Tuesday Tips: What to do about head-tossing

We’ve all seen it before at a horse show–a horse lands after a jump, revvs up to round another barrel, or gets feisty in the dressage ring and starts throwing his head up and back, nearly knocking out his rider.

Turns out, there’s tack for that.

Depending on what type of riding you’re used to, you may or may not have encountered the martingale.

MartingaleAlthough it may appear similar to the breastcollar in that it runs around the horse’s neck and attaches to the girth, the martingale is used to control the head carriage of the horse. On a standing martingale, there is a strap attached to the noseband, running through the yolk around the neck, and attaching to the girth. A running martingale divides into two pieces after it comes up from between the front legs, and attaches to the reins on either side of the horse’s face. The martingale is similar to the tiedown in western riding.

The standing martingale prevents the horse from throwing its head up and back by placing pressure on the horse’s nose via the noseband; the running martingale gives the rider extra leverage when the horse’s head flips up by transferring that pressure to the horse’s mouth.

The martingale is useful for horses who tend to throw their head during speed or jumping events, hitting the rider in the face with their head or neck. Some riders also use the martingale to discourage bucking, as well.

It’s important to make sure your martingale is adjusted properly for safe use; never attach on to a drop noseband (including a flash, grackle, or figure 8) because the dropped part of the noseband could spread pressure to the cartilage lower on the nose. Also be sure that the martingale doesn’t restrict movement of the head or neck in a normal standing position. A martingale could prove dangerous for a horse who rears, as it may restrict normal body movement that allows horses to balance while aloft, which could lead to a dangerous fall.Horse head tossing

It’s also always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian to determine the reasons a horse may be tossing its head excessively during certain movements–and check your horse’s teeth. Teeth that aren’t floated regularly can lead to discomfort with the bit, which sometimes leads horses to toss their heads.

At Two Horse Tack, we offer both types of martingales in beta biothane in a range of sizes and colors…all of which are at a great, super-affordable price.

What has your experience with martingales been like? Has it helped your horse with a head-tossing or bucking problem?


Posted on November 6, 2013, in Helpful articles, Our Products and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Good info. I would like to add that a tie down or standing martingale should never be used when trailriding if there is a possibility of having to cross shoulder high or deeper water. ( Or dismount and remove it before crossing deep water) The horse cannot raise his head and will drown.

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