Horse & Hound

Study puts noseband tightness back in the spotlight

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

- 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.”


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

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Nosebands should be fitted correctly
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