Tie Downs on the Trail?
Last weekend, my 4-H club did a short trail ride as a fun group activity. I was unable to bring Scout, since I had to leave early to be back at school and prepare for Monday classes, but one of the members very generously offered to let me ride one of the three horses that they brought. I know the mare fairly well, but had never ridden her - she's an all-arounder, but is most successful as a gamer. She's a little on the hotter side, but very controllable and well trained.
The owner's dad helped me tack her up, barrel saddle and breastcollar, standard gaming bit (twisted wire mouth Wonderbit... scared me a little), and tie down. He explained that she sometimes tossed her head, and the tie down was just there to remind her not to should she "get a mare-ish attitude". I didn't argue, they were beyond generous to offer the mare, she's used to this tack, and I don't know much about tie-downs and martingales - I just don't use them on my own horses as I've never had a need to.
Several times on the ride we went up or down steep-ish banks, into and out of creek beds, etc., situations where a horse could really use some freedom of the head and neck to balance and comfortably negotiate the terrain. Between the uber-short gaming reins and the tie down, I really felt like she could have been more comfortable and used herself better without all of the hardware.
What are your thoughts? Does anyone else ride trails with a tie-down or martingale for whatever reason?
We had an awesome day for a ride, through some gorgeous autumn country. Wish I'd thought to take pics. :-(
I personally am not a fan of any head setting gear. I would especially never do that to a horse on the trail. Horse's are flighty and it restrains them from properly seeing their enviroment on the trail, therefore making them more spooky and nervous since you are impairing their vision by not letting them hold their head to where they want it to be. Also, not being able to use their head freely to balance and help carry themselves over the terrain is going to cause discomfort, therefore sour the horse from going out, anticipating the trail with pain. If the horse is tossing it's head, it needs to be addressed as to why, and not covered with a "band aid" which is the tie down. Just my two cents.
We used to ride in parades with our group, and the tie-downs were part of the required tack/uniform for the horses. Understandably, the requirement was so that head tossing would be kept to a minimum and give the group a more cohesive look. Those of us whose horses weren't bad about head tossing would just adjust our tie downs so that our horses looked neat, but they had plenty of room to move their heads as much as they wanted to.
I like the look of the full tack getups on horses, including the tie downs, but when I go for that kind of getup, the tie down is strictly for looks and my horse's head movement isn't restricted.
If you need a tie down on a horse, it shouldn't be going out trail riding.
Riding up and down hills and on uneven terrain means the animal needs to be able to use its head and neck freely.
If the horse is such a freak that it requires a tie down, it needs to stay in the ring.
You guys have just validated everything I've ever been told or read, and the reasons why setting the mare up with a tie-down threw me. :lol: I'm not a rodeo rider, but I know that tie-downs are popular in games classes and roping, and perhaps serve a useful purpose there, but it seems like a poor choice for the trail. This was actually my first experience riding a "finished" western speed event horse, period.
I personally think that she would have ridden just fine without the tie-down -- she went the entire ride without testing anything. I don't know how much of this particular member's tack choices are practically chosen vs. contest-horse fad, if you take my meaning.
The gentleman I bought my first horse from told me a similar story -- horse liked to jump little ditches, could be taken across on an angle and avoid jumping, but would throw his head, so they would ride with a tie-down if they planned on anything with ditches. I rode him for 5 years over ditches large and small, no tie-down, and never once did that gelding toss his head. :mrgreen:
I've ridden with ladies that use tie downs on the trails, but I never do and agree with everyone else that you really want to be able to give your horse its head. All our mares are always ridden on a loose rein with lots of freedom.
What's wrong with a horse throwing it's head around a bit, anyway? Maybe he's irratated by something. Sometimes they throw their head up suddenly when spooked or smell or hear something. Thing is to keep your head out of the way, unless you wanna get knocked out. Let the horse settle in and get comfortable with you.
Yeah, tie-downs might be necessary when a horse has to keep focused in a rodeo and ground events.
That just sounds plain dangerous to me. I stopped counting the number of times my horse caught himself from tripping by using his neck to balance himself. If it had been restricted, he probably would have done several face plants.
It is dangerous. Not only does it inhibit the balance and maneuverability of the horse through rough terrain, but it is a death sentence in deep water. There was a friend of my Dad's when they were young that went on a trail ride with another friend. They decided they wanted to swim their horses out into the pond a bit and being young kids like they were, they didn't think about the possible dangers. The other friend had a tie-down on his horse and as soon as they got out in water that was too deep for the horse to keep his nose above it, the horse completely freaked. The kid ended up falling off in the pond, got pawed on the head by his horse, and he died. Tie downs are not supposed to be for a headset or to stop a head slinger anyway. They are to provide the horse with something to brace against for balance and strength in events like barrels and roping events. The horse should still have complete free range of natural motion.
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