Similar in function to the English standing martingale, the western tie-down prevents a horse from raising its head above a pre-determined level. When adjusted properly, the tie-down allows a horse to carry its head freely in a natural position. It should never be so tight as to constantly snub or hold a horse’s head in place.
The tie-down strap is attached to a metal ring at the base of a cavesson’s noseband. The noseband can be of several designs, ranging from wide, padded leather to braided rawhide or stiff rope. The tie-down strap then runs between the front legs of the horse and snaps to a d-ring sewn into the cinch. An important part of the ensemble which mustn’t be overlooked is the breast collar. The tie-down strap is passed through a ring in the breast collar on its way to the cinch’s d-ring. This prevents a horse from putting a leg through a dangling tie-down strap.
Popular among ropers and some gymkhana competitors, tie-downs can keep a horse from hitting a rider in the face or head during intense, high-speed events.
Tie-downs are not a substitute for schooling a horse to flex, bend and yield to the bit.
Use care when trail riding with a tie-down strap. It may restrict a horse’s ability to use its head and neck for balance, especially when climbing up steep, narrow trails.