Has anyone ever had experience using a standing martingale/tie down for a horse who is not a head tosser but insecure without constant mouth contact?
My gaited mare is going through some re-training, I bought her off a woman who only used her for trail and disclosed to me that the horse had been abused/was a nervous type. Fast forward, she’s a great horse to ride for the most part, but definitely spooky and lacks confidence. She seems to only be calmed when I’m actively on the bit, like it focuses her attention and that’s when she’s calmer and more sure footed. Getting her attention on me, she can handle most things. If I loose the reins, she immediately gets worried/distracted/looky . I used to have her on a simple d ring snaffle but my trainer said that she might not be confident enough with it, in the case of a spook I want to make sure I can get her attention back to me before a bolt. A more experienced friend of mine suggested a standing martingale (English tack I know, but that’s her discipline while I lean western) and we tried her out in it. She’s immediately calmer, was super confident in the arena and trail, and every time she got stressed and lifted her head, it bumped her back like a reminder. Eventually she didn’t even need it, and wasn’t bumping on it at all.
I know the main function of a tie down/standing martingale is to prevent head tossing, but I wondered if anyone has used it for just giving their horse some confidence. I don’t want to have to be on her mouth the whole time, and I feel like it allows her to comfort herself in a way. The goal would be that eventually I can get her to work without it and she feels confident on her own, but my friend is very adamant that she feels a notable difference in my mares behavior with it vs without.
For general context, her original bit was an imus gaited comfort bit which she rode so tense in, that if I even tapped the rein with a pinky she’d back up ten feet out of panic. I figured I’d try a simple snaffle and see if it helped her, which she calmed down quite a bit and became pleasant to ride with the exception of when she became spooky—I didn’t have enough control when she wanted to bolt. I swapped her off of a d ring snaffle I moved her to a myler short shanked bit with a medium port and she did well in it, liked the contact, but it still took her time to relax and I need to give her lots of reminders I’m there. We are currently trying her in an 3 ring elevator snaffle bit and the martingale and I could ride her with a totally loose rein and she’s confident and happy.
Sorry for the wall of explanation, just want to know if anyone’s used a tie down this way. Or on the opposite side, would you never use one for this or other reasons? I’ve heard they can be risky on trail through water but I don’t intend on taking her through water or steep ground.
I don’t know too much about this kind of tack, so I’d appreciate any insight.