Are nosebands too readily used as a schooling shortcut?

"It has become common practice for many owners to use crank, drop, grakle, Mexican or flash nosebands to close their horse’s mouth, so much so, that it is difficult to find a bridle with a normal cavesson noseband in tack shops – bridles now seem to come with a flash noseband as standard.

A horse demonstrating an unusual oral behaviour when ridden, such as opening his mouth or putting his tongue over the bit, has a problem with what is being asked of him or is trying to avoid pain. If the horse is performing the behaviour to avoid pain or discomfort from the bit, then using a noseband that tightens around the mouth will prevent him from opening his mouth and mask the symptom, rather than address the cause."

My quote above is taken from a thought provoking article looking at the overuse of nosebands written by Nicky Moffatt of Horse magazine. Great to see this topic being addressed in the equestrian media and about time.

Recent evidence suggests that horses wearing tight nosebands undergo a physiological stress response, are sensitised to bit pressure and may have reduced blood flow (McGreevy et al., 2012). Consequently, on welfare grounds, the use of nosebands that constrict with potential to cause injuries should not be permitted in training or competition.

"Extreme tightening of the noseband may force the mucous membranes lining the cheek against the molar teeth and is thought to increase the bitted horse’s compliance and responsiveness to rein pressure, perhaps by sensitising its mouth" (Randle & McGreevy, 2011).

Horse magazine have very kindly agreed for the article to be shared - thank you! Well worth a read. The article is here.

In a brilliant initiative, the International Society for Equitation Science has developed a Noseband Taper Gauge which they suggest should be used at all competitions to ensure nosebands are not restrictive. A steward could use the gauge to uniformly check all riders comply before entering the ring. You can find more information on the ISES website here.