Horse Training with a German Martingale

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price

This training tool has been a part of my program from the time I was a young rider.

German martingales can help a pushy or high-headed horse to get in a better place by drawing him into a more comfortable working position with a flexed pole. A German martingale is used on all ages of horses: 2-year-olds with basic skills to more advanced horses. It can also be used in different disciplines. This article will explain how the German martingale works and its correct uses.

German martingale is a method of bringing a horse into a more comfortable working position. It uses a flexed pole to do this. Rings on the reins enable gradual adjustment.

Modern Setup
The harness leather was the only material used in my original German martingale. My mare was a very good cutter and the German martingale floated around a lot when I tried it on her. So I decided to make a nylon cord that ran from the reins to the bit. It was lighter and didn’t move around when there was slack in the reins. I prefer that the reins are made from the same leather I use for my show reins. My setup has a strap around my neck to ensure that my martingale does not drop too low when I lower my hand.

Adjustment and how it works
As you can see, the German martingale’s adjustable strap runs between the horse and his front legs. The strap ends with a Y at its end. The cord runs from the end of the snaffle to the short-shanked bit, and then down to the reins. There are three rings on each rein to which the snap can attach.

The horse’s length will determine how long or short you can make the strap between his legs. For the initial adjustment, connect the snaps of the cords to the closest rings to the bit. Once your horse is comfortable with the German martingale’s action, you can add the snaps to second and third rings. The poll action will increase if you push the connection further back on your rein. This will encourage your horse to give more.

There are many types of bits you can use with this piece equipment. I recommend a smooth-mouthpiece or twisted-mouthpiece or a shanked spoon snaffle.

Use Properly and Purpose
The German martingale will draw the nose of a horse who has “rooted into the bit”, or is pushing against the bit’s pressure. The martingale will release once the horse’s head is in the right position. When used correctly, the piece’s action can be very mild and simple. This is not a tiedown that pushes on your horse’s nose. It won’t put your horse’s weight on the front, or cause him to lose his head or break his withers. It relaxes the horse and allows him to bend at his poll.

Proper use of the cue is crucial. When I am using them to cue horses, I like to rock my hands. You won’t get the best results if you pull the rope slowly. This defeats the purpose and is not recommended. You may also find your horse braced harder against your hands. The German martingale was not intended to trap horses. Just like any other tool or bit, the correct way to use it is how gentle and steady you use your hands.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!