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Hi, Bob,

I've been thinking about getting a riding martingale for one of our horses, but I don't know if she's ever had one put on before. How can I make sure that she's comfortable with it before I get in the saddle?

Thanks a lot.

- L. I.


Before straping a solid line to my horse's head, I'd want to make certain that he's not going to panic when he feels his head movement suddenly restricted. If he hasn't already been worked with a cotton breaking rein, I'd work him in the round pen until we're both comfortable with his keeping his head down. (What I'm describing here is a cotton line, about 14 feet long, looped through a D-ring on the girth and run through the rings on a snaffle bit. You can then use the rein to keep the horse's head down, yet release the pressure if the horse acts nervous about it.)

After the horse is comfortable keeping his head down, it's time to fit him with a martingale. Don't saddle up yet. Just as when you first put a saddle on him, you'll want to work him in the round pen for a while. He could still panic, and you don't want to be on board if it happens.

After he's used to the limitation of his head movement, you're ready to go.

A final note: I realize that horses that will be shown in Western competitions need to be trained to keep their necks parallel to the ground. A martingale can also be used to keep a horse from throwing its head. (I remain unconvinced, however, that it's the best solution to the problem.) When I hit the trail, however, I'd keep the martingale at home. If the horse still has a problem with throwing his head, the trail is not where I want to deal with it. And if the horse startles on the trail, a martingale will probably only make the situation worse.

Happy Riding!

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