Are whips, spurs, tight nosebands and bits injuring competition horses?

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A recent Danish study has looked into the injuries caused by bits, nosebands, whips and spurs in 3,414 competition horses and the results are fascinating.

9% of all horses had lesions or blood at the corners of the lips, horses with tight nosebands were more likely to have lip lesions and lesions were more common at the higher levels of competition. 

Surprisingly there was no difference in the number of lesions on the corner of the mouth when a bitless bridle was used. (I do wonder if this may be as horses were also ridden in bits, just not on the day they were examined, as many riders do use different equipment when competing).

77% of riders used spurs, but only 3% of horses had an area of worn hair and less than 1% had blood on their ribcage at the site the spurs would be used.

7 horses had injuries related to whip use – 2 show jumpers and 5 dressage horses.

Researcher Hilary Clayton said “Spurs should be only as long as necessary, and excessively long spurs should be avoided because they are associated with more lesions and are more likely to lead to bleeding.”

Horses may of course react if they experience pain or discomfort, so their behaviour is likely to change as a result of the use of aversive equipment or training. So f your horse is anxious, spookier than normal or behaving unusually always review your equipment and your own behaviour.

This is the first time injury to equines from equipment has been studied on such a large scale. You can read the full study here, it is interesting reading.