I'm sure you've seen these gadgets. They are everywhere. You will see them at every barrel race and in every schooling show and hunter ring. You will see these often at barns that give lessons. They seem to be very common. I think people just put them on their horses without really understanding anything about the equipment because they see so many other's doing it. Sadly, many people use these devices to cover up bad riding or bad horsemanship.
The International Society of Rider Biomechanics strictly forbids the use of training devices and restrictive devices. Tie-downs and standing martingales are just that. In fact, they are illegal in many disciplines. I hear people tell me so many reasons why they need to use a standing martingale. I am not just an instructor, but also a trainer and a certified coach through the International Society of Rider Biomechanics. People can tell me any excuse they want, but I know that it is not valid. I have trained more horses than I can even count. I can't even recall a time I needed a tie-down. Sure, I could've put one on a horse and maybe I would've gotten quicker results. But at what cost? Would I be truly achieving what I want? The answer is NO!
A horse needs to use his neck for balance. The horse nods his head at the walk and the canter. There is no head nod at the trot. If you have head nod at the trot, your horse is lame. During jumping or speed events, your horse will move his neck a lot to help his balance. Putting a tie-down on your horse prohibits your horse from using his neck properly for balance. And the worst part? If your horse trips, stumbles or falls you will not be able to do a thing to help your horse up. The horse will fall flat on its face, and you might even have a rotational fall. All this because you tied the horse's head down.
Sure, you might think you fixed the horse's problem of sticking his head up in the air, but it's not a correct fix. It is false, and the horse has learned to only brace against the tie-down. Why is the horse sticking his head up in the first place? You have to find the issue and not just cover it up with a quick-fix.
A great concern is that a horse learns to brace against the tie-down, which creates a false frame and head-carriage. This puts the horse very much on the forehand. The horse will have incredible strain on his poll, nucchal ligament and all down his topline. The horse will also have a hollow back. When a horse is ridden properly from back to front on the bit, the horse will actually lift his abdominal muscles and round his back, which will separate the vertebrae. That is what protects your horses back! Have you ever heard of kissing spines? You must protect your horse's back!
The bracing on the martingale or tie-down will also very much effect the movement and fluidity of movement. You might notice that your horse feels "off". You can get what is called rein lame from the bracing. The hind legs will be blocked, and you will notice that the hind legs won't track up and you will end up with disunited gaits, like a 4 beat canter.
The restrictiveness of the tie-downs make me think that it must make the horse feel like their are in a straight jacket. The horse has no way to escape bad hands because they can't raise their head. If you feel like you need to use this type of equipment, you need to stop and go back to the very basics. If your trainer is ok with this sort of equipment, I would find a new trainer. The only place these belong is in the trash. Although, I have heard that they make decent dog-leashes.
If you'd like to learn more about my natural training methods, please contact me! I would love to help you out!