I'm often asked my opinion on martingales, tie-downs and mouth shutters. All three are counter measures to overcome a horse's resistance to a command.
I will start with martingales, they are used for control and establishing a headset on a young horse. The biggest problem I have found is the angle of the pull on a martingale is so different from the angle of the pull on my reins without a martingale. The angle is different from the bit to the reins as well as from the reins to your hands. After the use of a martingale I have had to reteach my horse because of the change of the angle. The angle of your pull is very important when you teach a command, the horse will learn what they are supposed to do when that angle of pressure is applied. Therefor we want to use the same angle every time we ask for that command. Instead of using a martingale, I teach them to establish a head set by building pressure with my hands and focusing on releasing when my horses head is down, rather then pulling it down.
My next subject is tie-downs which are intended as a barrier to stop a horse from lifting their head too high. A high head indicates resistance from the commands, meaning your horse doesn’t fully accept the command. In my opinion it should only be used as a barrier and your horse should respect it by staying away from it. If your horse is constantly resisting them, tie-downs can cause soundness issues. Think about what it does to the spine when horses are running, turning and stopping while pushing on the tie-down. They can also be dangerous if adjusted too tight, causing the horse to rear over. If adjusted properly tie-downs are useful in speed events where fast corrections are made.
Now we will move on to mouth shutters, cavesson and nose bands. These are used to stop a horse from opening their mouth to resist a command. These cause more wear and tear on their TMJ's from the horse constantly trying to open their mouth against pressure. It's been proven that this will eventually wear out the cartilage and cause nerve damage. I found slowing down the pressure and pinpointing the release of your command solves the problem. If a horse knows what body part and movement I'm asking for, he won't open his mouth. I use the open mouth as a gauge. If they open their mouth then I'm pulling too fast.
Since I have been asked my opinion on these training tools countless times I thought maybe you guys might want to hear my input! This is just one mans opinion on these particular tools and everyone has one. Please leave your input below we would love to hear it.
That's my two cents
Enjoy the journey!