Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love to look good, and that I’m always comfortable and happy out and about in all my fab Tottie kit, but this summer I realised that how I turned Katrina out meant that she wasn’t as happy as I was. Hands up, I admit it, I got my noseband wrong.
When I first got my beautiful made to measure bridle for Katrina I loved everything about it, the comfort headpiece, the super supple leather, the shiny patent noseband and the fabulous fit. Yes it had a crank and flash, but I’d never do them up tight so I was happy that my girl would be comfortable and I thought looked great too. It was only when, months later, I had it pointed out to me that I didn’t know how to fit a noseband that I looked at it with concern.
I realised to my horror that it had only taken a slight give in the leather to take the nose band from fitting well to sitting too low, becoming too loose and then the flash was sitting over the cartilage and would have been impacting on her breathing. And I hadn’t noticed! It taught me a valuable lesson, that your tack and the fit should be checked every time you ride because complacency can cause problems just as easily as deliberate cruelty.
That said, I like to talk this time about the terrible images of nose bands used cruelly that I see on very often on social media. Some are of a few riders who have real influence and are at the top, some of the very ones looked up to by aspiring riders are shown with grossly over tightened nosebands and with flashes cutting into their horse's tender flesh.
I’ve seen film and pictures and even magazine covers of horses presented at National level, from experienced competitors to young horse classes where performances based on cruelty are often rewarded and celebrated as brilliance.
How can over tightening a crank noseband or flash to give the impression of submission and a quiet mouth and show a horse’s trainability? Is the Emperor wearing new clothes? What are we really seeing when we look at this?
I truly want what is best for Katrina and any horse I ride, I am working hard to develop a true forward hand and a good seat. It is a work in progress and I’m still at the beginning, trying to understand how that works and I make mistakes, but my beautiful bridle is now even better than the original. I sent it away to be adjusted to fit and had the flash loop removed completely.
We are all here for the horses we love. I’d prefer to see the beauty and the spirit of the horse with a few mistakes than to see dead eyes, stress and ugly pictures. This isn’t normal or acceptable, it’s wrong, but it won’t change until we stand up, be brave and speak out. There is something called a taper gauge that can be used to check that a noseband fits correctly, maybe tight nosebands should be banned and checks made more often.
What do you think?
* Photo credit Crispin Parelius Johannessen