How to Fit a Horse With a Standing Martingale

Updated April 16, 2018

The standing martingale is a piece of tack that is commonly found among horses who compete in the hunter discipline. It is different from the running martingale, which is more common in jumpers; in fact, standing martingales are not allowed in jumper competition for fences over a certain height. The standing martingale prevents the horse from throwing its head up in the air past a certain point, but it must be fitted correctly.

Slide the martingale neck strap around your horse's neck so that the buckle is on the horse's left. This strap should slide freely; do not tighten the buckle so that you cannot move the strap. Note that if you ride your horse in a breastplate, you will not need this strap.

Slide the girth into the loop at the end of the martingale. Include some slack from the rubber stop at the intersection of the neck strap and martingale, but not so much that it can interfere with your horse's legs; it should not dangle. You can adjust this with the rubber stop. Make sure the martingale is centred between your horse's leg when you affix the girth to the saddle. Check it again if you tighten the girth later.

Slide the end of the noseband into the small loop at the tip of the martingale, and reattach the noseband. Now take the slack in the martingale and place it up along the underside of your horse's neck and throat; it should reach all the way up underneath the throat latch. If it does not, then the martingale is too tight and you are severely restricting your horse's head. If you can lay it up against the throatlatch with some dangling, it is too loose. Adjust accordingly.


The standing martingale is not meant to keep a horse's head down; it simply prevents it from coming up too high in certain situations. This equipment should not be substituted for proper training in getting your horse into a proper headset.


A standing martingale is often compared to the Western tie-down; however, a tie-down is typically shorter and restricts the head movement more than a properly fitted standing martingale.

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About the Author

Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.