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Running martingales

This is in regard to John Linderman's post on ideas about running martingales:
I am a relative newbie and bought my first horse, a spunky 5 year old Arab last year.  He was just started under saddle 2 month before I bought him and I was very fortunate to receive great help in working with him.  From the start I was told to use a running martingale and never really questioned it.  I was told it would help my have more control over my spirited guy this way.  I moved out of state late last year and to Maryland where I started back up with Dressage lessons and the first thing my instructor asked was why do I use the martingale.  I told her and she had me take it off.  She said my horse was bracing against it instead of stretching down and low.  Ever since I took it off he is getting more balanced and he is better able to hold long stretches of nice, balanced trotting on the trails.  I am still taking dressage lessons once a week (in addition to conditioning on the trails) and we use lots of trotting poles and cavalettis to encurage him to use his hinds, which in turn has him carry his head lower.  Another trick I learned is to raise my reins, without pulling on them, high above bit level and this makes him drop right back into the bit after a couple of steps.   With the martingale I was never able to do this.  We have our first 25 mile ride coming up in March and we'll do it without any kind of martingale.
Happy Trails,
Birgit Locklear

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