Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Allison Price
Your goals and discipline will determine whether you choose to run or stand.
Show hunter have no choice but to use standing martingales. Even on horses that don’t need them, standing martingales are a standard piece of equipment. Standing martingales are part of competitions and horses that don’t need them look odd.
For most people, however, the decision of martingale or whether to use it is a matter of function.
Why would you use a martingale?
Both standing and running martingales can be used to control the height at which horses are able to carry their heads. It is supposed to be a safety device that prevents the rider being struck in the face by the horse’s head. Riders may adjust the martingale to get a “set” head position. This is dangerous because it restricts the horse’s ability to use its neck for balance.
Both devices can limit head height but in different ways.
The martingale in this photo is too short. You can see how it restrains the horse.
The standing martingale attaches the noseband or breastplate to the girth. The noseband is used to control the horse’s head position. The strap should be adjusted so the strap fits under the horse’s throat latch when the horse’s head is in neutral.
For horses that twist and turn their heads, a standing martingale can be very useful. One mare I knew was like this was a mare. She could lift her head into my lap so quickly that it was terrifying. To make sure she didn’t hurt me, I used a standing martingale to ride her. It taught her quickly that if she flung herself up and back, she would be brought down.
The great advantage of the standing martingale, which is activated by horses, is its passive self-correcting ability. After the corrective action is completed, the martingale stops being in control. Because it is harder to loosen, it can be more dangerous than a running one. It could also be dangerous if a horse is thrown or gets entangled in a leg. For this reason, standing martingales cannot be used in the cross-country phase of eventing competitions.
The running martingale has a more complicated structure. It attaches to the reins via the breastplate or girth. When the horse is neutral, it should have at least one inch of slack. The running gives the bit more leverage than the standing martingale. The martingale rings retract when the rider pulls on them. This puts pressure on the mouth. The downside to the running martingale, unless the rider rides on the buckle, is that the weight of the rings puts some pressure onto the reins. This is one reason many people don’t run on a leverage bit or an elevator. It’s also why you attach the rings on the snaffle rein with a pelham.Running martingales should allow for some flexibility in their forks, even when the head is in neutral. Rein stops should be used to prevent the rings from becoming caught in the bit.
They are safer than standing martingales, and they can also be used for eventing. Running martingales have a lower restriction than standing ones. They should always have rein stops to prevent the rings from falling down and becoming caught on the bit. I’ve seen riders ride without rein stops, and it really makes me cringe. A bit caught in a ring can lead to a serious accident.
A running martingale is what I use to hunt. The martingale gives me more leverage and allows me to hunt with a lighter bit. Freedom can sometimes get over the bit and get very excited. A martingale is something I don’t use. A running attachment is always used to attach a breastplate. A regular martingale that doesn’t attach directly to the saddle is not something you want when hunting. If your horse falls or trips, it’s easy for the neck strap to slip over his head. A few people have used a standard martingale in the hunt field. They tie some baling twine around their neck straps and fasten it with a dring.