Illinois coming 3 year old Tennessee Walking Horse with 2 months professional training working inGerman martingale-w/snaffle and cut / back english saddle in Large riding arena by Level Rider: from 1-10 maybe a 7.

Question: I have a three year old that I am riding 5 days a week now. She is very willing and does every thing that I ask her to do. She has a almost 4 ft under stride and shakes her head real good. The thing is when we take her out of the german martingale so she can start to put her head back up slowly, she will loose the under stride are most of it and becomes just a little bit rackie on us. We are gearing up for a up coming show. She has been in the martingale for around 2 months now and has built up her back muscles and shoulders as well. She really is in good shape and toned. Why after 2 months does she still hollow out on us? 
Thank you ,

From Panelist Steve

A German Martingale does not build muscles. It alters posture. Postural alteration is a requirement for the TWH show ring, where artificiality is rewarded. However, that is far different from the goal either I or your horse are interested in.

The proper way to train a Walker is to allow the horse to self support and to find the correct gait on her own, with guidance from you. This takes time and talent on both and the horse. Unfortunately, time and talent are not overabundant in the Walking Horse show world.

The reason your horse hollows is BECAUSE of the martingale. She hasn't learned to develop her muscles. The rounding you get with the martingale is illusory. The use of a cut back makes the whole situation worse. Most are uncomfortable, causing hollowing.

Stephen B. Chasko

From Panelist Theresa

The martingale does a wonderful job of bringing the horses nose down, but it does very little as far as developing the impulsion from the rear end of the horse.  Your horse needs the impulsion from behind to walk and to keep from going hollow.

If you are showring bound, then it wouldnt hurt to bring the horses head up and work your horse at a pace.(without the martingale) Once the pace is established push her into to bit WITH YOUR LEGS to slow her down. This will prevent her from coming behind the bit, which is very likely what she is doing in the martingale.  If she gets pacey from this, use a slight see saw in your fingertips to break the pace. This should encourage her to square up
to a walk, versus a rack, and will keep that wonderful headshake that you already have. If you loose the headshake for a little while, thats ok. It will come back when she drops out of the pace, into a walk.

The other alternative would be to remove the martingale, and rather than "lifting" her head with your hands, press your calves into her sides. Do not give with your hands as you do this, and this will force her back end to engage and push the energy through the shoulder and neck, thus raising it. Then dog walk.  Keeping each stride well impulsed until she is consistent. Then you may increase the speed very gradually. Remember to keep that back end engaged by using your leg. Not by pulling back on her face.  Her bit should have a light contact, but not pulling on her as some big lick horses require.

The last thing I would like to mention is that If I need to raise the head of a horse, I find that a wonder bit is my choice of bit. If converting from a D ring snaffle, eggbutt snaffle, or training snaffle will use the bit by attaching the reins on the middle ring (not the end ring and not the snaffle ring). I will not use a curb strap and this will give lift. If  you need more lift as time goes on, then switch to the reins to the end of the shank of the wonde bit. Remember the wonderbit can be used in the showring only with the reins attached to the end ring on the shank.

Either method seems to work for us. IF the rider can be patient enough the second method works well, but if not the first would be a faster, probably more successful way. The drawbacks of the first is that when some horses learn to pace, they can become difficult to square up. In your horses sake, since she tends to be on the square side, I dont think that will be a problem.


From Panelist Liz


In this case it sounds to me like your horse has not learned how to carry it's self in gait but is relying on the martingale for it's support.

This is a matter of working with the horse with out the martingale and teaching it to work off the bit and utilizing your own seat , legs and hands to help her support her self in gait and to engage her hindquarters. IMO aids like these make for fast results but force the
horse into position rather than teach the horse how to hold on their own which they should be able to do. Granted it takes more time and work but the result are permanent instead of a temporary fix.


From Panelist Laura

It sounds to me that your filly may be leaning on the bit (easy to do with a snaffle) and that the martingale provides the leverage to keep her nose where you want it.  The biggest problem I see with using martingales is that the horses get used to them and start leaning on the bit.  If I use a martingale, I only use it for a day or two to teach the horse to flex and them remove it so they don't use it as a crutch.  It can be a great tool when used short 

Your horse may be ready to move on to a different bit.  You could try a wonder bit with a large jointed mouthpiece (helps enourage the horse to raise their head - although not very good for tucking the nose) and see if this helps.  If not,  you could go a to low leverage (short shank) curb bit with a jointed mouthpiece.  There are several which might work well for you - tom thumb with grazing shanks, argentine bit, kimberwicke, etc.  Be sure the curb chain/strap is quite loose since this will be a new feel for your horse.  

Find a mouthpiece your horse finds comfortable, set your hands in one place so your horse knows where they can comfortably set their head (that way they always know where the bit is and can relax more), and enjoy your nice filly.



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