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What is a martingale and what is it used for?

Published: 2023-10-17 10:35:54 Categories: Guides Rss feed


What is a martingale?

Martingale is a special equipment often used in recreational riding and sports. It consists of two straps: neck and breast ones as well as two rings to thread through reins.

Parts of martingale – what does it consist of?

Martingales are usually made of natural leather, synthetic materials, or biothane. The fittings are commonly made of stainless steel. Martingale consists of two straps:

  • Neck strap – this strap makes a loop around the horse’s neck. It can be adjusted to fit the horse better.

  • Chest strap – a longer strap that is either attached or threaded through the girth. The other end of the chest strap divides into two smaller pieces that end with metal hoops for the reins. It is recommended to use stoppers to prevent the hoops from getting tangled with other equipment elements and protect the horse from injuries.

Martingale – what is it for?

Martingale prevents the horse from raising its head too high. You can observe the mechanism of martingale when your horse sticks its head way up. In some instances, a horse might raise its head so high that the rider loses control over the animal. Martingale prevents such situations and therefore, increases the rider’s safety.

Martingale is also widely used in show jumping – it protects the rider from crashing into a horse’s head that was raised too high during a jump. Due to this reason, jumpers often use martingales during competitions. This equipment is especially recommended for novice riders because it protects the horse’s sensitive mouth from injuries caused by the rider who hold reins too high; martingale stabilizes reins and makes it easier to use them properly.

In conclusion, the martingale slightly corrects the position of the horse’s head, stabilizes the reins, and increases safety during a ride. These reasons make the martingale a recommended equipment for novice riders and jumpers. However, it is important to remember that martingale is banned in dressage.

How does the martingale work?

Martingale puts pressure on the reins and horse’s mouth when the animal wants to raise its head too high. This mechanism forces the horse to put its head down. In comparison to other similar equipment, martingale has a mild effect on the horse.


  1. Busse Martingale Basic Pro

  2. Busse Martingale Basic

Types of martingales

There are a few different types of martingales:

  • Running martingale – a common type of martingale that consists of a neck strap and a chest strap. It is used to prevent the horse from raising its head too high. A great example is the Prestige Italia E54 martingale

  • Martingale with breastplate – this combination of a martingale with a breastplate is perfect for riders who also want to prevent their saddle from sliding. This Horze adjustable hunting breastplate is a great example.

  • Elastic martingale – this type comes with a partial chest strap that is made of rubber or other elastic material and attached to a breastplate. An example of an elastic martingale is the Waldhausen X-Line elastic martingale fork.

  • Triangle running martingale – the top straps are connected with each other by a piece of fabric in the shape of a triangle. It has a stronger effect than other martingales. It is most commonly used in racing or eventing.

  • Irish martingale – a short strap with hoops on each end for reins to go through. This type prevents the reins from falling in case of a rider’s fall.

How to fit a martingale?

Martingales are easy to fit. The neck strap should be loose enough to fit a hand that was put between the horse and the strap. The martingale has a correct length when the raised-up hoops are about the height of the withers. The neck loop should be put evenly between the legs to prevent uneven pressure on the horse’s head and injuries to the front legs.

Only a correctly fitted martingale will work as intended. Too short a martingale will restrict the movement of the horse’s neck and back. This is extremely uncomfortable for a horse and can lead to muscle tightness as well as accidents. Too long martingale might get caught in the horse’s hooves and cause a fall. It is worth remembering to put stoppers between the hoops of the martingale and a bit to divide the two pieces of equipment from each other.


When not to use a martingale?

Martingale should not be used in horses that display behaviour that might be linked to health problems. In this case, the equipment might increase the discomfort of the horse. Before getting a martingale, you should know the reason for using it. Every rider should know that no equipment can be a remedy to any behavioural or health problems.

Quite often the root cause of various unwanted behaviours of a horse is health problems. In the case of horses that throw their head during a ride notoriously, martingale will only mask the problem but not solve it. Sometimes specific behaviours are caused by problems with teeth. When a new training problem arises, you should always first consult a vet.

Take good care of your horse's back by choosing the right saddle. Check out: horse riding saddles

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