Horse Story Blog“To martingale, or not to martingale?”

By Kathy Rogers

“Where’s the martingale? You know he needs to be ridden in a martingale”, I could not have been more clear..

“That was then, this is now”, smiled Tracy. “I’ve been working on his ground manners and riding him everyday. He is doing so well at giving his head to the bit, that I don’t even need the martingale”.

Now Kalero was pretty green at age 5. In fact, Kalero was green until the day he died – at age 17. And, for whatever reason, both Kalero and his mother have always been ridden with running martingales.

Tracy had always been fairly bugged by this “training prop” and had been working hard with Kalero to bring him into the realm of a reasonably well trained horse, without the need for “training props”.   It was a gallant effort.

As she led Kalero to the big western outdoor arena at Bear Creek Stables in the Los Gatos redwoods, she explained how well he had been doing and how pleased she was with their progress. But I was I not convinced.

I posted up on the tall arena fence and settled in for the “show”.  Tracy positioned Kalero in the middle of one end of the big arena and mounted up.    To my surprise, Kalero’s head went down, not up.  And, as they progressed in the lesson, his head stayed down, his gait was really pretty, engaged and even collected. “Wow, he looks great” I hollered as Tracy’s smiling face passed by the fence rail.

But, no sooner had the words escaped my lips,  some guy shows up leading two rowdy arabians, and he’s turning them loose in a pasture right next to the far end of the arena.  The moment I noticed, Kalero noticed too. His tail and his head went up and he began to dance side to side as Tracy tried to calm him.  But, when the horses went bucking and screaming through the pasture right next to him, I knew it was all over and couldn’t help  but yell out — GET OFF!

Instantly, Kalero’s tail curled up over his back, and he discharged a huge blowing charge — you know the look.   And then it happened, I plainly see the moment Kalero discovers (or remembers) there is no martingale. In one elegant, quick yet powerful motion, with his head straight up in the air, Kalero falls back on his haunches and launches into a full out buckaroo tornado.

8Fortunately, Tracy had been engaged in a rigorous regiment of weight workouts, and she was “buff”.  As Kalero landed, she was thrown from the english saddle, but held on to the pommel and the back of the saddle, banging her chest against the side of the saddle seat with every buck.

Those two bucked all the way down the arena and she didn’t come off.  I was in shock.  Kalero was doing everything in his Arabian bucking repertoire to get rid of  her.   Finally, performs a pretty nice  slide stop and wheeled around, which Tracy took as an opportune moment to push off and land gracefully on her rump in the dirt, thankfully unhurt.

Kalero looked down at her, looked up and saw me hanging off the fence line, and he bolted towards me at a full out gallop, squealing, rolling his eyes and throwing his defiant head around.  The reins were still in position and as he came down the line hard and fast, boasting his apparent conquest of Tracy.

But we weren’t done.  I grabbed the post next to me with on hand,  and as he came roaring by, I reached out and grabbed his rein, set my body and stopped that fool.  He hit that bit hard, and came to a sliding stop as I fell into the arena and let go.

Wow did he wheel around fast and face me – his head dropped and he stood panting and staring at me.  Kalero’s puzzled and beaten expression taught me that the “long arm of the law” can be an awesome power for sure.

But as the shaken Tracy came shuffling up behind me, I was reminded that martingales are just plain old necessary with some horses. I don’t care what they say…

WindRiver Fence

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