Different Types of Martingale

Different Types of Martingale image of horse and rider jumping

Learn about the different types of Martingale

If you’re new to riding, or horse ownership, you may be wondering about the different types of martingale that may be suitable for your horse.

In this article, we take a look at the main types of martingales available. Although you may find variations on the market, we’re hoping that it’ll give you a good head start.


A martingale is a piece of tack that is usually used to control the head carriage and act as an additional form of control while riding your horse.

There are three different types of martingale which are used for varying reasons and are seen across several disciplines. The standing martingale, running martingale, and the Irish martingale. Each has a different purpose but belongs to the same family of tack.

The two most common types of martingale are standing and running.

Standing Martingale

A standing martingale consists of a strap that attaches to the girth and runs between the horse’s front legs up to the back of the noseband. This runs through a neck strap which fastens around the neck and keeps the martingale close to the horse. 

This type of martingale should only be fitted to a Cavesson noseband or similar and if correctly fitted, the main strap should be able to touch the throat lash when raised. It is not recommended that a standing martingale should be used for jumping as it may restrict the horse.

The standard martingale is designed to help stop the horse from lifting its head above the point of control, this may also help prevent a horse from rear. This may happen for a number of reasons including when the horse becomes excited, anxious, or when jumping.

Running Martingale

The running martingale attaches to the girth and then passes through the horse’s front legs before splitting into two straps with a ring on the end which the reins pass through. The main difference from the standing martingale is the running martingale attaches to the horse’s reins and not noseband.

Martingale stops, which can be either rubber or leather, should be used on the reins between the bit rings and the rings of the martingale to prevent the martingale straps from slipping forward and interfering with the bit.

The running martingale also helps prevent the horse from raising its head above the point of control as it applies additional pressure to the reins and consequently to the bars of the mouth, via the bit.

The running martingale offers the horse more freedom and therefore is often the preferred choice for many horse owner.

Irish martingale

The Irish martingale is not like others, but rather a semi-martingale. It is simply a short leather strap with a ring at either end which the reins pass through, quite close to the bit.

It is not designed as a form of control but rather to prevent the reins from coming over the horse’s head in a fall. They are most commonly used in European racing.

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