The stand­ing mar­tin­gale

The stand­ing mar­tin­gale’s abil­ity to re­store or­der is per­haps woe­fully un­der­rated — it can be a mir­a­cle worker, says

Horse & Hound - - Letters - Cather­ine Austen

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.

H&H

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