Noseband Tightness in Competition Evaluated

Many nosebands were so tight that even the tip of the measuring gauge could not fit under at the frontal nasal plane.

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Noseband Tightness in Competition Evaluated
Only 7% of the nosebands were loose enough to be classified as two-finger tightness, Doherty said. | Photo: iStock
While the “two-finger” recommendation for noseband tightness might be widely understood, recent study results suggest that its application is not. Researchers found that only 7% of horses in competitions had nosebands tightened to within this recommended limit. The rest, they said, were too tight.

“We really need regulations in place as well as better education of coaches to protect horses from the effects of tight nosebands,” said Orla Doherty, MVB, MSc, PhD, MRCVS, of the University of Limerick, in Ireland. Doherty, whose research was supported by the Royal Dublin Society, presented her study at the 12th Conference of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), held June 23-26 in Saumur, France.

Tight nosebands can reach pressure levels that exceed that of tourniquets used to restrict blood flow, Doherty explained. In fact, she added, during certain movements like jumping, those pressure levels can exceed three times the pressure used in tourniquets. While researchers are still trying to figure out how to evaluate pain related to noseband tightness, scientists have already studied pain levels in relation to tourniquet tightness in humans. Half the volunteers in one study had to withdraw because they found the pain intolerable, even though it was at pressure levels lower than what scientists have recorded for noseband tightness, she said.

Doherty, in collaboration with colleagues, including Paul McGreevy, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, MACVSc, professor of animal behavior and animal welfare science at the University of Sydney, in New South Wales, Australia, evaluated 750 competing horses in three countries. They measured the horses’ noseband tightness immediately before or after a performance in a national or an international competition in England, Ireland, and Belgium. The researchers used the ISES noseband gauge, designed to provide an objective measurement of one or two ‘’fingers,’’ to measure noseband tightness

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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