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Running Martingales: A good fit?

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - December 18th, 2014 - More with Les

LesVogt_170pxFifth in a series
Les takes a look at why a martingale serves a purpose in early stages of training.

I will use a running martingale occasionally, and I recommend them for many riders. I like a heavy leather one, and I want it adjusted so that the rings of the martingale can go all the way to the horse’s throatlatch when he’s standing relaxed. That means his head, or your hands, would have to really get up there before the rings actually pulled on the reins. The martingale is not there to pull your horse’s head down; its main function is to add weight and balance to the reins during the learning process.

On a straight pull, the martingale does a couple things: 1) it gives my reins a quicker drop or release when I let go because of the extra weight of the rings and straps, so the horse is rewarded right away. 2) it gives the horse more pre-signal, that is, he will feel the movement of the rein through the ring before it actually makes contact with his mouth. This means he’ll get a little more warning and a little more time to react in the early stages of training — and that can be a big confidence builder for some
horses.

By the same token the martingale can act as a buffer between your hands and the horse’s mouth as you’re learning to ride with a lighter touch. When you pick up your rein, you will feel the martingale’s weight before you make contact with the horse’s mouth, helping you to rate the speed of your hands and keep them soft.

One place where I really like the aid of a martingale is when I bend my horse laterally (to the side). In that situation the martingale ring will engage and help to keep the horse’s head perpendicular to the ground, which in turn, will keep him collected. If the horse starts into the turn with his nose stretched out and tipped, his spinal column will also tip, putting weight on the outside leg as he turns, which is never what we want.

Obviously, the martingale isn’t going to be something you ride with forever, but it can serve a definite purpose in the early stages of training, for both horse and rider.

More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit the Web site: www.lesvogt.com. You can also read previous More with Les columns at: http://news.horsetrader.com.

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