Noseband tightness in competition is a hot topic that is high on Equestrian Canada‘s agenda. In the process of revising the rules, this equestrian federation invited Professor Paul McGreevy to explain the science.

Scroll down to watch the webinar…

A riding instructor, veterinarian and ethologist, Paul McGreevy is Professor of Animal Welfare and Behaviour at the University of Sydney.

His informative talk highlights the concerns of using tongue ties and restrictive nosebands in the context of the horse’s welfare and maintaining horse sports’ social licence to operate – a term that refers to the public’s trust that we are treating sport horses in an ethical manner.

Combining tongue ties and nosebands in this webinar might seem surprising, since tongue ties are only used in horse racing and already banned in all the sports overseen by the Canadian equestrian federation. Nevertheless, as the presentation progresses and Prof. McGreevy reviews the most relevant scientific findings, the analogies between the practices become clearer. They both must be questioned on ethical grounds because they restrict normal function and behaviour, and deny the horse a voice.

Progress is being made, but are we acting fast enough to protect the reputation of our sports?

Some horse racing jurisdictions are reviewing tongue tie rules or have already banned them, while a few forward thinking equestrian federations have introduced rules that require a minimum spacing is achieved under the noseband strap. However, Prof. McGreevy says the general trend within the sector is to demand evidence that the horse pays a cost for wearing such restrictive equipment, rather than act proactively on ethical issues observers may have with denying horses the opportunity to yawn, lick, chew and swallow.

“It saddens me that demanding these pieces of evidence fundamentally erodes our social licence to operate and even questions our having a voice in how we treat our horses because we’re so conflicted by our own interests” said Prof. McGreevy in answer to a question by the Health and Welfare committee member.

“The evidence of damage done [by these practices] will emerge, but as our own worst enemies, horses will always habituate to aversive practices and make abuse appear okay. Just because you can do something to a horse does not make it okay.”

Enjoy this visual and informative 45 min presentation – don’t let the poor sound quality of the introduction put you off. The webinar starts 2.5 mins in and is highly recommended.