Talk About Tack: Difference Between Tie Down And Martingale

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Question Category: Talk about Tack

Question: Julie, Please explain the difference between a tie down and martingale.

Answer: A tie down and a standing martingale are very similar in that they both attach from the middle of the cinch or girth to the noseband of the bridle. The primary difference is that the tie down is Western terminology and a standing martingale is English. They look quite a bit different because the tie down is just a strap while the standing martingale has a neck strap and a loop at each end for the girth and the cavesson. Also, a tie down is adjusted shorter; a standing martingale (properly adjusted) will have more slack in it.

Another difference would be the purpose. Often, a tie down is used to prevent a horse from tossing his head. In my opinion, this is a poor use of an artificial aid. I’d rather see the rider address why the horse is tossing his head- usually it is because of poor riding, heavy hands and/or too harsh a bit. A good use of a tie down is on a roping horse, when it is attached to a wide cushioned noseband that helps the horse distribute the impact from the dally on the calf throughout his body.

An English standing martingale is properly adjusted when you can pull the slack all the way up to the horse’s throat. The purpose is to prevent the horse from sticking his nose out too far over the jump.

There are other kinds of martingales: running martingale (often called rings or training forks in Western), the German martingale, the Irish martingale and the bib martingale.

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

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