When competitors leave the arena they are checked by a Steward.This person is trained to check for any injuries ( spur wounds , blood in the mouth) and any illegal tack additions. Also they will check the tightness of the noseband on the bridle. A too tight noseband can cause the horse great discomfort and it has recently been proven, with xrays, that it can cause bone damage to the horse’s nasal bones. In the past the check for noseband tightness was done by inserting two fingers under the noseband. Often this was done on the side but the correct placement of the check was at the front. However there was considerable inconsistency.A male steward with large fingers could say the noseband was too tight and a women steward with small hands might not .Equestrian Canada came up with a solution.They introduced a pilot project using a plastic measurement tool. This tool could be inserted at the front of the noseband.
On November 30, 2021 Equestrian Canada held a webinar with several Stewards who had been using the measurement tool over the summer show season . The following are my “notes” and do not constitute a full report of all that was said.
Dr. Roly Owers, veterinarian, was the moderator. He was tuning in from the UK.
Susan Legge, a Steward who usually works at Hunter and Jumper shows said: “The application of scientific evidence was applied using the measurement tool. This is supporting health welfare. With trust in the system comes co-operation.”
Diane Goyette: “I have used it many shows and it shows same rule applies to everybody. Consistency”
Brett Filson: “Two fingers? They can be bigger or smaller and now we have a measurement tool so they can see the application of the rules is consistent. Advanced dressage horses, Prix St.George and up, were the ones who felt it was important to have the nosband tighter. This tool will give people a clear idea.”
Allan Erlich: “I stewarded 68 days this year. Literally had people come up and say ‘do you have the tool and can I try it on my horse.’ The tool worked. Is it perfect? I don’t know. But it works. I did a couple of hundred horses and the tool does not have a scratch on it. We had American coaches and riders and no one said no. If I found a noseband was too tight no one refused to loosen it. It was Science. Science is about learning and learning is about teaching.”
Susan: “Many people do not know how to fit a bridle properly. There are so many different nosebands.”
Diane: “I agree. There should be more information available so people can learn about fitting a bridle correctly. “
Brett: “I would ask riders ‘Do you think if you loosen it you will have trouble?’ When they came back they generally said the horse was not tense. That means the horse is more comfortable. “
Roly asked Allan if, when he rode in the Olympics, was it better or worse. Allan replied: “We all live in a copy cat society. There needs to be an education process to have people learn how to fit a noseband . Education is needed. I think that the Upper Echelons, in all disciplines, know the rules . Word needs to get around that the nosebands will be checked and there will be consequences.”
Roly asked Susan: “What advice would you give regarding the tool.” Susan replied: “We have to have the tool. It takes away the idea that someone is being picked on. Everybody should have one.”
Roly asked Diane “What was good?” Diane replied: “All the horses would accept the tool . I was never having to explain the size of my two fingers. What I didn’t like was how can it be used with a flash noseband? The tool itself was easy to use and accepted by the horses and riders. We had a product to sanitize between uses so no virus could be spread.”
Brett told us he had been to an FEI Stewards conference in Florida. He told us “It was discussed that a tool needed to be decided upon. Canada has done a great thing in getting this tool. No one wants to have a horse go up on them with their fingers under the noseband.”
Allan: ” The tool was handy and useful. I hope this kind of measurement will become standard. From Bronze level up to FEI. If you make it better for the horses you will make it better for the riders.”
Bettina: “As a vet I think it is important to undertand the horse’s anatomy with a double birdle. Horses must have dental work as smooth as possible. Animals at highest levels have the most likelihood of being challenged by animal rights groups. “
Roly: Do you have concerns that nosebands are too tight?
Brett: “Yes,at upper level dressage the most.”
Susan: “At the hunters it is not a problem. Some jumpers yes.”
Diane:” I found the youger the rider the looser the noseband.”
Roly: “Are there specific nosebands that are the most problematic?”
Allan: “No but there are some riders who are uneducated . I do not think it is a major concern at this time. Tackshops need education as well.”
Diane: “Crank nosebands are easy to pull too tight. The flash is also a problem.”
Brett: “The heavily padded nosebands can be tightened with the crank and horse cannot move its jaw at all.”
Roly: “Susan do you have problems with padded nosebands.”
Susan: “My big issue was flash nosebands.
Allan: ” I think the project was tremendously interesting and useful . It should be continued. I would love to see that tool for sale and every barn would have one to use and test with . It is a positive project and it applies to all disciplines. You are building confidence.”
Brett: “I loved the way Allan covered all that. We must continue to more forward. If we need consequences then that must be decided.”
Diane: “The scientific aspect must be explained. Then we will need to think about the bridle.”
Susan: “This project is the beginning of something great for horses. We live in a world where the ethical treatment of our horses is of paramount importance.”
Roly : “This has been a fascinating discussion and this is the beginning of a journey not the end of one. The important thing is education of the different stakeholders. Riders, coaches, tack shops. It is important especially at the elite levels to have a consistent measurement .”
I found this webinar very interesting and the panel was composed of Stewards who had practical expience with using the measurement tool .Thanks to Equestrian Canada for this Webinar.
I’d love to hear from you!