The Running Martingale

By Patty Wilber

Three weeks ago, I discussed the German martingale.  This week’s topic is the running martingale, which I actually wrote about once already, calling it a training fork, but that was in 2018…so I guess I can repeat a topic six years later.

A running martingale. The loop goes around the neck, the clip attached to the cinch and the reins go through the reins.

Penny photo bombing and Gette modelling. Gette is past the martingale phase in her training. I always use stoppers on my reins with a running martingale to keep the rings from getting right up on the clip that holds the reins to the bit and then getting stuck. It is not good to have your equipment contribute to creating a wreck, especially with a young horse.

When I first started training, I did not use a running martingale or any training tools on my colt starts, but as I got older (and wiser? or maybe more aware of my mortality?) I reached the point where I use a running martingale on 100% of my colt starts. It allows me some leverage if things go sideways but does not interfere with natural head carriage at all. It also allows me to feel more confident and that helps the youngster be more confident.

It is the case that I do not rush my colts and I rarely have blow-ups, but the last time I got dumped, I was on a young horse that was over for a lesson.  He had no running martingale and waxed reins. The horse lost it and started bucking.  I was in double trouble.  I could not control the horse’s head at all as I had no leverage, and the waxed reins just slipped through my gloves.  In retrospect, I might have been able to ride it out, but as we were heading out of my unfenced arena into an arroyo, I gave up and got dumped.

Waxed reins. Pretty, but not very grippy.

Well, the horse was scared and I wasn’t super thrilled. I mean who is when they hit the dirt?  Also, I had the chemo port in, which is inserted into a major vein (the subclavian which runs along the collarbone). Those ports are super stable, so once it was clear I wasn’t bleeding out or anything, of course I had to get back on that horse.  I didn’t want him to end his day scared.

On went a running martingale with leather reins I could grip, and we rode in the round pen.  The horse was not mean or bad, but he was frightened. He did lose it two more times, but with leverage from the martingale, reins I could hold on to, and a fence I could turn into, I could get him stopped, stay on top, and keep working, which we did until the tension left his body and he could walk along in a relaxed manner.

Usually, I don’t have to go there, but having that tool in place, just in case, is, in my book, a winner for colt starts.

(And speaking of winners, after review, Gette really did win open trail and WT ranch trail at the NMBHA show!)

Cancer update:  The aforementioned port got taken out in October, I have three or four (I forget) more immunotherapy shots to go, and in a few weeks I start on the estrogen-suppressing drugs and will be on those daily for five years.  I get a mammogram and an MRI in a few weeks just to make sure there are no signs of a recurrence and will get those every six months–or maybe just the mammo every six months. I forget that, too.  I have my energy back, which is really nice. My memory skills may be in question.

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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