Join Date: May 2007
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
I agree with spirithorse. In general, I try to avoid restricting aids. Best case scenario, they make the horse dependent on the device, and they don't learn to do it properly on their own. Many settings don't allow various training aids, so why use them in practice? Worst case scenario, your horse becomes frustrated by being restrained in an unnatural way that his/her body has not been properly conditioned to do, and develops a plethora of emotional/behavior issues. I think it would be best to take your time and teach it right in the first place. I see martingales recommended and used commonly all over, but I can't think of any situation where they would be necessary if there wasn't a whole somewhere in the training. If you need a restricting aid, think about what is missing, go back, and fix that. Then see if you still feel the need for the aid.
I am not going to say all that and act like I didn't learn through experience. I barrel raced for many years and tie downs (made of wire) and sever bits (gags and bits made of chain) were common practice. I also began to observe horses with severe emotional/behavioral issues, huge holes in their training, dangerous habits, head pressed against tie downs all the time, etc. As I continued to observe this and see countless horses go lame, become injured, and see people go off in ambulances, I got burned out!
I perused other disciplines and began to learn about true horsemanship. I leaned that you can teach a horse to do most anything in a loose ring snaffle (or even a rope halter), you don't need to use tie downs/martingales, draw reins, etc. to teach advanced skills.
Good luck however you decide to proceed. One thing that might be helpful is to remember that when teaching pretty much anything, the most important thing is the "release" when they do something right. This way you reinforce the actions and behaviors you want. If you want head low, and you are driving your horse in a circle at the trot adding a little inside rein pressure to ask him to drop his head, and he drops his head a little, release the rein pressure and let him move out of the circle.