New study concludes overtight noseband use is widespread in competition

There has been a lot of recent discussion among riders and governing equestrian bodies about the use and detrimental effects of overtightening nosebands on horses. A new international study, carried out by researchers Vincent Casey, Sean Arkins and Orla Doherty from the University of Limerick and Paul McGreevy from Sydney University, set out to explore noseband use in competition. It seems to show that ‘44% of competition horses in dressage and eventing competitions at national and international level, under the regulations of the FEI, British Eventing, Dressage Ireland and the Future Event Horse League, had nosebands tightened to such an extent that it was not possible to insert an ISES taper gauge under the noseband (classified as zero fingers’ tightness). This indicates a widespread tendency to tighten the noseband to a substantially higher level of tightness than that recommended’.

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This study revealed the prevalence of restrictive noseband usage on competition horses of all ages and furthermore argued that ‘noseband tightness levels do not appear to be influenced by the stage of training or the particular traits of the horse being ridden since tightness did not differ significantly between young and older event horses in the study. The widespread use of tightness levels of less than two fingers may be indicative of habitual or routine over-tightening of nosebands as a pre-emptive response rather than as a consequence of previous training or control problems’.

The study concluded that  ‘Tight nosebands are a common feature of equestrian competition, with almost half of eventing and dressage competitors assessed in Ireland, England and Belgium tightening the noseband to zero fingers tightness level. Only seven per cent of nosebands assessed allowed two fingers to be placed beneath the noseband at the nasal planum, with the remainder of nosebands being fitted tighter than this. This practice was not influenced by the age of the horse. The current study highlights the need for quantification of pressures exerted by tight nosebands.’
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