There have been many studies which show how a tight nose band can place a painful amount of pressure on the nerves and delicate bones in the horse’s head. However, despite this, some trainers and riders still believe that using the noseband to keep a horse’s mouth closed will make a horse ride better as it stops them fighting which means they then concentrate more on the riders aids.
Many people think that if a horses mouth is shut and quiet then the horse is riding well. But a quiet mouth should be the result of good training and keeping it artificially closed with a noseband shouldn’t be used as shortcut. The horses jaw and tongue should be as free and supple as the rest of the body and more importantly these structures tie into the efficient movement of the rest of the body. If you create tension here then you will only create tension somewhere else.
The Hyoid bone which links into the tongue, also links into muscles that are involved in the movement of the horse’s forelegs so by creating tension here you will restrict the range of movement in your horse’s forelimbs. An equine dissection also revealed that when pressure was applied to the jaw causing the hyoid bone at the base of the tongue to move up and/or back in the jaw, this left the hind legs and hips extremely restricted. As soon as pressure was released, the leg and hip was then freely moved again.
So when our horse opens his mouth, we need to ask what they are communicating to us, and work out how to release tension and improve their their balance and suppleness, not silence them with a flash or tighter noseband. Our horses voice can only be heard by those willing to listen.
I can't help but wonder if our horses even need to wear a noseband at all, particularly when training, apart from the fact that they look good on some horses. Has it just become the norm that a ridden horse has a noseband on at all times?
I'm interested to hear from anyone who rides either with a loose or tight noseband or without a noseband at all and the reasoning behind your choice.
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