Horse training: How to properly fit a running martingale

Written by ros james
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Horse training: How to properly fit a running martingale
Martingales are frequently used in many disciplines, including show jumping. (show horse & rider jumping a gate image by Clarence Alford from

Running martingales are widely used across most horse disciplines, both as a training aid and in competition. While not permitted during dressage tests, they are often seen in both jumping and racing, and are of particular value for training young horses. Correctly fitted, the running martingale is a safety device that prevents a young or excitable horse from throwing up its head, so the rider stays in control.

Things you need

  • Rein stops
  • Saddle, snaffle bridle and girth
  • Running martingale

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  1. 1

    Fit rein stops to the reins of your horse's bridle. This is best done away from your horse. Rein stops of leather or rubber are an essential safety item, as they stop the rings of the running martingale from becoming tangled in the bridle or, worse, in one of your horse's teeth. Thread each rein through the central hole in one rein stop, leading with the central buckle part, not the bit buckle end. The rein stops should be positioned around 200 to 255 mm (8 to 10 inches) from the bit.

  2. 2

    Put on your horse's saddle and snaffle bridle as normal.

  3. 3

    Place the neckstrap of the martingale around your horse's neck. It should fit comfortably around the base of its neck. If necessary, adjust the length of the strap so that it sits in the groove of its chest.

  4. 4

    Take the broad strap at the bottom of the martingale and pass it between your horse's front legs, then undo the girth and pass the end loop through it, keeping the buckle on the outside and ensuring the strap is not twisted. Refasten the girth, ensuring that the strap remains centred.

  5. 5

    Check the length of the martingale by holding the rings up to your horse's withers. For the purposes of basic training, these rings should come up to the approximate height of your horse's withers. If the martingale is too long or short, you need to adjust the length at the girth end. The most efficient way of doing this is by unfastening the girth, unthreading and adjusting the strap, then repeating Step 4.

  6. 6

    Undo the central buckle on the horse's reins, and pass one rein through each of the rings, ensuring there are no twists in either the straps or the reins. Then replace the reins on either side of the horse's neck and refasten the buckle. The martingale is now ready for use.

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