I'm working with an ex racehorse who like most, doesn't engage his hind quarters, round his back, or back up. Since my main discipline is barrel racing, I was told by a trainer out here to try a German Martingale on him. It will keep him on the calm side while he learns the pattern, and it helps him balance himself? What are the downfalls and pick ups of using a German Martingale on a horse? What all would it help with?
Honestly? I would even start him on a pattern if he can't do any of those things.
If you want a well rounded horse, make sure the foundation is solid before attempting to go further with any discipline.
Doesn't sound like you need a German Martingale on him. Just sounds like you need better ground work. Get him basics and once you get that work on getting him off the bit and softness.
I agree with others but I'll say a few things about them. IME they can be helpful if you have a horse who out matches you in the strength department. I have a horse who we used it when he wouldn't come on the bit and was literally ripping my hands open. A few months with wearing one and he's A LOT gentler on the rider. I'd try the other stuff first because sometimes it's the easiest method and cheaper if you don't own one ;-). They can be good tools if you need them to help you.
He's coming along well in backing up, he drops beautifully now that I've really asked him too. He doesn't flex his neck, I think he's confused on what's being asked. He is very gentle on the rider, he moves off my foot and will turn his nose in in circles but he hasn't been doing anything except race track work guys you can't expect him to know anything. Any horse can be converted.
Listened to a Larry Trocha audio this morn that said exactly what the others have already mentioned. Foundation first.
I understand he's an ex-race horse and doesn't know these things. Yes, he needs to be taught. But he needs to be taught these things BEFORE you start him on barrels. And I don't care if you are even just walking it. You can't place his body into the proper position if you can't control every piece of his body.
A German Martingale can be a useful tool. The problem is that most people only get results with the GM and then when they take it off, they're back to where they started. Yes, you'll see some barrel racers actually run the pattern with a GM, but I personally think that's just laziness for not taking the time to train your horse, and relying on the GM.
Bend, bend, bend, and more bend and tons of circles will help your horse with collection and engage that hind end. And time. This ex-racehorse has been allowed to live the first part of his life with zero collection. It's going to take time to develop the muscles for him to carry himself in such a frame.
Elevate that inside rein, and use your inside leg to ask him to bend around it. Doing circles is going to teach him to bring that outside leg underneath him, and engage the hind end. Which is going to help him to collect, which is going to help him travel better.
I have used a GM from time to time, so they're not always bad. But softening your horse in the bridle and doing lots of bending and circles will be what actually teaches your horse to travel in a collected and relaxed frame, with their butt underneath them. The GM only works on the face/neck, and we need to work on the whole body.
You don't bring a person to the gym and expect them to squat 150lbs when they don't know how, do you? Form first. Then add the weight and pattern and everything else. I'd say step back to the ground as others have mentioned.
Get him in the round pen or at the end of a lunge line. A chambon would be a much better aid at this point - fastened loosely, it encourages a horse over time to lower their head and work long and low (thus building a topline). It doesn't tuck their nose back like martingales do, which is something you DO NOT WANT. Horses learn to suck back away from the contact; sure they "arch their neck" but their back is hollow and they're not stepping under themselves as they should be. A horse should seek contact, not learn to move away from it. Until your horse can carry himself correctly on the lunge, how can you expect him to carry you correctly undersaddle?
And remember - be patient. Horses don't build muscle overnight, and they definitely don't learn how to carry themselves correctly overnight. Or even in a week. An OTTB? You're looking at several weeks, ideally all of them spent on the ground but I understand the lack of patience most riders have. I know the chambon works because I've been using it for a month on my hollow backed TB cross and he's gone from a giraffe to finally stepping under himself in a beautiful stretch. It took a good 15 sessions to reach this point at the trot, though. He's not an OTTB, either - just a finished roper turned pasture puff, who was never ridden correctly. We haven't even begun canter work on the ground. See what I mean about patience? Just yesterday I worked him in the round pen without the chambon, and he was moving correctly without it and often dropping his head in to a nice stretch. Many horses who get their noses strapped in by a martingale forget it all as soon as their head has the room to move. That's not correct training, that's just temporary restriction.
Honestly I think you may want to re-evaluate your trainer. I know it's tough when you don't have a vast database of knowledge and experience to pull from, to be able to judge whether your trainer is offering sound advice. But one recommending a german martingale while learning a barrel pattern on an OTTB so it...calms down?....that's a pretty big NOPE for me.
I don't think y'all understand this. I'm not just throwing him on a barrel pattern. I plan on teaching him these things far before I put him on a pattern. I'm taking him to an arena today with nice soft dirt, so he will be worked out here. I won't put him on pattern until he can rollback and get under himself with his back legs.
I swear, people seem to think everyone will do the worst on their horses. Like they're mature trainers. Goodness.
And guys. I was asking about a martial and what it helps and doesn't help. This horse is in shape, he's muscular with a beautiful top line.
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