Equestrian Canada Webinar: How tight is that Noseband?

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.

ISES noseband taper gauge
International Society for Equitation Science Noseband taper guage

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.

Closing comments.

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.



22 responses to “Equestrian Canada Webinar: How tight is that Noseband?”

  1. David Avatar

    I’m curious if the discussion got to snug versus too tight.

    All of our horses have custom made bridles, precisely measured to fit one horse only. G-Man, who is my horse and does not compete, has a custom bridle too. The nose band cannot be adjusted. When they wear the “X noseband,” those can be adjusted. When those are used, it is always with sheepskin padding. They are only tight to keep the padding in place.

    If there is a piece of tack that needs review, it’s the bit. The daughters use a multi-jointed bit, aka, a bauble bit. Beezie Madden uses a bauble bit. Like Beezie, they use an overhead rein. I know in dressage, which you’ve mentioned previously, you have more precise rules when it comes tack and gear. Then, there’s spurs. When Tara won her 5*, she forgot her spurs. They were still in her bag. Bottom line: You can ride and win without spurs. They generally wear spurs more to complete the look. The nubs are quite short and very rounded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Dressage has very strict rules about bits both for the snaffles at lower levels and the double at the FEI levels. Those are always inspected by the stewards. Spurs are required at FEI Levels. Not sure why. But they must be worn. The noseband is interesting. Most dressage riders have crank nosebands. Have one on my double and have now let it out to the last hole and it did not make any difference to how Biasini is going. If anything if improved the contact slightly as he is, by nature, a puller!


      1. David Avatar

        In showjumping, the absolute requirement is the hunt jacket. It can be a gazillion degrees with humidity to match, and everyone is sweating buckets … you have to wear a hunt jacket. Ever so rarely do they lift the jacket requirement. In hunter classes, the jacket requirement is more likely to be lifted.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen Avatar

          In dressage they do lift the jacket requirement n high heat and humidity but it has to be seriously 🔥🥵

          Liked by 1 person

          1. David Avatar

            The inside joke among showjumpers is that one of them has to go poof in smoke for them to just draw a glance from the officials. 😮😮😮🔥🔥🔥😮😮😮

            Liked by 2 people

          2. anne leueen Avatar

            Hahaha! Well I wasn’t going to mention that as I am one of those straightlaced Dressaaahhhge rides. I think in dressage they don’t want a rider collapsing and falling off. When my daughter rode in the North American championships in Virginia it was over a hundred degrees F. Jackets were not excused bt riders had to dismount coming out of the ring and sit down under a tent roof while someone else bathed horse with ice water. Both had to stay in that tented area for 10 minutes before they could leave.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. David Avatar

            “Oh, look he’s caught on fire.” 🔥🔥🔥🔥

            Hope your daughter had ice water too.

            Liked by 2 people

          4. anne leueen Avatar

            Yes she did.🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Diana Avatar

    What a great post and so very informative!! I learned a lot and it will be great if this grows and this information gets to all tack shops near and far! Thank you Anne for sharing with us all. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      You are most welcome Diana.🙂🐴

      Liked by 1 person

  3. workinacresnothours Avatar

    This is great. So relieved that a tool like this has been developed, being involved in pony club over the years, Stock horse clinics & Cutting there have been many a ridiculous argument over gear fitting. Would be great if it was sold with every bridle & mandated for every club. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I agree. And some education about

      Liked by 1 person

      1. anne leueen Avatar

        Oops I wanted to add so education about what bridle would be best for your horse. The panelists spoke about that too. Thanks for your comment.


        1. anne leueen Avatar

          Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.


  4. Valerie Tate Avatar

    I’d like to know where I can buy one of these. I never tighten the noseband past the two finger mark but I have small fingers and would like to make sure it is loose enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I think that the organization I named with the photo of the tool sells them. It is a UK company I believe. I looked on their website and they have them for sale


  5. Alli Farkas Avatar

    Flash bands serve two purposes: to hide the fact that the horse has a problem that it relieves by opening its mouth; and to make you look like everyone else who thinks it’s fashionable, mostly because it comes with almost every non-Weymouth dressage bridle on the market. When I bought my first dressage bridle I had the tack store remove the silly flash loop on the noseband and tossed the strap in a box with all my other junk that someday may get repurposed. When I bought my second bridle it was convertible from single to double so it had no flash, thankfully. I’m still trying to figure out a good reason for any kind of noseband. Nowadays they don’t seem to do much except serve as the base for fancy patent leather bridlework. Ban the contraption and its flash accessory and you will never have an issue with a tight noseband. Just another one of my rambling thoughts…


    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I have loosened my noseband on my double bridle and it made no difference to how he went so it may well be dispensable.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Narayan Tushar Kaudinya Avatar

    Dearest Anne,

    Can there ever be a scholarship or residency to come over and learn from you? You are a mine and well thank you for even sharing this. Such world you are in and i get to learn so much from it. I really wish i could learn from you, and help setting up things better here in India.

    Regards to you
    Narayan x


    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Thank you. The horse world is a village unto itself and has good sides and not so good sides.


      1. Narayan Tushar Kaudinya Avatar

        Not so good sides must be. Would like to hear from you? is it related to just horses or what goes on behind it, with human involvement and money?

        Pleasure Anne.


        1. anne leueen Avatar

          Money is a huge factor with horses especially at the upper ends of the competitive world. Horses can now cost up to and above a million dollars. Horses are wonderful creatures and unless they have been treated badly they do not have a mean bone in ther bodies. People in the horse world can be petty and erratic to say the least.


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