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Trail Riding with a Tie Down?

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  • Trail Riding with a Tie Down?

    I ride fairly often with a friend who rides with a tie down on her horse. I was always taught by previous trainers that you don't want to use one when trail riding since it could interfere with your horse's balance if he lost his footing.

    Am I wrong about this? If it's standard and safe practice I'd like to know.

    BTW, I did ask her why she uses it and she said it's just part of his regular tack, that they always ride him in it no matter what he's doing..he was her daughter's former barrel horse and now Mom has inherited him and is turning him into a trail horse.

    Just curious. Opinions?

  • #2
    tie downs on the trail

    Originally posted by saddleup View Post
    I was always taught by previous trainers that you don't want to use one when trail riding since it could interfere with your horse's balance if he lost his footing.

    Am I wrong about this? If it's standard and safe practice I'd like to know.

    You were well taught, if that's any comfort; however, a loosely-adjusted tie-down can be used with relative safety on a trail, provided that the rider ALWAYS unfastens the tie-down before crossing ANY water whatsoever. You can't always tell how deep water is, horses sometimes slip and fall even in shallow water, and a horse that can't lift its head is a horse that can easily drown.

    My personal preference would be to leave the tie-down at home. Lost balance on poor footing - shale comes to mind - is a valid concern, and drowning is a very real possibility if a careless rider forgets that his or her horse is wearing a tie-down. It happens.
    Home page: www.jessicajahiel.com
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    • #3
      I just went on a trail ride last week and had my gelding in his tie-down. Granted, it's not tight. It's adjusted the same as it is when we game, and even then it's still considerably loose, compared to how tight a lot of other people have them. My horse was able to keep his balance fine.

      Originally posted by katarine
      I don't want your prayers, tiny cow.
      Originally posted by Pat9
      When it's time for a horse to go to a new person, that person will appear. It's pony magic.


      • #4
        I frequently trail ride with a standing martingale but it isn't too tight. Where I learned to ride most of the horses went in a standing martingale and these were foxhunters. In part the standing martingale was for the neck loop so the beginner riders had something to grab to not hit the horse in the mouth while jumping.
        Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


        • #5
          Generally a bad idea.

          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


          • #6
            Many of the state parks where I ride have various water crossings on the trail. Most are not that deep (very shallow streams with flat rock bottoms), but others may be between knee and chest-high on a horse and have rocky, uneven bottoms.

            I don't use a tie-down or any type of martingale when I ride my horse, but if I did I would certainly remove it before crossing water.

            Generally speaking, I would want the horse to have the flexibility and freedom to move his head in a way that helps him balance if we get ourselves in a tight spot.
            Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.


            • #7
              Tie downs are generally used to keep a head out of the riders face during gaming events and/pre can help them balance against it during turns (i disagree with this as a tool in this case, BTW).

              Anywho, there is no reason a trail horse should need one for either of these purposes while out on the trail. In fact, it would probably be a welcome break for the horse.
              "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


              • #8
                there's no reason why a horse should wear a tie-down or a standing martingale on a trail; and they are downright dangerous. Horses have drowned in them, and I once watched as the horse ahead of me tripped on a rock, couldn't use his head to regain his balance due to his "correctly adjusted" tie down, and fell off the trail down a fairly steep hill. Without the tie down it would have been an innocent, quickly forgotten stumble; with it, it was a disaster.
                If you have a horse who tends to throw his head up to evade the bit during braking, a running martingale is a much safer device to use. Standing martingales shouldn't be used outside of a ring or other groomed surface, and should never be used if jumping, or on rough ground, or crossing water.


                • #9
                  I always thought of a martingale as a temporary training device. But that's just me.


                  • #10
                    Not a smart idea.
                    “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                    • #11
                      Standing for fox hunting ?? - uh uh...not advisable either.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                      • #12
                        Unless he is a head flipper and she fears getting smashed in the face, I would encourage her to get it off.


                        • #13
                          While riding in the MO Ozarks we came to a river crossing where other people were backed up waiting for a horse that didn't want to cross. The horse had on a tie down and was quite adamant about not crossing. Because I usually can't keep my mouth shut when I see a horse that needs an advocate, I suggested that a more seasoned horse should go first and he should take off the tie down because of the possibility of the horse losing his footing and drowning. So he finally let another horse lead but left the tie down on. The horse was scared and scrambled around once in the stirrup deep water. He did go down, the guy bailed, and the horse put up a huge fight but was unable to get up because of the tie down and was swept downstream a little ways and before any of the guys in our group could get to him and cut the tie down, he was dead. The guy was more upset about his new saddle than the horse and hollered at our guys to cut his saddle off. They came out of the river and told him to cut his own @#$%^ saddle off and we rode away. They had kids with them or I'm sure a lot more words would have been exchanged. The dumbass wouldn't listen and his poor horse paid the price. So I whole heartedly endorse the previous advice of no tie downs trail riding, and NEVER in an situation involving water.


                          • #14
                            Training tools aren't supposed to be used to prevent your horse from evading the bit either. That's a training issue & should be dealt with properly.
                            "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                            • #15
                              I want my horse to have full and complete use of his head on a trail. I'd never trail ride in a tie down.


                              • #16
                                Yep, they can interfere with balance as everyone else said. Yep, if things go bad in the water they can also cause a horse to drown.

                                Like HPFarmette said, temporary training device. Any issues that are supposedly being addressed with the tie-down ought to be fixed before heading out on the trail (seriously, who wants to take a head-flipper or rearer out on the trail?)

                                Tie-down as standard equipment? Why, for the love of gawd, why?


                                • #17
                                  No. Bad idea.

                                  Every horse who is wearing a tie-down is not being ridden by an evil person. But tie-downs and martingales are only necessary when a person cannot properly train the horse to respond to the bit. This isn't to say, you can't win the NFR with a rope horse or a barrel horse in a tie down or martingale, or even see an olympic-level jumper, or a polo pony without any of this. So, there ARE people who I would consider good horsemen, getting high performance happily out of their horses in such devices. I just think it's too bad that they never learned to train around the actual 'problem', they'd probably be getting a lot more out of their horses, and not finding as many horses in their programs that 'just won't work for this' discipline/training method.

                                  Someone just toodling along, good footing, no water, horse has been pretty much forever in a tie-down? I'd adjust it loose and not bother with getting my undies in a bunch. Some fights just aren't worth starting, especially if the horse's attitude is pretty much ok with the whole thing.

                                  I was talking to a friend who went to see a mounted shooting 'shoot', where almost every horse was in a tight tie-down. I told her, while we were on the phone, that this was not really safe, a horse can lose its footing in an arena and not have his head to regain balance. Friend called back later and said she saw someone's horse fall right in front of her, horse in a tight tie-down.

                                  And riding on natural terrain, especially but not necessarily including water, with a tie down is dangerous.


                                  • #18
                                    To be perfectly fair, I don't necessarily think tie downs are always a substitution for bad training.

                                    Standing martingales are on a significant number of polo ponies. The ponies are expected to stop hard and turn very fast. Many of them actually brace against their noseband (which are flat and wide) and use them as a balance point when doing so. As a secondary point, they also keep the pony from catching the rider in the face (most are wearing face masks, but it still doesn't feel good) during those abrupt changes of speed or direction when a pony might throw his head - not as a bratty move, but just in the course of playing the game.

                                    I know many barrel horses who wear tie downs because they too use them to brace against in those tight, fast turns.

                                    I don't see these scenarios as a training issue, but a tool to help the horse do its unnatural job better.

                                    I should also clarify that it depends on the trails. We used to 'trail ride' the polo ponies in their full polo gear, standing martingales, draw reins and all because it was just easier to not dismantle the whole setup. We called it 'trail riding'. In reality, we were hacking around neighborhoods and playing around on flat farm fields and ATV trails. We really weren't anywhere that the draw reins or standing martingales would cause issue.

                                    If we're talking true trail riding with hills and water crossings? I'd have taken the time to get rid of the standing martingales. I wouldn't want to cross water in one or not allow my horse full use of his head and neck on hills. Why make his job harder and more dangerous?

                                    So, yes, it made sense to have a tie down on him for barrels. It does not make sense to have one on him for trails.


                                    • #19
                                      Seems like we had a recent thread on this general topic. And no I really don't want to start a lively discussion. Mainly, in response to the OP, I agree with many of the responses, and further, yes, a martingale is pretty standard in some categories of horse use, so I don't view it as a big deal. Particularly in view of the answer you were given- the friend's horse is routinely ridden with the tie down, is used to it, that is 'normal' for that horse, so if it ain't broke, why fix it, everybody's happy.

                                      I've relatively rarely had to ride a horse that needed a tie-down or martingale over the decades (though it is default gear in foxhunting circles and so sure, many loaners I've ridden come with one installed). And when I do, I'm sure not going to lecture the owner/trainer of said horse about holes in training (and besides, there are some great horses who just need one, end of story, too long to explain examples here). I'm just going to ride the horse with the equipment he's used to.

                                      Properly adjusted, the dangers of using same are vastly over-dramatized and over-stated by some.

                                      As with any piece of tack or accessories like boots, the good horseman weighs the risks and benefits and uses what he/she needs, and no more.

                                      If a horse requires a martingale to keep from breaking my nose or knocking me out, that for me outweighs the remote possibility of drowning in a stream (though I can always disconnect the thing when crossing a stream if there's any question of depth).


                                      • #20
                                        There is no reason why a trail horse should need a tie-down. A tie-down, as mentioned above, is for speed events and other competitions to keep the horse's head out of the rider's face.

                                        Tie-downs can prevent a horse from keeping his feet if he loses his balance, slides down a steep path, or any other many incidents that can happen on a trail ride.

                                        I do not think it is a good idea, it is a hazard for the rider, the horse, and others around her.