Tuesday, May 5, 2009

German Martingale -Special Training Equipment

A Tool vs. A Crutch

A trainer sometimes needs or can use equipment that will make their job easier when it comes to training horses. It can also make it easier for a rider to cue a horse while they are learning. 
I believe in using speciality equipment like the German martingale or any other piece of speciality equipment as long as it makes it easier for the horse to understand what it is you want them to learn.

That is a tool to me. (see photo on right of german martingale supplied by Larry Trocha. I highly recommend it.)
When the speciality equipment is left on too long to the point where the trainer or the rider becomes dependent on it for the horse to do something then it's a crutch. So, for example, when a rider or trainer were to leave something like a running martingale on all the time... the horse and rider get used to it being on and it becomes part of the rider or trainer's standard equipment. It's no longer special or for special use. It's becomes part of the bridle (in this case).
And riders/trainers cannot ride without it. Not a good idea, in my opinion. 

A Lack of Training
I see quite a few riders who always ride with a running martingale to keep the horses head down, for example. I believe this is either because they don't know how to train their horse to keep their head down and/or they don't want to send their horse to a trainer to get that remedied.

It can also be a status thing as well. Some events have a standard 'look and feel' and some equipment is used that way. A tie-down is used a lot in rope horses and barrel horses for example. There are many other examples.

Some Examples On Using the German Martingale
Training Young Horses
I use the german martingale after a horse is familiar with basic steering & collection and I am ready to start to teach the horse how to set their head (ie. break at the poll) and use collection with other lessons.

I also use it anytime I am working on something complex like the spin or lead changes or anything where I have to really concentrate on leg, seat and other cues and need my hands for other things. I don't want to have to think about collecting the horse, getting them to flex at the poll and...... everything else all at the same time. I can do that when they are familiar with the more advanced skills and I can remove the martingale.

The Key
The german martingale will
set the horse's head where you want them to learn to keep it while you are teaching other things.
It also teaches the horse where to position their head at the start and during the new skill I am teaching them. It makes it easier for them to learn the new skill when the martingale shows them where to position their head.
Retraining Other Horses
I also use the german martingale when I have a horse in for a retraining of the basics and the horse either doesn't know how to break at the poll and collect and/or
is always riding with their head up in the air..... 'watching the faeries' (as Clinton Anderson would say! :)

If I am teaching anything and the horse is really evading or resisting than I will use the martingale to help me with removing resistance (ie. the head always being in the air).

Helping Students
I also have students use the german martingale when they are having trouble with their horse resisting and the student is unable to learn something and try to get the horse to keep their head down as well. It's easier for the student to use the german martingale to position the horse's head while they are working on other things.

Again, it's not a crutch so when the student is able to remove the resistance before, during and after the lesson being taught.... the martingale will come off.
So the german martingale makes is easy for the horse to understand where we want them to keep their head (ie. break at the poll) when we are riding them and doing all these great things!
Please read Larry Trocha's information on the german martingale. He highly praises it.
Next few articles I will talk about other specialty equipment that I use.
Questions and comments are always welcome.
If you have any questions on the german martingale, please contact me. I've used it for many years.
©Copyright KISS Reiners


  1. Do you ever use the #1 or # 3 positions on the rein dees?

    I've been using the german martingale about a year now. Best thing since the the western saddle...in certain cases. I also mix in riding with different bits to keep the horse or I from becoming dependent.

    As you mentioned it works great when starting new maneuvers.

  2. Headsetter next please......I'm wondering if it might help with my mare that has great collection and headset but "pops" up sometimes. Usually happens too quick and unexpected to effectively school it out. Maybe the headsetter would offer a limit and consistency?

    BTW....when I asked for help with hip control you delivered a great series taking it step by step. Well I printed out every one of them and studied them. And it has worked beautiful. We accomplished in days what seemed to have taken months before. All the pieces have to be in place and you did a great job of detailing each step.

    My one mare does so good now I'm gonna check the NRHA rulebook and make sure they specify that spins have to be on the hindquarters.......:)

  3. Hi Al! You said"Do you ever use the #1 or # 3 positions on the rein dees?" Yes.
    I use position #1 to first teach the horse to wear it. Or to set it easy for a horse when they have not used it in a long time. To get them used to the feel.
    I use position #3 on very advanced horses. When I want their head to be position for perfect collection.
    So most of the time I use the 2nd position.
    I like that I can position it in different 'strengths'.

  4. Headsetter will be next Al. And I will talk about limits and consistency. I like it for consistency.... if it makes it easier for the horse to understand.

    thanks for the compliment on the hip control lesson Al. I have my book written that way too. It's actually taken from my book. thanks.

    I'm not sure about NRHA's rule book. Gosh I should know it. I do know that they no longer have to 'dig postholes' with their hindfoot. It creates too many injuries.

    They do most definitely have to be on the hindquarters. Their hindfoot has to stay in a small box when they spin. Good luck.

  5. Just kiddin aboout spinning her on her forequarters.

  6. Oh. good point!
    I actually NEVER spin my reining horses on their forequarters.
    I want them to cross over on their forequraters.
    I guess in time I could do that.
    And of course, horses that have to do a turn on the forequarters for other events are taught to do that..

    Thanks Al.
    Greetings from the library.....