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This weekend my niece entered her first dressage competition with my horse Buddy.  It was a competition organised by our yard to raise money for a charity and we do little competitions or rides like this on a regular basis, alongside being a fundraiser it’s good for moral at the yard.  As Buddy has been coming slowly back in to work after an injury, she entered the walk and trot test and came equal 5th with a score of 86. I’m very pleased with them both but the judge had noted on her test sheet ‘no noseband’, ‘no gloves’.  These notes, although not in the comments, just a note at the side of the page, got me thinking….  I’ll leave the gloves for another time and just stick with nosebands for now.


We don’t generally ride Buddy with a nose band.  I don’t use a nose band for anything, and I think he looks better without it.  A cavesson nose band fitted correctly (two fingers stacked on each other at the bridge of the nose should fit under the nose band when it’s done up) does not serve any purpose whatsoever.  It literally does nothing other than complete the look of a bridle.  As it’s customary to see a horse with a nose band we tend to think a horse doesn’t look right without one, they ‘look like a western horse without one’ or some people use a different width/style of nose band to alter the appearance of a horses face, just like belts can make people look different even if you don’t need them to hold your trousers up.


My first thought then, is that if nosebands should not be fitted any tighter than mentioned above and serve no purpose then why should we have to wear one for dressage?  Had I remembered this daft nugget of information, and the fact that I have the nosebands in a box in my van (if I sell a bridle they sell better if they are complete) then I might’ve put it on the bridle for her test.  It would’ve made NO difference to his way of going and in my opinion should not be a requirement in a dressage test.  If there is no noseband, it cannot be incorrectly fitted to gain any advantage and if my horse had a problem with the bit it would not be covered up by a nose band stopping him opening his mouth.


My second thought is why do we still sell all bridles with a nose band? I’d quite like to purchase a bridle without one and hopefully cheaper because I need less leather.  Nose bands could then be an add on to customise if you want one, perhaps not as blingy as brow bands but then you could buy a style to suit your horse, or not, if that’s the way you like it.


Then I thought why is it we still have this outdated notion that a bridle is not complete without a nose band?  Is it just because that’s how they are sold?  Perhaps that’s a chicken and egg type question that will never get solved.  I’ve asked a number of people who have had lessons with me or who have asked me questions about bridles and so on, if they know what a noseband is used for.  And, most of them, haven’t got a clue.  When I give them a minute to think on it they usually either say it doesn’t really do anything, or it’s to keep the horse from opening his mouth.  As mentioned above, if correctly fitted a noseband will not stop a horse opening his mouth, it would have to be quite tight for that.

However, there are now what seems like an extraordinary number of nose band options, from drop nosebands or a flash, to grakle nosebands and beyond, all designed to ‘fix’ one problem or another to do with a horse avoiding the bit.  These all, in my opinion, simply address the symptom of the problem and not the cause… WHY is the horse avoiding the bit?  Needless to say, I don’t have much time for all these contraptions.  If you got the horse and he needed one of these, make it a point of your training to remove them ASAP, if you have issues and someone suggests these as a fix, look at the issue again and find someone to help you train your horse or yourself, or examine you or your horse for the cause.  Do not fix a symptom, find the cause or you will have a bigger symptom to deal with later.


So, my next thought then went to some bridles I’ve been seeing lately that have the nosebands as part of the bridle, mostly expensive bridles that are marketed as being kind or helping the horse to be soft or whatever the latest spiel is that sells tack.  When fitted as the instructions say (or as advised) they always seem to me to look tight, and do not have the standard two finger space of  a cavesson nose band.  The ones I have seen also have the noseband lower than a cavesson is usually fitted meaning it lies on the soft part of the nose, where there is no bone support, and thus IMO compromising the airways.  They are often shaped so the side drops down and it’s done up under the chin, suggesting it’s trying to be a drop but not drop nose band and a curb at the same time.  As it’s all part of the bridle you can’t remove it, so it’s encouraging people to use (or want to use) something that isn’t necessary, they never needed, never knew they needed, but now they want because it’s the latest in thing…. And we still are holding on to this notion that a bridle needs a nose band….


Anyway,  That’s my musings on the subject.  What do you think?  Have you ever thought about it?  Do you need your noseband?  If you do, why?