Running Martingale: What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Some horse tack is used by all riders, while other tack is optional based on the needs of the rider or the horse. One of those optional items is a running martingale. Not all horses and riders require them, but under certain circumstances, a running martingale can be tremendously helpful. Let’s dive into what a running martingale is, when you might want to use one, when you can’t use it, and how to use it properly to ensure you get the maximum benefit.

What Is a Running Martingale for Horses?

A running martingale puts a little extra pressure on the horse by preventing it from raising its head too high for the bit to work correctly. The running martingale works together with the bridle and bit to give the rider control over the horse’s head. When the horse raises its head, the running martingale stabilizes the reins and applies downward pressure, known as leverage, on the bars of the horse’s mouth. This pressure encourages the horse to lower its head. The pressure is released immediately once the horse lowers the head and accepts the rider's aids.

running martingale consists of two straps: a neck strap that fastens around the horse’s neck with a buckle to adjust the fit and a chest strap with an adjustable loop at the end for the girth to pass through. The girth loop’s job is to adjust the fit of the martingale and stabilize the martingale between the girth and the intersect with the neck strap. This loop controls both the action of the martingale and its length. The second strap attaches to the girth and just after it passes through the neck strap it splits into a Y. At the top of each side of the Y is a  solid ring for the rider to pass the reins through. The neck strap holds the split chest strap in place. When you use a running martingale, the reins should also have rein stops to keep the rings from sliding to close to the bit where they risk getting tangled. 

When To Use a Running Martingale (& When Not To Use One)

A running martingale can help the rider communicate with the horse. It is most often used for jumping or riding cross country on inexperienced or younger horses. When a horse is ridden properly, the running martingale provides little or no influence over the horse, which is part of the reason they’re such a popular piece of equipment. 

However, running martingales are not allowed at all in dressage, or hunters, however they may be used in some equitation classes that follow a jumper format. Though they are permitted in many events, you should always check the rules to be sure they are approved for use. 

How To Fit and Adjust a Running Martingale

Fitting a running martingale is fairly easy to do. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place the neck strap around your horse’s neck with a hand-width of room between the horse and the strap. 
  2. Put the saddle on your horse, and pass the girth through the loop in the chest strap. 
  3. Tighten the girth.
  4. Adjust the martingale length. The rings on the chest strap should reach the top rings of the Y. (Note: if it’s too short and doesn’t reach the withers, the martingale will activate at times when it’s not needed.)
  5. Pass the reins through the martingale rings.

5 Best Running Martingales

There are a lot of great options for running martingales at the Farm House. Here are some of our top sellers and staff favorites.

1. Black Oak by KL Select Flat Running Martingale ($68.00)

Black Oak KL Select Running Martingale

We love the Black Oak by KL Select Flat Running Martingale because of the quality materials used and simple design.  The Black Oak Running Martingale is flat leather with fine white stitching.

2. Nunn Finer Florona Running Martingale ($150)

Nunn Finer Florona Running Martingale

Nunn Finer makes some gorgeous Italian leather products, and this Florona running martingale is no exception. It has gorgeous craftsmanship with lovely fancy stitching and pairs really well with the Florona standing martingale or Bella Donna breastplate. It comes in brown and black.

3. Prestige E54 EVO Raised Running Martingale ($130)

Prestige E54 EVO Raised Running Martingale 

Another brand that we love here at the Farm House is EVO, and they definitely don’t disappoint with this running martingale. The Prestige E54 EVO Raised Running Martingale showcases signature EVO quality design and top materials. It’s available in black and tobacco.

4. Edgewood Flat Running Martingale ($207)

Edgewood Flat Running Martingale

If you’re looking for a running martingale made to last, check out this one by Edgewood. It’s made in the USA from the strongest vegetable-tanned and crack-resistant cowhide. The stitching is tough nylon, and the buckles and rings are made of stainless steel to hold their shine. This running martingale is made in different sizes, including pony, cob, horse, and oversize, and it’s available in brown.

5. HDR Pro 5 Point Elastic Breastplate Martingale with Running Attachment ($145.95)

HDR Pro 5 Point Elastic Breastplate Martingale with Running Attachment

If you’re looking for the simplicity of an all-in-one option, check out this martingale by HDR. It includes an elastic breastplate for freedom of movement with a running martingale attachment for improved rider control. This martingale has removable fleece pads for easy cleaning and comfort, and it’s crafted from superior leather with unmatched craftsmanship and attention to detail. It’s available in Australian nut, black, and black/navy.

Do You Need a Running Martingale?

Not all riders use a running martingale, but for those who can benefit from a little extra control over their horse, they are quite handy. They can be a good alternative to using a harsher bit by providing just a little extra leverage when needed. 

If you have any questions about running martingales, give us a call at 864-457-3557. We have team members with experience using them, and are always glad to help.


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