We went out to ride our horse today and our mare was acting like a basket case (she hasn't been ridden in a while). Actually all of the horses were feeling spring in the air and running and bucking, etc. Lily was antsy, jumpy and full-of-it! I was thinking that it may not be such a good idea to ride until we are able to get her focused and that today might be a good day to get some groundwork done. I especially didn't want my 7-year old daughter to ride. My MIL frowned on that and told me that she'll be fine if we use a running martingale (I've never used one and I'm not familiar with them). I wasn't convinced so we took her into the arena and lunged her - I just let her get the edge off and she got tired in about 15 minutes or so (SLIGHTLY out of shape!). I then decided that my daughter could ride if I was leading. That went well so I let my daughter ride her (at a walk only). My daughter had never used a running martingale and was uncomfortable and clumsy with it so we stopped using it. Normally I would have her work with it and get used to it, but I wanted her to be comfortable beings that Lily was such a basket case when we started. I wanted my daughter to be able to one-rein stop with ease in an emergency situation and I figured that if she's fumbling with the martingale at a walk she may not be able to stop in an emergency. MIL said that the martingale would make it easier to stop and that we should not have stopped using it.
Now I'm confused. Is this a something that you need to learn to use or should it automatically make it easier to control your horse?
A running martingale will NOT act as a brake.
For stopping power, I want to have my reins free (no martingales) and me to be able to open my hand wide and crank the horse's nose to my knee.
A running martingale will enforce downward pressure when the horse lifts its head above that level, so it's supposed to help encourage a lower head.
If your daughter was uncomfortable with the martingale, don't use it :)
Thanks JDI, I think that's what I saw when I was watching my daughter ride with the martingale. She was clumsy with it and she didn't have the freedom to crank Lily's head around. She's just 7, not terribly strong, and would need to be able use her arm more freely if she needed. MIL said that the martingale would give her more leverage and make it easier to stop Lily. I respectfully disagreed on the grounds that my daughter was uncomfortable using it.
So is a running martingale used only to keep the head low or is it for overall control?
My thoughts on the running martingale is that when the horse puts its head up, there is downward leverage on the reins, and that leverage is consistent, where a rider's hands may not be.
That is the only real function that I can think of, it certainly won't help any if the horse's head isn't knocking your daughter in the nose. It won't help her stop, unless the horse is bad about tossing its head up high, then there might be a bit of an advantage... either way, if I need to stop a horse quickly, I open my hand (that is, bring it out to the side) and crank the horse's nose to my knee.
It controls head placement to the extent of not allowing the head to go up any higher than what the martingale has been adjusted to....tighter adjustment means limited freedom of the head to rise...looser means more freedom.
The problem with using them is that sometimes the horse will raise its head and brace against the martingale ring control and therefor takes away the riders control of the bit/reins.
Hmmm, interesting. Thanks for the replies. Lily is not much of a "head-raiser" and she has been very responsive in lowering her head when asked with a very gentle tap or squeeze on reins. I wonder why it was suggested that we use the martingale for control. MIL said that it would be easier to stop Lily with the martingale on, but I don't think it would have been for a little girl like my daughter.
Maybe we will wait a while before we start using a martingale - when our horse is in better shape and my daughter has had a few more consistent hours in Lily's saddle.
If a horse raises his head high to avoid the bit then the martingale will help but I don't believe a 7 year old has the strength to use it effectively. Stopping a fractious horse is best done, as JDI suggested, by pulling his nose to your knee and the martingale should prevent him from getting his nose way up in the air. I believe that is what your trainer was trying to accomplish. However, as Spyder said, some horses learn to avoid the effect of the martingale.
The onyl way that a running martingale will help with stopping is if the horse throws it's head up when asked to stop, effectively avoiding the bit. A martingale will help keep the head down to the bit can work properly. If Lily doesn't throw her head up, then a martingale isn't going to be much help with stopping :]
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