Standing Martingales and Tie Downs

Sometimes in the equestrian world, we have pieces of tack that are called different names but have a very similar action. On this week's #TackTipTuesday we are discussing the Standing Martingale and the Tie Down. 

The Standing Martingale is used in the English arena, most commonly in the show hunter and its counterpart the Tie Down is common in the western world, used often in barrel racing, roping, and other cattle work. In both cases, these pieces of tack are used to encourage the horse to keep their head down by putting pressure on the horse's nose. 

Hunter Standing Martingale

In the show hunter ring, standing martingales have become part of the aesthetic, so you will see them commonly. Some will believe a horse doesn't look fully dressed without it now. Some trainers will also argue that it interferes with the horse's natural motion and ability to use their neck when they jump. In show jumping, a standing martingale can only be used up to 1.3m, but are allowed in the lower levels. 


When roping, a tie down can be used as a safety, to prevent the horse from lifting their head too high and getting hit by the rope while it is swinging and in use. It can also be used to help the horse keep their balance as they do hard stops and quick transitions when roping and working with cows. The western tie-down can come in a variety of materials ranging from soft padded leather, biothane, soft rope, or a stiff latigo.  The stiffer the material the more intense the pressure will be on the horse's nose. 

Western Tie Down Horse

 Both of standing martingales and tie-downs fit very similarly. They attach at the center of the girth or cinch, then up through the front legs of the horse. The Standing Martingale comes with a neck loop that keeps the leather martingale close to the horse's neck. The western tie-downs can be used with a bleeding heart tie on the horse's breastplate that the tie-down will run through.

Bleeding Heart Tie Western Breastplate  


When fitting a standing martingale or tie-down you want to be able to take the slack of the leather martingale and be able to touch the horse's throatlatch at a comfortable resting position. If it is tighter, the horse will be restricted in their natural head movement.