encourages the horse to drop their head to relieve the pressure. You do have to be careful not to get the martingale too tight because it will often result in other bad habits such as rearing because the horse cant relieve the pressure so they turn to avoidance. So while your breastcollar keeps your saddle in place and give you can extra handy rings to clip items too the martingale will help with control. I personally very rarely ever ride a flighty horse without one. Hope that helps ;)

  3. zoom in on this photo:

    and you can see Bo's running martingale hooked up. It clips onto the ring on the b/c. You can't hardly tell in this photo, but I do have black rubber rein stops in front of the rein snaps to keep the o-rings from the martingale from sliding up and getting caught on the snaps.

    It definitely keeps Bo from tossing his head. However, I can't wait until I can wean him off of this as I hate using it! I'm always getting it tangled and twisted up when I get off to lead, unclipping, etc.

  4. I wouldn't use one personally. I know a lot of people do though. I used a martingale on a pleasure horse that I was working with whose owner insisted I use it to keep the horses head low. Well, one day at a canter on a circle it broke and he stepped on it ripping the rein from my hand, apparently I gripped it pretty tight. He cartwheeled over and almost landed on top of me. Since that experience I will never use another one. Of course, that one was old and leather and I shouldn't have used it.

    Another person I know almost had a horse drown from one. They were in a river and the horse started pawing, just playing and got his leg up over it and it jerked his head down and he couldn't get it up out of the water. These are extreme cases I know, but still.

    Lots of really good riders use them. I'm just glad I don't have to. Like Karen said, it's just more equipment to have to monkey with.

  5. After some reading about what can go wrong using a martingale I decided to opt against it. I'll just spend more times on hill work and see if I can get her to calm down. She did great on hills this past weekend except for one spot. I'd let the other horses go ahead of me and she started jigging down this incredibly steep section of hill that drops off into oblivion if you get off the beaten patch. Going down the other direction she had went down fine, but she was in front.