Running Martingales – Control When You Need It

RunningmartingaleThe running martingale is a simple piece of tack that has two rings that attach to a Y-shaped strap that attaches to the girth between the front legs. There is also a neck strap that keeps the running martingale up and out of the way of the front legs. Using a running martingale can give you the extra control you need when you need it, and be passive when you don’t. It is often used for trail, endurance, jumping, eventing, galloping race horses, reining, and training in all disciplines.

Traditionally the running martingale is used with a snaffle bit. When the rider pulls on the reins and the horse lifts his head high enough for the martingale to engage, it will pull on the bars and tongue to discourage the horse from raising his head too high, therefore getting out of the range of control of the bit. It can give you extra confidence to ride your horse down the trail or at speed knowing that there is a control device in place if the snaffle isn’t enough.

The running martingale should be adjusted so that when the horse’s head is in a normal position, the martingale is not in effect. A rule of thumb for the proper length is to put on the martingale and holding the rings, it should reach up to the level of the withers. When the horse raises his head because he is excited, spooked, or avoiding the bit, the running martingale should come into effect. It is not a device for teaching a horse to give in the jaw or poll. It assists the effect and action of the bit and adds power and brakes to whatever bit you are using when you need a little more leverage.

The valuable feature of the running martingale is that the rider has control of how much pressure it will put on the bit by adjusting the length of rein. On a loose rein, it will have no effect at all. When the reins are shortened, and the head goes up above the natural position it will then exert pressure. Being able to release the pressure is useful for when the horse feels trapped. You can release the reins and encourage the horse to continue to move forward, so he realizes the front door is open. With some horses, especially sensitive and hot ones, this is critical. Being able to release the reins is also a safety feature if the horse gets caught on something, or needs to get his head up to regain his balance. When using a standing martingale that is fixed to the noseband, there is no ability for the rider to release the restriction.

Another positive effect the running martingale can have is to help diminish or stop a spook or the 180-degree spin. When your horse spooks, it is an automatic reaction to tighten the reins. When you do so, the running martingale will somewhat restrict the horse’s movement forward and sideways just by putting extra pressure on the reins. It also is helpful to encourage your horse to keep his head straight while going down the trail and not wag his head side to side just by holding the reins with light contact.

There are however, some precautions to take while using a running martingale. The reins go through the running martingale rings, but to avoid the rings from getting caught on the bit (heaven forbid) you MUST USE REIN STOPS. Rein stops can be leather, rubber, or other synthetic material, but are most often made of rubber pieces that slide onto your reins between the bit and your hands preventing the rings from sliding down and getting too close to the bit. The other precaution is to never allow the horse to bend his head so far around that there is a chance he can get the bit, rein, or the martingale caught on your stirrup, girth, saddle, saddle bag or any other piece of tack. This is a precaution even without the running martingale, but with the martingale can really make the horse feel trapped and cause a train wreck. You can also use a rubber martingale stop to keep the piece that goes down to the girth in place at the neck strap.

When you go for a trail ride, gallop cross country, or ride a green horse you can be more confident that you can handle whatever comes up when using a running martingale, or a running martingale attachment to your breastplate. If you don’t need it, it doesn’t bother the horse to have it attached. And if you do need it – it’s a relief that it’s there.

Watch the Action Rider Tack video about running martingales

Be One With Your Horse

I love to ride.

The moment that I sit on my horse, I can feel a kinship like no other. I know jan10that I’m about to leave the cares of my life behind and share in a ride that brings me closer to nature, freedom and who I am.

But, as much as I love to ride, I struggle with the cold.

No, that’s not exactly it. I can’t stand the cold!

And it has been FRIGID here over the past couple of weeks. Every time I come home and drive by my horse, I feel a longing to ride, but I know that it will be part misery because my feet will freeze, if I ride.

So, yesterday, I did something that I haven’t done in a while. In fact, I would have to say (sadly), it’s something I haven’t done in years. I went down to the stable and hung out with my horse as if she were my best friend.

Now, it’s not that I haven’t thought about it before, but life gets so hectic! I mean, between working and family and working and family and eating and sleeping and working and family…how in the world do I have time to “hang out” with my horse?

But I did.

We hugged, we talked. At one point, I actually sang to her. Though admittedly, I’ve never actually sung for any of my girlfriends, it felt like the right thing to do! In the midst of it all, even though we didn’t go anywhere, I felt the same kinship that I feel when I ride.

It made me smile. It made me feel warm and whole.

When I got back to my house, I felt a peace that I thought I could only get from riding. I was wrong.

I wanted to share this with you because when I got back to my home, I had two thoughts in my mind:

  1. Have any of you had a similar experience?
  2. Is it time for you to find a reason to spend time with your horse?

At Action Rider Tack, our mantra is Be One With Your Horse™. Today, I feel like I am…are you?

10 Lords are Leaping…at Action Rider Tack

For various reasons, a higher percentage of Action Rider Tack customers are man-jumpingwomen for most of the year.

However, right around the first part of every December, the percentage of male shoppers begins to rise. We’ve decided that this swell must be caused by the husbands, fiancés, boyfriends, partners, fathers, and the brothers of all of us horse passionate women and girls.

(Side Note: Our December male customers are so cute! Honestly, some of them don’t have a clue what they are ordering or what it is used for, but I just love how they love their women and the trouble these men go through to find the perfect horse related gift.)

Every time I take or process one of these gift orders, it makes me feel so happy for the lucky woman who has this man in her life!

If this sounds like you…give your guy a huge hug for knowing just how important having horses and riding is to you!

More Feeder Options – The Porta Grazer

A couple of days ago I was interested to read on the EasyCare blog about porta-grazerfeeders designed to slow down the feeding of horses.

This is so important because the latest research shows that horses with empty stomachs are more prone to ulcers. At Action Rider Tack, we found and carry the Porta-Grazer.

I like this product for many reasons…

  • It is portable as the name suggests so a person can carry it around from stall to stall or take it while traveling.
  • It also has a drain plug. I soak a lot of hay to remove the excess sugar. The drain plug makes this so easy and less messy than any other method.
  • The tubs seem indestructible. I have two and have used them everyday since summer. They are dirty but not worn at all.

BTW – One of my mares likes to tip things over. The Porta-Grazer will tip over, and most horses do try this, but they also learn to tip them back upright and keep right on eating.

When the Porta-Grazer is first introduced, it is best to put some hay in the bottom and some hay on top of the restrictor pan. I found my smarter horse figured out how to eat from it in about 24 hours. It took my sweet but less than clever horse a couple of days.

The Porta-Grazer is also available with a lid which can be used as a water bucket.

This thing works so well at an endurance ride, where my horse would usually have her precious water bucket tipped over during the night. I started using the Porta Grazer for her water, not only has she not tipped over the water at a ride, but it holds plenty of water for her!

Peanuts in Shipping…a Breezy Problem!

Out in the shipping department at Action Rider Tack, we were thinking over shippingthe fun times we have had with shipping peanuts. Back in the early days we shipped from, shall we say, a breezy area. Peanut use was strictly forbidden.

But sometimes returns or products were shipped to us packed with the peanuts. It is amazing how fast those little buggers can float and scatter. They all had to be rounded up and sealed in a bag with knots and tape.

To be fair, some of the more modern peanuts are eco-friendly and made of compostable materials. But how to tell? We did find a temporary solution, but Stephanie hopes she doesn’t develop a disorder from biting peanuts to tell if they are biodegradable or not.

Sometimes we wonder if an exchange that comes to us packed in peanuts was just so that person could rid herself of them.

Thanks for sharing!

Good News From NATRC

This is a reprint of a blog post created by EasyCare’s Director of Marketing, 5eec1d573137b43b146df2ac795ed42f_w640Kevin Myers, on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 by Kevin Myers. You can see the original post here.


The National Board of Directors of the North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC) met last weekend in Denver. One of the rule changes on the agenda was the Hoof Boot Sole Protection rule.

The changes to the rule to allow “gaiter, keepers and straps” were passed. The exact wording is below.

Page 5-2 Section 5.E. Reads:
1.    There are no shoeing restrictions.

Change to: 5.E. Hoof Protection
1.    There are no shoeing restrictions.
2.    All types of hoof boots that provide sole protection are allowed. However, any attached strap, keeper, or gaiter must not extend above the pastern. The judges may request to observe the area covered by the attached strap, keeper, or gaiter.

Page 5-2 Section 5.F.4. Reads:
Protective devices on the legs of the horse are not allowed. The leg is defined as all structures above and including the coronary band.

Change to: Protective devices, such as bell boots or wraps, are not permissible on the legs of horses except for hoof sole protections as allowed under Section 5.E.2. The leg is defined as all structures above and including the coronet band.

Page 6-2 Section 6.B.2. Reads:
Soundness 45%: The evaluation of soundness shall include, but not be limited to, the following: lameness, cinch sores, rubs, splints, ringbone, spavin, sidebone, etc.

Change by adding: The evaluation of soundness shall include, but not be limited to, the following: lameness, cinch sores, rubs (including areas covered by any attached strap, keeper, or gaiter), splints, ringbone, spavin, sidebone, etc.

Page 6-2 Section 6.C.1.c. Reads:
Tack and Equipment: The evaluation of tack and equipment, proper fit, adjustment, repair; trail gear placement and security.

Change by adding: The evaluation of tack and equipment, proper fit, adjustment, repair; adjustment, proper fit of any attached strap, keeper, or gaiter; trail gear placement and security.

Purpose: from the Judges Committee: the new boot designs have given riders much more of a choice in how they would like to compete.  This will also encourage and remind judges to check for rubs, fit, etc.

How will these rule changes affect you and your horse?

Winter Riding and Keeping Your Legs Warm

Recently, on our Facebook page, a question was asked about riding in the windpro_bootwinter.

Christine: If you’re used to riding in jeans and want to give riding breeches a try, is there a way to use breeches in the winter to stay warm?


Angie: Depends on where you live Christine. If it’s not too cold, like under 30 degree’s, I’d wear the Irideon Wind Pro 3 Seasons but if it’s under 30, I’d go for the Kerrits Sit Tight and Warm. Tropical Riders Toasties are nice too, but not sold at ART ;)

BTW – Tropical Riders Toasties can be found and purchased at Also, the Kerrits Sit Tight N’ Warm is also available with a knee patch.

Candy: Hi Christine – Riding in winter can be hard because it is so cold but Irideon and Kerrit’s have solved that problem with some wonderful winter riding wear. Kerrit introduced the new RideOutSide pant and jacket this season and Irideon has the ever wonderful Windpro pant and jacket. This riding wear is both windproof and rainproof. Both Kerrits and Irideon also offer wonderful polarfleece pants that are cozy and comfortable. Here is the link for the riding pants to see these options:

While on the website, feel free to check out our other winter riding wear – sweaters, coats, etc.

Have fun. For me it is difficult to get out there but once up on my horse it’s heaven no matter the temperature.

Do you have any suggestions for gearing up to ride in the winter weather?


Mount Your Horse From the Left?

Remember back to when you first learned to ride. Were you taught to mount from the left? Do you know why?

Mounting a horse from the left is a long-standing tradition rooted in our history of war and the use of horses in combat. Mounted soldiers would wear swords on their left side, so in order to protect their horses’ backs, they would mount from the left.

Did you know that? I just learned it myself! But we’re not going to war, we’re trail riding!

Now, if you’ve been trail riding for a while, you’ve no doubt come across obstacles where you have had to get off of your horse and perhaps come into a situation where mounting your horse from the left was not an attractive option (especially when there’s a cliff, mud, brush or other hazard preventing you).

In addition to allowing your horse to be more accommodating to your mounting from the opposite side, alternating sides also enhances your horse’s ability to build muscle more equally across his/her spine.

If you have not ever mounted your horse from the right, getting you and your horse used to the idea before finding yourself in an awkward situation would be beneficial to both of you. Think about it…if you’re right handed, have you ever tried to brush your teeth with your left? Of course, it’s possible, but it’s awkward, not nearly as effective and I usually end up with toothpaste on my hand (looking more like a rabid dog than a person brushing their teeth).

So, start making it a habit of switching sides when mounting. You’ll both be happier when you have to mount near a trail hazard and it won’t matter which side it’s on!

Do you have any stories you could share about mounting adventures?

Courtesy of The Winged Pony of Wisdom

Willow, Back on Track, and the Unplanned Product Test

Willow is my 25 years old horse and she came up very lame a week ago. “3-willow_bot_wlegged, could hardly hobble about” lame. Her left front fetlock was slightly swollen so I gave her the “Bute” and ice routine. We do not advocate being your own veterinarian. Professional medical care is the best choice. But I have been through this before.

One of the fun things about my job at Action Rider Tack is the product testing. It is vital that I know how a product performs before I can help a customer make their choice. This testing challenge was certainly not one that I planned, but I could hardly wait to try the Back on Track Leg Wraps on poor Willow.

This is what happened:
Sunday afternoon: Very 3 legged lame…Bute and Ice…no improvement.

Monday evening: According to directions the Back on Track Leg Wraps were to be applied for only a few hours for the first few days. Willow wore the wraps for 3 hours. No improvement.

Tuesday evening: No improvement. I felt so sorry for her that I decided she could really use some relief and applied the wraps with a polo bandage on top and left them on all night.

Wednesday morning: Removed the wraps and was thrilled to see that the swelling was gone and her legs had a healing warm feel to them. Both legs were wrapped as the sound leg would be experiencing great fatigue.

Thursday: Started leaving the wraps on for 16 hours overnight.

Friday: Noticed that she was actually walking more comfortably and getting around her turnout in a faster manner.

Saturday: She had been lying down in the night and was up and walking about in an almost normal manner.

Sunday: (1 week later) I would almost call this a miracle. Willow can walk normally and move about comfortably. I still wrap her every night and plan to for another week or so. Her legs are tight and clean looking.

I definitely stand behind the Back on Track Leg Wraps and will be bringing more product reviews to you.


Gambler, The Yellow Jackets and Banamine

In our newsletter, we asked our readers to submit trail riding stories for a section in our newsletter called Horse Trials Trails. The stories can be funny, inspiring, outlandish or just plain old interesting. Here’s a story sent in by one of our readers and was highlighted in our October 2010 newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletters, click here.


We were about halfway down this mountain on an old logging road. The logging road had been cut out of the side of the mountain, so that on one side, it was straight up, and on the other side, it was straight down. There are 10 of us, and I’m the third one from the back. The fellow right behind me is named Joe on his horse Gambler. Behind him is a woman named Deb.

My horse started doing his “bee dance” that he does when we’ve stirred up Yellow Jackets. I start to get out of there and look back and see that Gambler is stopped and is trying to buck. He’s got Yellow Jackets all over his face…so he stopped to rub his face…in the Yellow Jacket nest. His rider, Joe, can’t get him to move because Gambler is frantic to get the Yellow Jackets off his face. So, in desperation to get OUT of there, Joe jumps off and starts pulling Gambler. Problem is, when he jumped off, Gambler was half bucking, half rubbing his face, and the reins flipped over Gambler’s head and UNDER one leg, so now they are tangled around a leg.

Somehow, though, Joe gets the horse moving, and NOW, once Gambler gets started, he goes into the flight/panic mode and is running overtop of Joe, who’s trying to hold onto the reins and not lose his horse. This means that Joe is stuck (trying to run, mind you) up under Gambler’s head and neck because the reins are still tangled around one front leg.

Joe is nearly pushed off the edge of the cliff, throws his weight into Gambler’s head to turn him, Gambler, in his panic, changes his trajectory but now runs straight UP the cliff on the other side, dragging Joe with him who will not let go of his horse (bless his heart). Gambler loses his footing, turns and begins to fall onto Joe. Somehow, Joe manages not to get killed and gets Gambler back onto the road.

By then, I had swung my horse around and positioned him in front of Gambler and blocked him (Gambler did actually stop – thankfully, he’s much smaller than my horse). I yelled for Deb to ride past us since there was no sense in her staying and getting stung and her horse possibly freaking out too. She gets around us and goes on down the trail. At that point, Gambler throws his head down again to rub his face (now covered in welts) and Joe had enough slack to get the reins untangled. I shouted at him to throw me the reins, he does, and I take off with both horses.

Now that Gambler is untangled, he’s really moving and it’s easier to lead him off of another horse who can keep up, rather than from the ground. Joe is running down the trail behind us, also making better time because he’s not in danger of being trampled or drug off the cliff. We stopped after a minute to try to get ourselves together, and here comes the bees down the trail after us.

We take off again.

We stop again, and a few seconds later, here come the bees again. I felt like we were in a friggin’ cartoon! Finally, the third time, the bees are no longer following us and we were able to assess the damage. My horse was stung twice, me none, Deb’s horse stung a couple of times, and Deb none, but Gambler is a mass of welts, all over his face and front legs, down his sides and some on his haunches. Joe’s got stung on his temple and the back of his neck.

We get down to the bottom of the mountain (about another half mile) and stop. I carry bee sting stuff for people that is a very strong topical anesthetic and antihistamine. It literally numbs the skin as soon as it touches it. Great stuff. We also had some stuff for horses, but of course, the horse can’t tell us how good it might be…but we used it on Gambler anyway. He’s just covered with welts. We stay there for about an hour to let them recover and make sure there is no reactions. Not that much could be done, we are a good hour away from help by car (there was a gravel road, but we’re pretty far back). Joe is okay, not feeling too bad because of that stuff I had, and Gambler seems okay, so we decide to ride back.

My friend Stacy told me later, back at the trailers, that at one point during that episode, she looks back and sees me careening down the trail with one arm out behind me and all she could think of was the scene from “The Man From Snowy River.” She said she could not see Gambler behind me because he is smaller than my horse, so it looked like I was doing the Snowy River ride. Then she caught sight of Joe running along behind us…by the time we got back to the trailers, and knowing that everything was okay, it WAS a funny image and we were all giggling about how it must have looked from in front.

Rode about a total of seven hours.

Ended up that Joe was fine, Gambler got a shot of banamine when he got home and we now have ANOTHER riding story to tell.

As told by Laura Martlock, another Action Rider!


If you have an interesting story that you would like to share, please send it to and remember, Be One With Your Horse!TM