Running Martingale, How to Fit, When to use on a Horse

A running martingale is often used on horses for show jumping A Running Martingale is used on a horse to give a rider extra control by preventing a horse from raising its head above a point where it can be controlled.  It is also known as "training forks" in Western Riding.

A running martingale acts by adding leverage through the bridle reins to the bit on to the bars of the horse's mouth.

This action is applied by a running martingale when the horse raises its head too high causing the martingale to put pressure on the reins.

This pressure encourages the horse or pony to lower its head.

A running martingale will allow a rider to give freedom in the reins if the horse trips or need full use of its head and neck for any other reason. 


A Running Martingale consists of 3 main parts:

A chest strap which has an adjustable loop at the end of it for the girth to pass through. The adjustable loop controls the length of the martingale and the amount of action that it has.

A Neck Strap which is fastened around the horse's neck - it has a buckle for adjusting the fit. 

Two straps coming from the base of the neck strap. These are either a continuation of the chest strap split in two, or in more expensive martingales these are attached separately. There are rings at the end of these straps through which the reins are passed.

It should be used with rein stops to prevent the rings of the martingale getting caught   up around the bit, billet hooks or the reins where they are joined to the horse or pony's bit


Running Martingales are popularly used when jumping or when riding cross country -especially on a strong or young and inexperienced horse. The neck strap can also give extra security to a rider.

It is allowed to use a running martingale under BSJA and British Eventing rules (for cross-country and show jumping phases).

It is also permitted in showing in working hunter classes, but not in any other showing classes.

A running martingale may not be worn by a horse in a dressage test.


To fit a running martingale correctly place the neckstrap around the horse's neck so that you can fit a hand's width comfortably between the strap and the horse.

Put the saddle on the horse, pass the girth through the loop in the martingale and do up the girth.

With the girth tightened up adjust the length of the martingale - the rings should reach the horse's withers. If this lenght is made too short the martingale will come into action when it is not needed.

Pass the reins of the bridle through the rings of the martingale.

Be sure to have rein stops on the reins.


bib martingale Some horse riders prefer to use a bib martingale.

A bib martingale has a leather 'bib' between the two martingale straps. This helps to keep the reins closer together, and prevents a horse from grabbing the straps.

However a bib martingale will not allow a rider to open the rein.

Some running martingales have elasticated straps. This can help with horses that tend to fight when they feel the restrictive action of a martingale as there will be more give and the martingale will fell less rigid.

 Running Martingale, How to Fit, Correct Fitting, using a running martingale on Horse