The standing martingale
The standing martingale’s ability to restore order is perhaps woefully underrated — it can be a miracle worker, says
THE Smashington Vale’s stud groom, Johnny, watches Emma, the Smashington Vale’s newest subscriber, struggle with her highly overexcited hunter as the field leave the meet. The handsome bay six-year-old, who came from Leicestershire for the sort of money that would buy you a nice new car, has his head so high in the air that Emma has virtually no control. He approaches the first hunt jump at a sideways bounce, with Emma nervously crouched up his neck. His stag-like leap — vertical, off all fours — means that she smashes her face on his neck and gets a nosebleed.
“Needs a standing martingale,” he tells her bluntly when the field judders to a halt 10 minutes later.
“But won’t a standing martingale restrict his head when he’s jumping?” asks Emma. “It’ll stop you getting a bloody nose,” he retorts, but then explains how to fit one correctly, and that all his hunt horses wear them — and happily jump the biggest country.
“Lots of horses prefer them,” Johnny explains. “A running martingale is always playing on the rein contact, especially if your hands aren’t the steadiest.”
Johnny hasn’t turned out hunters for 25 years without learning a few things. Quite soon, Emma and her bay are relatively civilised members of the field, relaxing and gaining confidence in each other. If only all life’s problems were so easily sortable, she reflects.