More than half of the Dutch dressage riders and showjumpers who participated in a study were adhering to rules around the tightness of nosebands a few weeks after they were introduced, research has shown.
The so-called two-finger regulation, in which two fingers should be able to pass between the noseband and the nose, was introduced by the Royal Dutch Equestrian Federation on April 1 this year.
For their research, Kathalijne Visser and her colleagues checked out the noseband tightness on 50 dressage horses and 50 showjumpers competing at a range of levels at four different national competitions in May.
The study team, reporting in the open-access journal Animals, found that 59 complied with the two-finger rule, based on measurements taken using the International Society for Equitation Science taper gauge.
Compliance levels were higher among the dressage riders (37 left at least two fingers of space) compared with the showjumping riders (22 complied).
They found that 71 complied if a measure of one-and-a-half fingers was applied.
Two competitors — both showjumpers — had nosebands fitted that gave a reading of 0 fingers.
The researchers found that dressage horses and older horses wore looser nosebands compared to showjumping and younger horses.
A cavesson noseband with flashband was the most common among the showjumpers, while a cavesson crank noseband with flashband was most common among dressage riders.
The authors said it was interesting that, even though nosebands with the capacity to be done up tighter were much more commonly used in dressage horses than among the showjumpers, noseband tightness levels were actually looser among the dressage horses.
The authors said they were not aware if noseband tightness was checked by officials at the competitions in question.
They also conducted a 13-question online survey, in which 386 responses were received. It revealed that 54.5% of respondents agreed with the new regulation and 62% believed it would improve horse welfare.
Nearly all (98 percent) said they were aware of the new regulation.
The reason respondents gave in the survey for the choice of noseband was not clear cut, they said.
Indeed, sometimes they are worn for aesthetic purposes.
“Since dressage horses are judged on total appearance, dressage riders are likely to choose a popular type of noseband.
“In our study, there was a strong bias in the use of these nosebands between different disciplines, which may be culturally determined and may also vary between countries.
“Further research is needed to understand the different motives for noseband use between disciplines.”
The analysis of the survey results showed that the intention and motivation for riders to change their tightening behaviour differs and is related to their attitude towards the new regulation, welfare benefits, peer pressure, and perceived behavioural control.
“More insight is needed into the intentions of equestrians of different disciplines regarding tightening behaviour in order to convince riders to adhere to, and ensure a successful implementation of, the new regulation that improves horse welfare.”
The full study team comprised Visser, Monique Kuypers and Jennifer Stam, from the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands; and Bernd Riedstra, from the University of Groningen, also in the Netherlands.
Practice of Noseband Use and Intentions Towards Behavioural Change in Dutch Equestrians
E. Kathalijne Visser, Monique M.F. Kuypers, Jennifer S.M. Stam and Bernd Riedstra.
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1131; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121131