Running Martingale

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price

Are you using your running martingale correctly? Compare your habits with my tips.

Many people don’t understand the purpose of a running marstingale for the Western horses. It is not meant to confine or trap a horse’s head. It is intended to help the horse move at the poll by using the weight of the leather fork and rings. The martingale weights the reins when you let go of your rein pressure. This gives the horse the release signal sooner.


The running martingale only has one adjustment point: it is the strap that runs between horses’ legs and snaps into the cinch. Your running martingale should be adjusted for each horse based on his build and measurement.

Like all tack you need to get the best out of your martingale. This is because the setup, proper adjustment and proper use are key. These points will be discussed here.

Leather is the Best
A leather running martingale is my preference. They can be made from nylon, cord, or any other material, but leather has the strength and durability to give you the results you want. A leather martingale is more stable and hangs longer. A martingale made of flimsy or poor-quality leather flounders and doesn’t perform the job.

Also, make sure to choose a martingale that has large, heavy rein rings. These add weight to the martingale, which allows for quick pressure relief. You can use a martingale with an attached bit. Larger rings won’t get stuck on the shank, which can cause problems. I can also skip rein stops.

Adjust for Function
Running martingales can only be adjusted by the strap that runs between your legs and connects with the ring on your cinch. You can adjust the length or decrease of that strap depending on your horse’s build. To adjust your martingale properly, first snap it to the cinch and then adjust the strap until the rings are about 2 to 3 inches away from your horse’s throatlatch. You will lose your horse’s sense of touch if you make the martingale too tight or short. Instead of the reins being straight from the bit to your hands, the rings will pull the reins downwards before they reach you.

You’ll notice a strap around the neck of my horse in my setup. The strap is not adjustable but should fit snugly around the neck of your horse. This piece prevents the fork from dropping too low when your reins are loose. The horse could get tangled or step on it.

Before you ride any horse, make sure to adjust the martingale. You might find that the neck of the first horse you ride is shorter than that of the next, so you will need to adjust the strap accordingly.

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!