Effects on behaviour and rein tension on horses ridden with/without martingales and rein inserts

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Unsteady hand position can cause discomfort to the horse, potentially leading to conflict behaviours (CB) such as head tossing or tail lashing. Some instructors feel that martingales or elastic rein inserts can reduce discomfort caused by inexperienced and unsteady hands. Others consider these devices to be inappropriate ‘crutches’. Four horses and nine riders were tested under three conditions in random order: plain reins, adjustable training martingales (TM), and elasticised rein inserts (RI). Rein-tension data (7 s) and behavioural data (30 s) were collected in each direction. Rein-tension data were collected via straingauge transducers. Behavioural data were assessed using an ethogram of defined behaviours.

No differences in the number of CB were observed. Mean rein tension for TM was higher than that of RI or controls. Relative to the withers, the head was lower for horses ridden with martingales. Carefully fitted martingales may have a place in riding schools that teach novices.