Inside the Horse’s Mind: The Tight Noseband, Presented by Kensington Protective Products

If you fasten your horse’s noseband too tightly, you may be stressing him out.

According to Researchers at Kandoo Equine in New South Wales and the University of Sydney, nosebands that are very tight on a horse’s head can cause a physiological stress response. The study of 12 horses of various ages and breeds investigated the relationship between nosebands and oral behavior and physiological changes that indicate a stress response. It measured:

  • Increases in eye temperature. “Activation of the nervous tissues, including the brain, is associated with increased blood supply, and so, in essence, the eye gives off heat when the nervous system is challenged,” said Kate Fenner, BSc, in this article for Equus.
  • Heart rate and heart rate variability.
  • Video recordings to observe behaviors of relaxation, such as licking and swallowing.

The study found that heart rates and eye temperatures increased when the nosebands were fastened tightly enough that there was no space

Video recordings during the study also found that horses licked and swallowed less when the nosebands were tight enough that there was one finger space or no finger space between the noseband and the horse’s face. Licking and swallowing, which indicates relaxation, were most present when the nosebands were removed. In this study, horses were caused less measurable stress by no noseband or space for two fingers under the noseband.

Knowledge is power! If you were questioning whether or not your horse’s noseband is too tight, hopefully this information will allow you to feel good in erring on the side of looseness.

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