Saturday, December 19, 2009

Martingales In Dressage?

Perhaps it is just me, but I see quite a bit of people do dressage schooling with a martingale or something of the like. Like about 50%. Something like that.

Anyway, my thoughts are:

If they are not allowed in competition, why would one school in them?

I'm not just talking about those seriously misinformed people who have their horse's chin to their chest in an outrageously tight martingale. Yes, that is bad. I'm really just talking about martingales in dressage schooling general. I honestly think that if you rely on one in schooling it's almost a bit like cheating your way to getting "on the bit". And then you get into the show ring and both you and horse are like "er... what do we do from here?"

If you school in them a lot or all of the time, how would that help you in competition when you can't have one on? Your horse might not know what to do (if you've been using the martingale improperly) or they might just think "YUSH HAY DAY!" and throw their head up in the air when you tighten your reins and look more like a bad jumper than a dressage horse. I understand they are quite practical in and allowed in anything that involves jumping. They are also allowed in almost all of the western speed events. But dressage is not a speed event, so....

Is it just the people who use martingales improperly that should worry, or what? What do y'all think?

I've stayed away from martingales for this reason, not like we need them anyway. I would be afraid of becoming dependent on them. Also because I have no idea on earth how to use one properly. I use polo wraps. Those aren't allowed in competition. I use a dressage whip on occasion (I usually never had to tap Greta though, all she needs is just to see it in my hand and know that I really mean business). And those aren't allowed in most competitions either. So I guess I am a bit guilty of my own argument.

But it was just a thought. Does it seem fair for one to use a martingale in schooling, when used properly? Does one only use them when a horse is acting up, or to get a green horse/rider used to feeling of contact and being on the bit? Enlighten me.


  1. I'm pretty anti-"gimmicks" myself. I mostly work with problem horses and OTTBs. With them, the more stuff you add, the more they feel restricted. When I barrel raced professionally, I was one of the few riders that refused to use a tie down, but my horse had more freedom and athletic movement without it. I feel the same about martingales.

    That said, out of all the awful things that I've seen people use in the context of dressage, a martingale is mild. Its not nearly as damaging as rollkur or spurring the horse at every step. I think I would be okay with an educated trainer using the martingale for a very short period of time and riding thereafter without it.

  2. Actually, whips are allowed in competition :) Just not at the FEI levels, or at Preliminary or higher, or at Championship shows or classes. Or maybe they've changed the rules on me again, but I know I've personally carried plenty of whips with me as long as they are under 42" lash included.

    As for this: "But it was just a thought. Does it seem fair for one to use a martingale in schooling, when used properly? Does one only use them when a horse is acting up, or to get a green horse/rider used to feeling of contact and being on the bit? Enlighten me."

    Personal opinion: when you have a horse that occasionally does this ( a running martingale would be a welcome help! (However, when you also have a horse that does THIS [] a martingale means you're DEAD so it goes both ways.) When used appropriately, a martingale isn't really used at all. It's adjusted so that when the horse is working corrently, the martingale hangs slack. It's just when the horse throws it's head into the rafters that it becomes a reminder for the horse to not do that. Martingales should never be adjusted so short that they keep a horse's head in place. Green riders, in my opinion, should never have anything but a snaffle and some elastic-type reins.

    In the wrong hands, martingales could potentially cause some real damage. Completely gentle snaffle bits can also cause some very serious damage. Look at Gogo, the evil trainer flipped her over with nothing more than a KK Ultra snaffle. Any gadget - anything at all - can cause damage in the wrong hands.

  3. When asked if I should be using a martingale my instructor (who is 80 and was a Grand Prix eventer in her time) said no way... She said the only time I may possibly need one is when we start to jump cross country. She said if you are training correctly you need a simple snaffle and the right person telling you what to do. She said my horse may never need a martingale, even while jumping xc. We shall see, but I do trust her opinions implicitly which is how it should be, and she hasn't led us wrong yet! Time will tell I suppose! I like that she isn't telling me to try tons of unnatural equipment, just me and my horse and lots of practice....

  4. Thanks guys! Learn something new every day! Good point Andrea, any piece of equipment can be harmful in the wrong hands. And agreed Patricia, compared to some other "training methods" martingales are very mild! Jacksonsgrrl, eighty Years old and a former Grand Prix eventer? Yeah I'd trust her on principle haha!

  5. I have a thing against draw reins and martingales. Like Andrea said, the running martingale is used to remind a horse to not throw his head through the roof, and at all other times it's slack. What you had in the picture looks like something all together, and what you mention about people using them to get their horse 'on the bit' sounds a bit more like side reins and their sister contraptions.

    We're supposed to ride our horses back to front. Putting the head down, forcing the head to bend at the poll, or even encouraging the horse to keep their head there, is all against the point.

    When the horse is collected, he'll hold his head in place. Our only job is to keep him relaxed in the neck and poll.

    ...So someone tell me how sidereins/etc. aren't completely and absolutely backwards?

  6. I've always been told that they mimmick the rider's hold on the reins, so the horse can still have contact without a rider. Makes sense to me, except why aren't they a bit higher? I've never seen a good rider's hands down by their knees, and all of the side reins I've seen are clipped to the billets or something nearby.

  7. DiJ, sidereins ARE totally backwards. Use a chambon instead ;)

  8. I agree with Andrea--she advised me to use the chambon with Jackson last year and it helped aaaaaaaaaallllooootttt! :)

  9. Coming from the reining world, you do see people training sometimes with draw reins to teach their horses to keep their heads down, but not all the time. it's more like a last resort to use them so that they don't become dependant on them. But this is the comment that threw me a little, "They are also allowed in almost all of the western speed events." Actually martingales aren't allowed in any Western event, not even speed. They are allowed tie downs (which I don't even know the point of) but in Western attire, we are not allowed to have any English equipment on our horses in competition.

  10. ah, okay Sam. Shame on me since I did barrel racing for five years. But it was also as a little kid and I was more focused on "oooh pretty poneeeee" than the actual riding itself. I thought tie downs and martingales were one in the same. Oops! Thank you for your insight and welcome to the blog!

  11. Just found this site, and never used martingales of any kind, can someone please explain, draw reins to me


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