Ask and Discuss : Tight nosebands

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August 19, 2010

When we do something to a horse there is usually a reason followed by consequences and we hope that the consequences give validity to the reason.

So many riders like to ride with a tight noseband that I feel we should all look more closely at the reasons why. Even the most conservative books on equitation recommend two fingers clearance after adjustment.

  1. To keep the horses mouth shut. Why? To stop him putting his tongue over the bit! Why does he put his tongue over the bit? I believe that the tongue goes over the bit by accident because what he is really trying to do is to push the bit away because it hurts and occasionally it slips over. With a tight nose band it is less obvious and does prevent the tongue from going over but unfortunately it can still come out the side: the consequence. Another consequence is that some one like me or Theresa Sandin is standing next to the warm up arena with a camera!
  2.  To make the judges think that the horse is not trying to open his mouth in an effort to escape the harsh rein aids of the rider which are ever so discreetly pulling the horse onto its forehand.  Here the consequences are usually disconnected from justice though as the judges accept this cruel practice and think that the gel pad under the jaw is a consequence of the rider’s consideration for the horse’s welfare! I have seen a horse owned by a well known international rider that had its nose BROKEN by doing this! I have even seen a little lever, similar to a larger one used for tightening the girth, for tightening the noseband. Here, however, is the worst consequence of all and it applies to even those who do not over tighten but simply have it “snug” Due to the fact that the horses head is V shaped the nose band tries to move down the horses head the more it is tightened to find the path of least resistance. It can’t because the head piece goes behind the ears and puts a sustained pressure on the cervical vertebra. The force here is dependant on how tight the noseband is but even if slight would cause tremendous discomfort leading to headaches and possible depression. I tried a “crank” noseband on one of my horses a few years ago and he became a head shaker in two minutes.  Luckily for him and many other horses I decided to find out why!

    The consequences of our actions are not always where we would like them!
  3. Every body else does it!  No comment!
September 30, 2014

If only all horses had a STRONG personality, people would run out of horses to abuse and either give up riding, or re-think their methods. Saddly though, horses who don't comply to harsh treatment, no matter how much punishment they get, are sold and resold untill they reach the slaughterhouse...

I was lucky enough to have 2 horses who won't put up with ANY abuse. The slightest discomfort and they complain to no end. At the beggining I would tell them off, come up with a zillion ways to try and shut them up because, like everyone else, I blamed the behaviour on lack of practice/good manners.

However, I'm not THAT dumb as to repeat the same action over and over expecting a different result! They are very smart horses and learn everything extremely fast (as in seconds), so for them to keep acting the same way over and over, no matter how many treats or threats, it means what I ask is not acceptable in any way. They may comply for a few seconds, just to shut me up, or to gain a treat, but the bad behaviour will come back over and over!
All one has to do in such situations is to sit back and look for "what's wrong with this picture?". Why can't he cope with what I'm asking? it may be something right in front of us, like bad tack, wrong approach, or it maybe something as far back as his muscles not being prepared for such movement at all, or an old ligament injury, etc.

Know your horse, know yourself, and use your darned brains cos that's what they're there for: to solve problems! not the tack, not your strenght and not your money, but your brains!

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