Animal Care

Noseband for Horse’s Bridle

One of the important parts of many bridles, especially English bridles, is the noseband. The noseband is the part of the bridle that goes around the horse’s nose, and the plain versions of English bridles are called cavessons.

The cavesson doesn’t attach to the main part of an English bridle, but rather hangs on its narrow cheekpieces that sit beneath the cheekpieces of the headstall of the bridle. On western and other types of bridles, the noseband may be attached directly to the cheek pieces of the bridle. 

The purpose of the noseband, or cavesson, is simply to help keep the bridle on the horse. Most horses don’t need anything other than a plain cavesson or noseband. However, slight alterations to the simple noseband can increase its usefulness for controlling the horse.

Crank Noseband

Also known as a Swedish, cinch, or adjustable noseband, the crank noseband uses a leveraged closed mechanism under the horse’s chin. A leather strap is threaded through rings or roller bars on either side to achieve leverage before it’s secured, allowing for a more precise fit that distributes pressure on the horse evenly.

Crank nosebands are most common in high-level dressage in which double bridles are used, as these don’t accommodate flash nosebands. In hunter and equitation divisions, crank nosebands are considered conventional.

Drop Nosebands

A drop noseband, also known as a Hanoverian, hangs lower on the horse’s face, hanging down below the level of the bit rings, and helps prevent the horse from opening its mouth and evading the bit.

Drop nosebands aren’t as popular as crank, flash, or combination nosebands these days. However, they’re useful tools for training young horses that need to learn how to accept a bit.

Flash Nosebands

A flash noseband, also known as an Aachen, is a small strap attached to the top of the cavesson that buckles underneath the horse’s chin. This noseband aids in the horse’s mouth shut, so it can’t evade the bit.

Some flashes attach to the noseband with permanent loops, but convertible and removable flashes use a detachable strap or by threading a strap through a slot in the noseband.

The flash must be properly positioned to work, meaning it needs to be secured approximately two fingers’ width below the cheekbone and run straight around the horse’s nose. Then, it must be secured under the chin groove. Check to make sure that the flash isn’t pulling down on the horse’s face because it’s not cinched tightly enough. A loose noseband will restrict the horse’s airflow.

Figure Eight Nosebands

The cheek rings of a figure-eight noseband, also known as a crossed, Grackle, or Mexican noseband, sit high up on the horse’s cheeks. The straps cross over the horse’s nose and buckle under the horse’s chin like a flash noseband. It helps keep the horse’s mouth shut but may be more comfortable for the horse, as it does not impair the expansion of the horse’s nostrils.

Horses that must jump or gallop hard may be better off in a figure-eight noseband than a flash noseband. That’s why this type of noseband is often seen on racehorses.

More Severe Nosebands

Other nosebands involve levering buckles that can be tightened and nosebands that transfer some of the pressure of the rein aids to the nose. These types of nosebands should be used only by experts as they can mask rather than solve some problems. One example is the Kineton noseband, which puts pressure on the horse’s nose when the reins are pulled.

When to Use a Special Noseband

If your horse is opening its mouth and attempting to evade the bit, it may be tempting to put a flash, drop or figure-eight noseband on, but this isn’t always the best idea. Your horse may be evading the bit because it has a dental problem. Some horses find certain bits uncomfortable and require a thicker or thinner mouthpiece. Before you know what is causing the problem, it is unfair to strap a horse’s mouth closed. ​​

Sometimes the rider’s hands are to blame. If you are too heavy-handed, your horse may try to relieve the pressure by opening its mouth. Without correcting the problem, and strapping your horse’s mouth shut, you could create even more problems that are more difficult to fix.

How to Put a Bridle

Before putting a bridle on a horse, start with your horse haltered and safely tied. You may have the horse in cross-ties or tied with a lead rope with a panic snap or quick-release knot. Some people like to leave their horses untied, but that can be a problem in public stables where random people may distract or potentially spook the horse. It’s best to avoid your horse getting loose among other horses and people when in the stable; this could lead to accidents. Make sure you use a safety knot if you are not using crossties. You’ll also want to brush away any dirt or grit on the horse’s face. Before riding, always groom the horse. 

Secure Your Horse

Undo the halter, slide the halter’s noseband down over the horse’s nose, and slip the crown back up over the horse’s ears. This action will secure your horse briefly while you put the bridle on. Stand beside the horse’s neck, facing forward with the bridle in your left hand. Slip the reins up over the neck. Both the reins and halter are now around the horse’s neck, should it try to get away.

Slide the Bit in the Horse’s Mouth

Hold the bridle up over the horse’s nose with your right hand. Using your left-hand fingers, move the bit against his lips and insert your thumb into the space between the front and back teeth—the bars of the mouth. If the horse resists taking the bit, wiggling your thumb may encourage the horse to open its mouth wider. Slide the bit in and lift the bridle higher with your left hand so the horse can’t spit the bit back out. Be careful around the horse’s teeth; you don’t want the bit knocking into them carelessly. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this in one smooth motion.

Pull the Crown Over the Left Ear

Grasp the crown of the bridle with your left hand, and with your right hand, gently bend the horse’s right ear forward to slip it under the crown.

Pull the Crown Over the Right Ear

Switch your grasp of the crown of the bridle to your right hand, and with your left, gently slip the left ear under the crown. Do not pull the bridle too high; this action pulls on the horse’s mouth. Be careful not to bend your horse’s ears uncomfortably.

Fasten All the Buckles or Snaps

Fasten the throat latch of the bridle. An endurance bridle has a snap at the throat latch. Most traditional leather bridles will have buckles. Do not fasten the throat latch too tightly; you want your horse to be able to flex its neck. Leave about 4 inches of slack. You should be able to slip the width of your hand between the strap and your horse’s jaw.

Unless you use a special noseband, such as a figure-eight, flash, or grackle noseband, leave about two fingers width between the lower jaw and the strap when you attach the noseband or cavesson. If you are using a curb bit, you’ll need to fasten the curb chain or strap. Leave the width of two fingers between the chain and the lower jaw. Leaving the chain too loose or tight can make the action of the bit or the chain more severe. If the bit has a port, it could rotate up and hurt the top of the horse’s mouth.

Slip the halter off, tidy your horse’s mane and forelock, and you are ready to go. Some people like the forelock under the browband; some leave it over the top. 

Removing the Bridle

Remove the bridle by slipping the halter (attached to a crosstie or lead rope) back over the horse’s ears. Undo the throat latch, curb chain, and noseband. With your left hand, reach under the horse’s neck and slide the crown over the horse’s ears. Hold it as you did when you were putting it on. Gently lower the bit out of the horse’s mouth. Be careful not to knock the horse’s teeth. With your right hand, slip the halter on and pull the reins up over the horse’s neck to completely remove the bridle. Once you remove it, you may wish to clean your bridle or wipe the bit before hanging it away.

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