Noseband design.

If you use a flash or drop noseband, you may be surprised at the results of a recent preliminary equine study.

Jayne Peters from Bishop Burton College, UK and her research team, investigated three different noseband designs for their effect on rein tension and the force being exerted on the horse’s frontal nasal plane whilst being ridden. 

The preliminary findings of their pilot study were presented at the 15th annual International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference, Aug 19, 2019, at the University of Guelph.

All three nosebands were adjusted using the ‘two-finger rule’ as measured with the ISES noseband taper gauge, a device that mimics two average adult fingers. However, the flash and drop nosebands showed significantly higher average pressures on the front of the horse’s nose as 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.

According to the study, there was no significant change in rein tension when comparing the three nosebands.

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

All horses were fitted using the ‘two-finger rule’, checked with an ISES taper gauge for accuracy and were ridden by their owner, in a snaffle bridle.

This study raises equine welfare concerns when it comes to using nosebands with designs meant to restrict the horse’s ability to open the mouth. With flash nosebands being the most prevalent design seen in international competition (Doherty et al., PloS One. 12:1, 2017), continuing investigation into potential damaging effects is needed.

ISES council member, Kate Fenner agrees with the welfare concern relaying findings from her own study, “Restrictive nosebands are a welfare concern as they can inhibit natural oral behaviour and cause stress.” (Fenner et al., PloS One. 11:5, 2016).

Internationally renowned researcher and co-founder of ISES, Paul McGreevy has also studied restrictive nosebands citing they can cause stress and possible tissue damage (McGreevy et al., 2012).

Peters closed her presentation at the ISES conference encouraging 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.

The abstract is published in the conference proceedings which you can download here.

Save the date:

The 16th International Society for Equitation Science Conference will take place on August 11-14, 2020 at Hartpury University, United Kingdom, under the theme: “Succeed with science: performance, practice and positive wellbeing”.

Visit the Conference website for more information.