The martingale has long been used as a schooling aid. There are actually three types of martingales and each has its own function. One martingale, however, is particularly unique and is often seen on racehorses when they are training.
First, let’s consider what a martingale is. Your typical martingale consists of a piece of leather strap that goes around the horse’s neck and a piece of leather that attaches to the girth and runs between the front legs. From the bottom of the neck piece extends to pieces of leather that have small rings on the ends. Your reins run through these small rings.
On a bib martingale, the space between those two small rings and their adjoining leather straps is filled in with a leather “bib.” This bib is designed to keep the racehorse from catching hold of the martingale straps in their mouths. If the horse were to catch a strap, there is a good chance it would cause them to panic and rear up and over.
The bib martingale is often described as a running martingale in which the space is simply filled in. A running martingale is designed to keep the horse’s head from getting above a certain angle and allowing the horse to get out of control. On a running martingale and a bib martingale, the rings should be able to extend and touch to the bottom of the horse’s jaw. By running the reins through the rings, the action of the reins on the bit is changed and helps to pull the horse’s head down to a level that is acceptable and provides the rider greater control.
The bib martingale is popular in the racehorse training industry because the reins are held closer together than the typical everyday rider. This causes the leverage on the bit to be stronger, which is useful in training, riding and controlling racehorses.
Riders that have a particularly strong horse and need to encourage a lower head carriage will also find the bib martingale useful. A rider would fit their horse with this martingale just as they would a running martingale.
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