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.