Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hunter Tack: Standing Martingale

The standing martingale is nearly ubiquitous in the hunter ring over fences. While both the standing martingale and the running martingale are both allowed by EC rules, the running martingale is almost never seen in the hunter ring.

The standing martingale consists of two crossed straps. One strap encircles the horse's neck while the other attaches at the girth, connects to the neck strap and then continues up to the underside of the noseband. It is used with a regular cavesson noseband only (the only noseband that is permissible in the hunter ring). The purpose of the standing martingale is to prevent the horse from raising its head too high. This has a safety aspect in addition to the aesthetic aspect in that it prevents the horse from potentially hitting the rider in the face when if it flips its head.

Most good hunters don't really need to wear a standing martingale since they carry themselves in such a consistently low frame anyway. Apart from the safety aspect, the standing martingale can also finish the look of a hunter. Some horses, especially those with big shoulders and/or long necks, can look naked without one. Most hunters will wear a standing martingale, whether or not it is really needed, as part of the standard hunter turnout.

The martingale should not be adjusted so tightly that there is no slack in it when the horse's head is in a comfortable position. Generally, a standing martingale is adjusted to anywhere between the length of the underside of the horse's neck and the length of the underside of the neck plus the underside of the jaw.

The neck strap should be snug enough not to flop around or hang low, while still allowing the horse freedom to flex and move its neck.

If you choose to use a standing martingale, make sure that you remove it before entering the ring for any flat classes. Also remove it completely, along with the saddle, if you are asked to jog into the ring for ribbons (leaving the martingale on for the jog is a faux pas).

Read this post for tips on fitting a standing martingale.


  1. I just wanted to say that I love your posts! Keep them coming!

  2. Thanks! If you have anything in particular that you're interesting in reading about, feel free to suggest a topic or two!

  3. Just wondering your opinion. I am just recently back into showing after many years away. I am now showing a warmblood, who looks much better coming down into a little bit of a frame. This of course makes me have to work my hands a little to get him there. I am wondering what you think for equitation classes? Should I leave him alone and have my hands look pretty or should I still ask him to come down into the frame, although my hands have to work a little? He doesnt look very good when his head is not down in a little bit of a frame? Just wondering your thoughts!

    1. equitation focuses in the rider and not your horse. but while taking care of horses I heard judges talking and learned it all varies on the persons preferences. But make sure you look up the guide lines. but if you want to do it to promote confidence in both of you. but if it looks really bad it could distract from your equitation.(no mean comments Im just trying to help.)

  4. Have you asked your coach's opinion? In equitation classes, the horses are generally expected to be in more of a frame. Your ability to ride your horse into that frame will be a positive in the judge's eyes, but if, along the way, it has quite a negative effect on your position it might not be worth it. I can't see how much movement you have in your hands so I can't really say which I think is better.

    Something that you could do, depending on how well your horse holds a frame with just quiet hands once you've gotten it, is to work him down into the frame in the corners and along the short sides and then once he's headed straight down the long sides where the judge is likely to be looking, keep your hands soft and quiet and hope that he stays with you until the next corner.