Tack Room Basics: A Noseband Medley

A noseband’s purpose is to help keep the horse’s mouth closed and quiet, minimizing bit evasions. When used with a properly adjusted martingale, it can also help stablilize head position and give the rider leverage. Discipline and bit dictate both the style and function of the specific noseband.

Noseband choices can help offset tongue problems such as:

• Tongue out;
• Tongue over the bit;
• Tongue high;
• Tongue entrapment.

Any noseband can be used with a snaffle. A bit with a curb chain should stick to a plain cavesson, because a dropped strap may interfere with the curb-chain action. A dropped, flash or figure eight is recommended with a gag bridle.

Note: “Noseband” and “cavesson” mean the same thing and are used interchangably. However, “cavesson” also is used to mean the simplest noseband, just one strap around the nose.

With a crown piece and simple jaw strap, the cavesson should be fitted just below the horse’s cheekbones. Fitted too low, it can interfere with the bit action and pinch the corners of the mouth. Loose cavessons can be fairly simple, but cavessons that are fitted tightly should have padding.

Crank cavessons employ an extra loop at the jaw strap for increased leverage. Cranks should always be well-padded, especially across the horse’s jawbones.

Cavessons can be lined with metal studs or chain and are sometimes used with a standing martingale, but they won’t help develop acceptance and feel of the bit, and we don’t endorse their use.

Dropped Noseband
Dropped nosebands fit below the bit and offer more control than a cavesson. A standing martingale shouldn’t be used on a dropped noseband, as the low fit could bruise the soft cartilage.

Fitting the dropped noseband is important. If it’s fit too low, the horse’s respiration can be compromised. If it’s too high, the chinstrap can cause irritation at the bit. The generally accepted distance between nostrils and noseband is the width of four fingers. Dropped nosebands with adjustable front straps can fit more horses, but limited padding is a tradeoff.

Flash Attachment
Flash attachments are a combination of cavesson and dropped noseband. A flash is a popular, versatile noseband, especially in eventing, racing, polo, jumpers and dressage.

The flash noseband can be sewn in, attached to a cavesson loop, or carry a loop to attach itself to a cavesson. It also can be threaded around the cavesson without an attachment loop, all with similar results. If possible, the buckle should be positioned in the muzzle hollow rather than the chin groove for a more comfortable fit.

A rider who shows in both hunter and jumper classes might choose a flash attachment that doesn’t leave an empty cavesson loop when the flash is removed for the hunter ring. A standing martingale can be used on the cavesson of a flash.

Figure Eight
The figure eight is seen predominantly in the faster disciplines, such as eventing and racing. The theory is that respiration is less compromised with it. With the angled straps acting on the fulcrum at the bridge of the nose, the figure eight doesn’t need to be set as tightly as a dropped. It isn’t recommended to use with a standing martingale because the upper jaw strap connects to an angled cheek, altering the effect. This noseband is especially useful with a gag bit. The higher, angled strapping minimizes interference with the gag action.

The crescent noseband isn’t always clearly understood. A metal half circle curves around the front of the bit but doesn’t touch it. There are rings at each end of the half circle that attach to straps going under the jaw and a ring in the middle that attaches to a padded strap that goes over the nose.

This noseband can be effective with tense, sensitive horses. The angled action is similar to the figure eight, but the nose strap can be padded around the entire nose instead of at a single pressure point. The metal crescent keeps the noseband clear of the bit, which can be effective in horses with active tongues. It is also effective for horses that cross their jaws and/or grind their teeth.

The Kineton offers a hackamore effect on pullers. It’s sometimes confused with the crescent because it also has a half circle of metal on each side. However, the half circle actually touches the bit and points to the front. In addition to the crownpiece, there’s only one other strap, which goes over the nose. The Kineton is effective on heavy-mouthed horses that clamp the jaw and pull. When closing the jaw isn’t the issue, the hackamore action across the bridge of the nose can offer additional control.

Also With This Article
”Noseband Accessories”

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