So, aside from the bloody mouth saga that we’ve replayed like 6 or 7 times by now, another thing to come out of the LRK3DE this year was scrutiny over how tight some people’s nosebands are. In fact, a lot of people had more issue with that than they did with the blood, or think that one problem is directly related to the other. I’m inclined to agree with the latter part.
But what has been interesting about that whole debacle are the conversations that have resulted in it’s wake. Looking through the photos, it was hard not to notice that some people (no, not just one) had some seriously tight flash nosebands. The current FEI rule for nosebands is as follows:
Horse Noseband check:
FEI Stewards of all disciplines to pay particular attention to ensure that nosebands are not overtightened. It must be possible to place at least one finger between the horse’s cheek and the noseband. Nosebands must never be used in such a way that they interfere with a horse’s breathing. This check can be carried out at any time the steward feels that a noseband appears to be too tight (preferably after the test); if the steward carrying out this check finds the nose band is too tight, the steward must ask the groom to loosen the noseband so that one finger can fit between the nose band and the cheek of the horse. If it happens again the rider should receive a yellow card for not following the instruction of the steward.
One finger. Between the cheek and the noseband. Not two fingers. Not the chin, or the front of the nose. I’m pretty sure you could tighten that thing to the point where it’s bone-crushing and I could still get a finger in there on the horse’s fleshy cheek. So who gets to determine what meets the definition of “overtightened”?
There has also been a lot of talk lately about the noseband study (if you only read one thing today, read this) released last year, which showed that “A proportion of the horses were recorded having oral lesions, most of them in dressage. The tightness of the noseband showed a very clear correlation to the occurrence of oral lesions.”. So, yes, it’s been proven that overtightening a noseband can and does cause physical harm to a horse. I was particularly interested to note, while reading through the study, this part:
The median noseband tightness in all horses measured (n = 737) was found to be 0.5 fingers. Forty four per cent of nosebands were tightened to zero fingers tightness, 7% to 0.5 fingers, 23% to 1 finger, 19% to 1.5 fingers and 7% to 2 fingers tightness.
Holy. Shite. Clearly that vague rule about fitting a finger between the cheek and the noseband is not working out in the horse’s favor.
As a result of this study, the Danish Equestrian Federation has brought forth new rules regarding noseband tightness – “The tightness of the nosebands will be measured as of 1 January 2018: There must be room for a certified measurement unit in between the nasal plate of the horse (bony surface) and the noseband equivalent to a diameter more than 1,5cm. The rule is applicable for all disciplines.”. So not only are they calling for a standard measurement (not a vague one or two fingers), they also have changed the location of where the measurement should be taken. Not the cheek, but rather the front of the horse’s face.
A taper gauge has also been created, an actual tool that standardizes just how much space there must be. Handily enough, it also measures curb length and bit thickness.
New Zealand is the latest country to jump on this bandwagon, discussing possible rule changes to introduce the use of the taper gauge at their shows.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I doubt the taper gauge would fit under even half of the horses’ nosebands at most shows in America, of pretty much any discipline. Overtightening of nosebands seems like, from my experience at least, something that happens across the board. I’ve done my fair share of it in the past too, having been raised thinking that the noseband should go as tight as you could get it. I definitely don’t do that anymore, and honestly probably err on the “may as well not have a noseband at all” end of the spectrum these days, but it seems to be a pretty common practice.
So the real question here is what FEI, and also USEF, might do about this. The fans aren’t the only ones noticing an issue with nosebands, some riders are speaking up about it too.
Jim Wofford wrote an article about it FIVE YEARS AGO, and if anything it’s only gotten worse since he made these observations. I’ll be honest, I’d be shocked to see any action toward standardization from USEF anytime in the near future, but maybe I’m just being pessimistic. This is nothing new – the study and the taper gauge have been subjects of discussion for years. It’s refreshing to see some upper level riders/coaches supporting changes, though.
What do you guys think? Do you see overtightened nosebands often? Do you think it’s an issue? What do you think of the changes that some countries are starting to make?