Devices used along with bridles:
There are a number of devices that can be added to the tack setup to be used as training tools.
Tie Downs and Standing Martingales
One such device is called a tie-down (Western) or standing martingale (English). This device is essentially a headstall and noseband with a strap that extends from the base of the noseband to a D-ring on the girth. English girths generally do not have d-rings and therefore have a strap over the girth. They may also run the strap behind a breast collar to prevent it from catching on other objects. Tie-downs have a contravecial reputation, because when used incorrectly, they are used to tie a horse’s head to a certain height. However, tie-downs (worn loosely) can be used to break bad habits such as head tossing (which depending on the sport can be dangerous to the rider). A horse that tosses his head while the rider is in jumping position may injure the rider. Tie-downs are also used in barrel racing at a medium length. Many famous barrel racers believe that the tie-down is useful in helping a horse maintain his balance at full speed.
Running martingales are also known as training forks. They are Y-shaped; ending in two rings. The reins are run through these reins. The base of the “Y” is connected to either the breastcollar or to the girth depending on he discipline. The idea is that if the horse’s head is at the correct height, there should be a straight line from the bit to the rider’s hands. If the horse raises his head beyond the desired height, there is some increased tension. This type of martingale is generally considered less severe as a rider can let go and allow the horse to move as necessary.
Primarily a lunging tool, side reins are used to help the horse get used to the idea of having reins restrictring their head. They often have a rubber doughnut that has “give” in it to simulate the rider’s hands.
One word of caution with each of these devices. They can easily be used incorrectly. Incorrect use can cause pain to the horse or even damage his mouth. Do not use these devices to cover unsteady hands. If the horse is tossing his head, there may be a reason. Check for mouth lesions, teeth issues and any other source of pain.
I have been comparing English and Western tack lately and have been learning quite a lot!! I need to decide this winter what the best tools are for competing in American Competitive Trail Association (ACTHA). I had never competed in or even seen this type of event, and got 3rd and 6th at my first competition! Most of our errors were very correctable and with the jackpots running around $500 apiece, maybe I could start breaking even on my horsey habit. Anyway, I digress.