Martingales? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-07-2013, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Atlanta, GA
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Me again with more English riding questions!

This post has to be prefaced with a story, just because :)
I had my first ever English riding lesson on Saturday. I rode the mile over there and started the lesson on my boy Mellow-- I know he's green to English and I'm green to English, but I just wanted to see how it would go. He wasn't feeling it, so I ended up doing the hour and a half long lesson on one of their horses. I had no idea how to post when I got there, but by the end of it I could post a trot, switch if I was on the wrong lead, and ride 2 point (which, might I add, I am still feeling two days later... so sore!!) It was a very fun learning experience for me, and I can't wait to take more lessons.

All that being said, the only reason I'm even taking English riding lessons is because Mellow is supposed to be my English horse. He just doesn't move like a Western horse when he trots-- his gait, how he carries his head, it all screams English to me, and that's why I fell in love with him (plus he can be a real sweetie when he wants to be. he stood tied the whole time during my lesson, with strange horses going in and out of the ring, and he didn't move).

The instructor showed me how to adjust his bridle so it fit right, and how I'm supposed to hold the reins. Mellow isn't used to that kind of pressure from the reins and wasn't sure whether I wanted him to stop, back, go forward, whatever. It was all very confusing to him I think because he's usually a very good listener. I was doing some research into martingales because he needs to learn how to carry his head and be used to the pressure even though I want him to go forwards. Does that make any sense? Anyway, I'm not sure what kind I should look into-- and keep in mind I'm going to be bringing him for his own training once I get better at my own.

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post #2 of 5 Old 01-08-2013, 02:19 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
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Martingales are used as a safety measure to prevent the horse from putting its head up too high. They are NOT meant to be used to keep the head down. "head-set" comes from proper self-carriage of the horse working back to front. This comes with training and time as it requires a lot of muscles tfor the horse to do this.
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-08-2013, 02:50 PM
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I would be hesitant to slap him into a martingale if hes having issues with the basics, a martingale is a quick and dirty fix that will make it more difficult for you to get correct work in the long run. A martingale can turn into a crutch and a bad habit if not used properly. You would be better off being patient and establishing basics (accepting contact, moving forward off of your leg etc) before worrying about where his head is. It sounds like where you both are in your training, adding a martingale will just add more confusion.

It sounds like you are headed in the right direction getting lessons and learning on other horses so you can help your own horse to learn, so good job! Just be patient and remember you will have a better trained horse in the long run if you get the carriage and collection the right way without a short cut!

If you are bound and determined to use one, A. make sure you are using a mild snaffle, B. Try a running martingale- everything on it moves so you can't get yourself into a nasty stuck, freaked out horse situation. Just remember to give the rein back once his head is where you want it.

Best of Luck!

"Riding: the art of keeping the horse between you and the ground."
~Author Unknown
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post #4 of 5 Old 01-08-2013, 03:14 PM
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As Jumanji said martingales are for protecting one's health from the head flying upwards. I had to use one for a few months as my horse decided throwing her head up when she was pissed was a good idea. Kept my face safe and kept her head at an acceptable level, it did not give her a head set in any way, just kept it from getting to high.
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post #5 of 5 Old 01-08-2013, 04:26 PM
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I just have to start off by saying how much I hate all the head set gadgets that are out there now a days. Some used properly and as an aid I'm sure can help, but it far more often becomes a band aid or crutch that you can't go without. The basic idea of the "head set" is that the horse is balanced and moving properly from back to front, and thus places his head "right" because he is balanced right. Using martingales (which shouldn't be used to place a head anyways), or neck stretchers, etc., end up placing the head, but the horse still isn't moving properly, as soon as you take it off, you are right back to where you started. It also develops improper neck muscles because the horse braces against it since they still aren't moving in a balanced and proper way.

I agree with jumanji and saddle, that you need to work first on him moving off of your leg, and accepting contact with the bit, and balancing himself first before even looking at where his head is, with time he'll start building up the right muscles, will become more balanced, and then you can start to ask him to give more to the bit, to accept more steady contact etc.
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