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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone!

I recently took my rescued trail mare on our first solo ride (solo as in no one from our current herd came with us). We joined a local faux foxhunting club for a trail ride/hunt and rode in third field, which was walk/trot. She was really good with the new horses until we started trotting in an open hay field and that's where my question comes into play. My mare started getting too excited and wanted to race. She puts her head up so she's against the bit and fights my control to slow down and leg to guide her to stay with the group. She's done this before during flat work at home and on other off-property rides with herd mates. She's perfectly fine and easy to handle in narrower spaces but gets worked up/excited in open spaces, especially new ones.

Right now I ride with a dee-ring snaffle which fits my needs during all other situations. People I know had told me they use a different bit with more leverage for off property for similar reasons. Other people told me to try a standing martingale to keep her from putting her head up.

Each one has come with its own set of concerns; if I try a different bit, which one should I go with that won't drastically change riding in a dee-ring everywhere else? A good friend advised against a standing martingale because she had a bad fall on a horse wearing one. The horse tripped and was unable to regain his balance because of its head being tied down, causing her to tumble over its neck. How would a standing martingale affect things like crossing creeks and rocky terrain where the horse needs its head?

Any advice on the best way to deal with this situation is greatly appreciated!
 

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I happen to love standing martingales when properly adjusted and under the right riding circumstances.
Riding in unknown areas, crossing streams and water is a no, absolutely not situation for that piece of tack.
So, properly adjusted the martingale does not interfere with a horse extending its neck and face to regain lost balance...
What it does is stop the horse from going past a proper point of extension and the horse literally elevating their head to smack you in the face...you will break at least your nose and possibly much more.
When riding though where submerging is a possibility, you could drown the horse and yourself when that animal thrashes violently trying to live...
The thing with standing martingales is they have no contact at all to the mouth. They attach to a regular caveson and thread through the front legs and attach to the girth with a neck strap to keep the length away from entangling the feet.

Many swear by the running martingale that it is better...
To me it is not...
To watch a horse elevate their head, fight with the riders hands that get stronger and bear down more force by shortening reins creates a horse whose mouth can be bared wide open from pressure exerted to its lower jaw in effort of head down forced...
Would I use this on a horse crossing water...probably not this either. No...
You as the rider are still restricting the horse ability to raise its head skyward if it submerged and was drowning...pull the reins hard and down the nose went and dead horse you got...
Nope not going there either...

So, your rescued trail mare...is she by chance from the racetrack or trained for racing in some discipline?
Racehorses are taught to not let another in front of them...they race to lead the pack.
Watch a jockey who appears to be fighting with a horse trying to save it for the sprint to the finish...yes, they sometimes do pull against to slow and steady them...
Doing that though also is taught to the horse the firmer the grip to the reins and firmer a hold on the mouth the more the horse pulls against that steadying force and gives it everything they got in speed and power...
Hence, is your horse at all connected with race training?
If so, you need to go back and fill in the blanks which takes time that it is OK to not lead, not race the others and just go for a easy gallop.
Not simple a task...and think about racetrack...open space and wide in front of the horse is something not truly forgotten ever.
If the horse was never raced, some horses just love to run and be in front of the group...still a training issue.

As for a bit...many field hunters use to hunt in Pelham bridles with various mouthpieces so if all is good you ride the snaffle rein...
If someone starts to get quick a gentle "hey you" is applied with the curb rein while still offering most control through that snaffle...
When it hits the fan you have that curb rein to get the attention back to you in a hurry...
When you use and apply force to both sets of reins it is not many a horse who not come back and slow down although they may not want to...the degree of leverage applied to mouth, poll and body gets their attention quick to stop the nonsense...
That kind of pressure and force though needs done very carefully as to much to fast, to hard and unrelenting can flip a horse over they slam the brakes on so fast over they go...
Even still, for a horse who only gets antsy occasionally in large groups galloping...which kind of bit is going to be a question...
More though, not a stronger bit but training done to teach the horse another way is OK too...
:runninghorse2:...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I happen to love standing martingales when properly adjusted and under the right riding circumstances.
Riding in unknown areas, crossing streams and water is a no, absolutely not situation for that piece of tack.
The water areas that the hunt club ride in are typically about knee-deep, at most. The creek we crossed on this ride only went up to my mare's fetlocks but was still rocky underneath. I can see how deeper water could cause a major drowning concern with a martingale.

To watch a horse elevate their head, fight with the riders hands that get stronger and bear down more force by shortening reins creates a horse whose mouth can be bared wide open from pressure exerted to its lower jaw in effort of head down forced...
This is what I'm currently forced to do so I know a running martingale is already not an option for me. I hate having to be so hard on my hands just to grab her attention and get her back to a calm, listening state.

So, your rescued trail mare...is she by chance from the racetrack or trained for racing in some discipline?
If the horse was never raced, some horses just love to run and be in front of the group...still a training issue.
No, my mare is a Bashkir Curly Horse. All the history I have on her is an auction note saying "trail and lesson horse". She's a great trail horse but she only knew how to follow when I got her. Her confidence has increased in the past 5 years owning her and she feels slightly more comfortable leading now. It depends on who she's going out with since she's mid to low level in her current herd. Close to home, she follows. Off-property, she's a bit more eager and swaps between following and leading.


We've been taking lessons together with the goal in mind of joining the foxhunting club permanently next year (walk/trot group with someday moving up to walk/trot/canter/optional jumping group). These problems are hard to re-train in our lessons because they've only been appearing in off-property group rides. This was our third off-property trail. We joined the club for a public ride last year with a herd mate and had similar excitement/control problems in the open fields with others galloping by. The second one was herd mates only, walk only on narrow trails with no problems. The third one was just us and club members in the walk/trot group of about 10 horses/riders.

She seems to be sensitive to the energy of the group in the open. Trotting on the trails, she was very good and listening. But in the open, I need that bit of extra control so she focuses on me, stops putting her head up against the bit and not racing the group.

I will definitely look into Pelham bridles. I'm not planning on ever joining the galloping group since jumping in mandatory and my mare is not a jumper.
 

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Me personally, I don't like martingales.

You can help her without the use of a martingale. Trust me.

The bit you use is probably fine. I would work on different exercises. Half-halts. Changes of directions. Trot poles, etc.

Make sure you're relaxed in your seat. Maybe talk to her as well, I find that if my mare is getting worked up/anxious, talking to her really calms her down. Don't fight with her.

Lots of changes of direction can help too - if you even FEEL her getting antsy (kinda like that hopping walk), change directions. Go left, go right, patterns, etc. Just keep her mind busy, busy busy, so she's not like 'ohhh, open space, I must run!'. :lol: You don't want to yank her mouth, that'll make it even worse & will probably make her more frustrated.
 

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The best way to prevent that type of situation is usually to be careful who you ride with. I love a good gallop. But I like to gallop when each person riding in the group is comfortable doing so.

I know people who love using standing martingales. I also know a woman who was using one on her horse. He got excited. The martingale whacked his nose when he tried to lift his head. He ended up flipping over on top of her. It broke her back. Fortunately, paramedics were there. Her spinal cord was not severed. She had surgery and walks and rides again.

The horse was fine. He had such a nice soft cushion to land on.
 

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The point of the martingale is to allow one to apply pressure to the bars and tongue even when the horse stretches out its head. You can do the same thing with a curb bit. For western, I'd recommend a Billy Allen.


For English, perhaps something like this:


I recommend it as an option. NOT saying a martingale would be wrong. An advantage is a curb bit rotates in the mouth versus pulling back and some horses prefer that sort of motion. But horses like different bits and there is more than one way to get the job done.
 

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I am surprised that you are surprised at this, frankly. I don't mean to sound rude, but practically ANY horse taken out on a group ride that has the high energy of a fox/faux hunting group will become hard to handle. This is the nature of the beast.



this is especially true for the first ride if this type. That you find this an unexpected problem , is, well, unexpected to me.


Just about any horse with some spirit in them, take out into an open field, with other equally alive horses, will become so energized as to be hard to handle. I think you should have expected that, as you said this was your first ride outside of her 'herd'.


Whatever tack related solution you choose, please take the time to try it out in the field or arena beforehand, ne? And, well, come prepared for this, and understand that this is just par for the course, at least for a while.


Best of luck. I hope you have a lot of fun out there!
 

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I've been looking for history since I got her, especially because they're not common horses. A local rescue got her from a meat dealer who got her at auction. I adopted her from the rescue after they rehabilitated her (abscesses in both front hooves).

She doesn't seem to be registered. I've reached out to all the Ontario/Quebec breeders and a couple retired breeders with no luck. She's either a PMU baby from Alberta, come from somewhere in the US or was personally bred by someone. The last thing I can do is a parentage DNA test but I just haven't gotten around to doing it. The closest I've ever gotten to her riding history was someone told me that they recognized her from a trail riding place about 45 minutes away. I sent them an email about it and got no reply (not surprising).

Based on the auction note, she is definitely a trail horse and wasn't a lesson horse beyond the "here's how you turn and stop" for paid rides. She only understood "follow" and didn't really understand the cues for trot or canter. I think she knew at one point but had been used as a trail horse for so long that she needed a major refresher. We're both at a point where I'm happy to take her places but we're still learning together through lessons and new experiences. She's an A+ trail horse other than this against the bit issue.
 

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"didn't really understand the cues for trot or canter"

Where I live, those cues are "Kick harder". My own horse's cues are "Kissing sound" to shift up a gear, and "Easy" to shift down. If need be, follow up with a squeeze or a bump on the reins - bump, not pull.

When I got Bandit, he had been ridden with a bosal as primary and a snaffle bit as an emergency brake. First time I trotted him and STARTED to take slack out of the reins, he came to a full stop immediately! We had to work on the idea that bit does NOT equal WHOA! We now use a Billy Allen curb similar to the one I posted above. But if someone wanted to ride him English, with the standard English cues...they'd have to teach him from square one. He's an experienced horse. He was ridden in a bunch of relay races in NE Arizona, and does well crossing raw desert now in southern Arizona, but he doesn't have much book learning! Good horse but not much of one for "cues".
 

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I haven't read through all the responses, but I would say no to a standing martingale especially if you are crossing water. I have heard stories of horses drowning b/c they had a standing martingale or tie down on (granted, I'm sure they were crossing rivers, but still).

I do endurance with my horse - so when we go to actual events he can get a little amped up and can get quite strong with me b/c of all the energy.

I did end up switching to a stronger bit. I can school him all day long in his french link and he will be fine, but the energy at these off site events does make a huge difference and I don't need my horse running away on me.

I schooled him at home in the new bit before going off-site just to ensure he knew how it felt, etc. I am not against moving into a stronger bit if needed, as long as you know what you are doing.

I don't have a problem with my horse chucking his head in the air, so have never had a use for martingales before. However, a friend of mine has a mare that does - and the martingale didn't really help her at all. She ended up fighting her mare anyway.

I do know that my young mare would get very nervous at rides with a lot of horses. Instead of using more gadgets on her, I took a step back and only attended rides with a couple horses - to help her build confidence and keep the energy at a lower level. She was able to relax a bit more. You might just need to take a step back and avoid really large groups. It can be a lot for them to handle, especially if they haven't been in those situations before.
 

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FWIW, I don't believe curb bits are "stronger" bits. They don't work by leverage in my experience. If they did, I could just pull harder on a snaffle and make things work.

A curb bit rotates, so even when a horse lifts her head and sticks her nose out, the bit applies pressure to the bars and tongue. Lifting and pointing is a common bit EVASION. It lets the snaffle slide back against the molars where the horse can ignore it. That evasion doesn't work with a curb bit, which was why Mia started making progress in not bolting when we switched to a curb bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
FWIW, I don't believe curb bits are "stronger" bits. They don't work by leverage in my experience. If they did, I could just pull harder on a snaffle and make things work.

A curb bit rotates, so even when a horse lifts her head and sticks her nose out, the bit applies pressure to the bars and tongue. Lifting and pointing is a common bit EVASION. It lets the snaffle slide back against the molars where the horse can ignore it. That evasion doesn't work with a curb bit, which was why Mia started making progress in not bolting when we switched to a curb bit.
I did end up switching to a stronger bit. I can school him all day long in his french link and he will be fine, but the energy at these off site events does make a huge difference and I don't need my horse running away on me.
cbar, what type of bit do you use for off-site?

It seems like trying a curb bit might be my best option to try for hunting since the evasion and "gotta race everyone" is only happening then. We have no problems off-property schooling or riding at home in the snaffle.

We were riding in a group of 8 and split down to a walk-only group of 4. This little group was fine but the excitement came from the group of 8.
 

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cbar, what type of bit do you use for off-site?

It seems like trying a curb bit might be my best option to try for hunting since the evasion and "gotta race everyone" is only happening then. We have no problems off-property schooling or riding at home in the snaffle.

We were riding in a group of 8 and split down to a walk-only group of 4. This little group was fine but the excitement came from the group of 8.
I ended up going to a small swivel curb with a slight port mouth. I don't neck rein, so the bit I chose works well for direct reining.

It is a good transition bit as he'd never really had a curb bit before.

You could also try a kimberwicke with the reins on the lower part of the bit - it acts with a bit of a curb action too.

Yah, sounds like your mare just feeds off the excitement of a larger group. If possible, you could try sticking to smaller groups and then try the larger groups again once she gets more accustomed to these outings.
 

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Like @cbar my horses are saints at home in their snaffle/s hack but as soon as we get to endurance rides it is game on.

I use a running martingale on my mare because she tries to put her head up and evade the bit. It worked so well the first few times that I didn't need it much after that but she isn't super race brained.

My gelding is likely going to get a martingale sooner or later. He used to just pull but now he's doing the evade giraffe thing. Guess he's feeling good? Need to have some 50 mile rides so I can help him find his manners again.
 

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My mare is around 16-17 now. Several of the breeders I spoke to said she could be a PMU baby since there were apparently a decent number of Curlies in the Alberta facilities that were dispersed out. She would have been one of the last generations, if she came from there and many of the Curlies were unregistered.

I'll take a look at those other links too, thanks! The American Bashkir Curly registry said I could do a parentage test through them to see what comes up but only International Curly Horse Organization will register her at this point. I don't care for registering her myself but I am curious to see what her bloodlines could be.

Canadian Curly Horse Association isn't a registry; just a place for fellow Canadian Curly horse owners to connect. ABC and ICHO are the only two.
 

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Is anyone really going to hang on by the reins when a horse is swimming? A bit unlikely. So a running martingale isn't going to drown the thing, because it's only fixed at one end. Unlike a standing, with two fixed points. Yes, you can adjust a running martingale so you still have leverage when the horse's head is not above the angle of control, but if it's the correct length, and the horse's head doesn't get that high, it has hardly any effect at all. Okay, it's hard to use an open rein aid because of the angular restriction, but that's about the only issue.

I've always used one as a standard piece of kit, except when schooling on the flat.
 

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Is anyone really going to hang on by the reins when a horse is swimming?

Actually, a lot of people don't know what to do...or so I've witnessed here by me.
I've seen people go in an swim bareback or saddles still on and go deep the horse is truly swimming...
You restrict the head by holding reins when a horse is working to swim and stay nose high...not good.

The first time I truly swam mine, I was told by others who swam often what to do with my hands and the reins in them...
For some using the reins is the lifeline to keep away from the kicking, churning hooves underwater...:cool:
:runninghorse2:...


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