Unlimited access >

Regular Running Martingale vs. Bib Martingale

Is there a significant difference between a regular running martingale and the running “bib” martingale? Both obviously serve the same purpose in the jumper ring (if required) and prohibit head tossing, but is one more effective than the other? Or is it simply for aesthetics?

I’m curious, thanks in advance.

Bib martingale is designed so the horse cannot catch his mouth on it. Some horses want to play with the martingale with their mouth, and they can get a jaw caught over a regular martingale with not good consequences (been there, done that)

The bib martingale is normally only found at the racetrack, and as X says above, it makes for young horses who may grab at the martingale with their mouth being unable to get caught up like that (which results in a wreck). It also is heavier on the reins, which, if you have the lighter feel that you would normally have with a riding horse instead of a racehorse, can be a bit of a problem. The bib martingale also works as an Irish martingale, holds the reins from being separated, which may or may not be useful. I have both in my barn, after several decades of riding and training racehorses as well as a longer history in the h/j show ring, and lots of green horses through the decades. I don’t use the bib martingales on show horses, there is no need for them there. For a riding horse, I don’t want that much weight hanging on the light feel I want on the reins. For a racehorse, which classically takes a bigger hold on the reins, the added weight of the bib doesn’t matter.

PS. neither “prevent head tossing”. The use of a running martingale only keeps bit pressure on the bars of the mouth, no matter what the horse does with his head. If a horse tosses his head around, without a running martingale of some sort in place, the angle of the pressure changes from the bars onto the corners of the mouth. This, in itself, can cause stress and misunderstanding in the horse, and some horses simply don’t respond well to pressure being elsewhere other than on the bars, and the change in the angle of pressure is in itself, a stressor. The running martingale keeps the pressure off the corners of the mouth, even if the horse raises his head, thus is a calming influence on a horse like this. If you wish to use pressure on the corners of the mouth, you remove the running martingale.


How interesting NancyM! I always thought that running martingales kept the horse from getting its head too high via rein pressure, i.e. pulling their head down, but keeping the action of the bit on the bars of the mouth makes sense now that I think about it. There’s always something new to learn!

I’ve never heard of the running martingale affecting the pressure on the bit if the horse’s head is where it belongs. It sounds like the martingale is adjusted too tight if that is the case.


Yeah, if the martingale is putting pressure on all the time, it’s definitely adjusted incorrectly…


Correctly adjusted, the martingale only comes into use when the horses raises it’s head. When that happens, the contact with the mouth is determined by the rider’s hand, but the angle of the rein is directed onto the bars of the mouth rather than the corners. Since pressure on the corners of the mouth (as in use of a gag bit) is used to raise the horse’s head, it is counter productive if your goal is to retain a lower head carriage. It only comes into play if the horse’s head is not where it belongs, obviously. But if the head is raised, in a head toss or resistance, the running martingale directs any rein pressure onto the bars, not the corners of the mouth. Because should that happen, pressure on the corners of the mouth is counterproductive. Have I explained it better now? My point is that it does not “prevent head tossing”.


A bib martingale does not prohibit a horse from tossing it’s head. It simply prevents the horse from raising its head to the point of no control.

A bib helps with steering, your hands can not get to wide, and the horse can not wiggle its shoulder out one side or another. It makes you ride with your legs more, and helps keep the bit in the mouth in the correct position if you do pull one rein.

1 Like