Study puts nose­band tight­ness back in the spot­light

A study of equine ra­dio­graphs found signs of trauma to horses’ nasal tis­sues

Horse & Hound - - Contents - Edited by Eleanor Jones By RACHAEL TURNER

THE po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing ef­fects of tight nose­bands have again been high­lighted.

Univer­sity of Syd­ney sci­en­tists looked at ra­dio­graphs of horses’ noses at the site of nose­bands.

Sixty horses with un­known back­grounds were in­volved and the team looked for ev­i­dence of trauma, such as bone re­mod­elling, frac­tures or soft tis­sue swelling, and whether age or breed were risk fac­tors for such changes.

Three of the six warm­bloods stud­ied, two of 18 thor­ough­breds and one of five stock horses showed signs of trauma.

“From the pre­lim­i­nary ev­i­dence, warm­bloods ap­pear to be at higher risk than other breeds of ab­nor­mal­i­ties of the nasal bones,” said the re­searchers.

“The re­sults also point to a pos­si­ble con­found­ing age ef­fect whereby cases, in gen­eral, tend to be older than non-cases but warm­blood cases tend to be younger than in other breeds.

“It is of in­ter­est that warm­bloods are the most pop­u­lous in dis­ci­plines known to favour tight nose­bands. How­ever, […] we em­pha­sise that these re­sults must be in­ter­preted with cau­tion due to the small num­ber of ob­ser­va­tions and the ret­ro­spec­tive and op­por­tunis­tic na­ture of the study de­sign.”

The team con­cluded that fu­ture re­search should in­clude a con­trol pop­u­la­tion, such as Aus­tralian brumbies, who have not had hu­man in­ter­ven­tions, as well as horses whose rid­den his­tory was as­cer­tain­able

A British Equine Vet­eri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion (BEVA) spokesman added that the pri­mary pur­pose of tack was for safety and con­trol.

“It shouldn’t be used to mask what may be a symp­tom of pain else­where in the body or used in such a way that it causes in­jury,” she told H&H. “If a horse is ex­hibit­ing un­de­sir­able be­hav­iour when rid­den, BEVA would en­cour­age rid­ers to con­sider all the po­ten­tial rea­sons for that be­hav­iour, be­fore chang­ing tack.

“There has been some in­ter­est­ing re­search done on tack over the past few years but, be­cause of the many com­plex vari­ables at play, it is more dif­fi­cult to draw sci­en­tific con­clu­sions from the work than it may first ap­pear.”

MOUNT­ING RE­SEARCH

RE­SEARCH car­ried out by the Dan­ish equestrian fed­er­a­tion, headed by FEI vet Mette

Ul­dahl with Hi­lary Clay­ton, found a cor­re­la­tion be­tween tight nose­bands and mouth le­sions (news, 26 Oc­to­ber, 2017)

The study, in­volv­ing more than 3,000 horses, found a “very clear” link be­tween nose­band tight­ness and oc­cur­rence of the le­sions.

“I be­lieve it is very dif­fi­cult to prove a cor­re­la­tion be­tween bony nasal plate changes to nose­bands, as there are many known and un­known fac­tors to take into con­sid­er­a­tion,” Ms Ul­dahl said of the Aus­tralian re­search.

“But there is no doubt a very tight nose­band can trig­ger soft tis­sue and pos­si­ble bony tis­sue changes, as this is the case for all anatom­i­cal ar­eas or tis­sues, if you ex­pose them to too-high pres­sure.”

She said this is an “im­me­di­ate horse wel­fare prob­lem”, but that there are more re­lated is­sues.

“Many nose­bands are too tight, but less tight than those men­tioned,” she said. “Tight nose­bands pro­hibit the horse from mouthing the bit and mov­ing his jaw, af­fect­ing the con­nec­tion to the neck and up­per line. This has an ef­fect on over­all biome­chan­ics.

“The abil­ity to move his jaw and show dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­ity is cru­cial to be able to eval­u­ate whether the horse is com­fort­able and ac­cept­ing. It is im­por­tant in all dis­ci­plines for the rider to be able to show co­op­er­a­tion and ac­cep­tance from the horse, in con­trast to not al­low­ing the horse to show any prob­lems.”

‘This is an im­me­di­ate wel­fare prob­lem’

Mette Ul­dahl

Nose­bands should be fit­ted cor­rectly

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