Martingales can improve ridden welfare, suggests study

  • Martingales could help prevent inconsistent rein aids from novice riders being transmitted to the horse’s mouth, a pilot study has found.

    Last summer Dr Hayley Randle and equitation science masters student Megan O’Neill from Duchy College in Cornwall tested how martingales affected the rein tension felt by six horses ridden by novice riders.

    The results were presented by Dr Randle at the International Equitation Science Conference in Vancouver last month (5-8 August).

    Six randomly selected horses and novice riders were used in the study, which looked at Irish martingales and running martingales.

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    First, each horse and rider rode a predetermined route that included walk, trot and halt in both directions in the horse’s normal tack, without a martingale.

    This was then repeated twice more with combinations wearing a running martingale then an Irish martingale (pictured top).

    The researchers used a Centaur Rein Tension Gauge — a device that attaches between the reins and the bit— to measure the tension. The data from the reins was then sent wirelessly from the tension gauge to a computer.

    The study found that rein tension was “significantly greater” when the horses were wearing no martingale than when they wore either a running or Irish martingale.

    There was not much difference between the rein tension readings with either type of martingale.

    “This study shows that the use of either a running or Irish martingale reduces the tension applied on the horse’s mouth via the reins, and may therefore be used to protect the welfare of the ridden horse,” the abstract concluded.

    Dr Randle told H&H that she would like to see the study run again on a larger scale to find more conclusive results.

    “It was interesting to see that martingales seemed to have a bit of a stabilising effect rein use by novice riders,” she said.

    “If you stabilise the kit through which riders can give inconsistent signals to the horse, that can only be a good thing as it prevents confusion and/or switching off.”

    H&H vet Karen Coumbe agreed that it was a small study, and a larger one would be welcomed.

    She added: “However, there may be other factors involved by using novice riders.”

    Ref: H&H 1 October, 2015

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