Even looser nosebands apply significant pressure, study findings show

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File image. © Steph Freeman

Even nosebands applied using the “two-finger rule” can apply significant pressure to the frontal nasal plane of horses while being ridden, fresh research suggests.

Initial findings in the preliminary study raise equine welfare concerns when it comes to using nosebands with restrictive designs meant to prevent the horse from opening its mouth.

Jayne Peters, from Bishop Burton College in England, and her research team investigated three different noseband designs and their effect on rein tension and the force being exerted on the frontal nasal plane of ridden horses.

Of the three nosebands tested, the flash and drop nosebands showed significantly higher pressure on the front of the horse’s nose when compared to a cavesson type. The flash created the highest pressure.

Peters says initial findings suggests that the common perception that restrictive noseband designs allow a lighter rein aid may be inaccurate and warrant further investigation.

The findings revealed no significant change in rein tension when comparing the three nosebands, delegates to the recent International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference in Canada were told.

Rein tension in the study was measured using a Telerein tension gauge. A Pliance pressure system determined the amount of pressure caused by each noseband on the front of the horse’s nose.

All horses used in the study were fitted using the “two-finger rule”, checked with an ISES taper gauge for accuracy.

The horses were ridden by their owner, in a snaffle bridle, for all three nosebands.

Welfare questions arise from the findings in terms of the use of restrictive designs meant to prevent the horse from opening its mouth.

The International Society for Equitation Science taper gauge designed to allow measurement of approximate noseband tightness.
The International Society for Equitation Science taper gauge designed to allow measurement of approximate noseband tightness.

With flash nosebands as the most prevalent design seen in international competition (46%), continuing investigation into potentially damaging effects is needed.

ISES council member Kate Fenner agreed with the welfare concerns raised, describing findings from her own study, titled “Restrictive nosebands are a welfare concern as they can inhibit natural oral behaviour and cause stress.”

Internationally renowned researcher and ISES co-founder Paul McGreevy has also studied restrictive nosebands, finding they can cause stress and possible tissue damage.

Peters, in closing her presentation at the conference, encouraged more focus on correct training than equipment.

Currently, investigations reveal that the effect of tack is not yet fully understood. Scientific evidence may lead to industry perceptions being re-evaluated.

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