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A German martingale (also called a Market Harborough) is a training device that uses leverage to encourage a horse to lower its head and flex its neck. It consists of a leather fork that runs from the girth through the horse’s forelegs and then through the bit, attaching to rings on the reins. German martingales are often used on young horses in training, and are especially popular for saddleseat and Western riding.
Remove the reins from the bridle and replace them with the German martingale’s reins.
Place the saddle on the horse without fastening the girth.
Pass the martingale’s neck strap (if equipped) over the horse’s head and rest it toward the base of the mane. The snap ends of the martingale should be closest to the horse’s head and the leather end should be closest to the forelegs.
Run the leather end of the martingale between the horse’s forelegs.
Pull the girth through the loop in the leather end of the martingale and attach the girth to the saddle billets.
Bridle the horse.
Run the fork ends of the martingale through the rings of the bit. Be sure that the two straps are not crossed; i.e., the left snap should pass through the left bit ring.
Attach the snaps on each end of the fork to the d-rings on the reins.
To ensure equal tension on both reins, attach the fork ends to the same number d-ring on both sides. For example, if you attach the left snap to the second d-ring on the left side, attach the right snap to the second ring on the right side.
The further you attach the fork ends from the bit, the stronger the leverage. Be sure that the horse is able to escape the martingale’s pressure by lowering its head and flexing its neck.
German martingales are illegal at many horse shows. Consult the show’s regulations before using this equipment in any classes.
German martingales can be extremely severe when misused. Do not attempt to use a German martingale without consulting a trainer or experienced horseman, especially if you are a novice rider.
- United States Pony Clubs, Inc.
- “Lyon’s Press Horseman’s Dictionary;” Steven D. Price and Jessie C. Shiers, 2007
- “Tack Buyer’s Guide;” Charlene Strickland; 1988
Kathy Bowe is a writing professional with more than 15 years of experience. She has been a national magazine editor and corporate marketing director. Bowe's work has been published in periodicals such as "Horse Illustrated" and "The Sentinel." She received her Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College Chicago.