The Facebook equestrian pages and groups that I follow have been quite busy with the subject of nosebands this week. A lot is being said about whether they should be allowed or not, how tight they should be, if they have a place or not in training. So I tried to join in and contribute with my tuppence of experience, only to find that I, too, use a noseband. You see, I don’t use a bit – so I have a noseband instead!
An important Scandinavian dressage championship has been brought to the lime light and an important Horse Welfare TV Station has reporting on what they saw there. The photos are disturbing, to say the least. Even if they were to be “just a moment” and “out of context”. So I tried to join in and contribute with my tuppence of experience, only to find that I, too, use a noseband. You see, I don’t use a bit – so I have a noseband instead!
From bit to bitless with nosebands
A couple of years ago, when I was still riding in a bit, I really got on my high horse (pardon the pun!) about using a noseband. I made a big stink about it at a local Riding Club Show I attended and “demanded” I be allowed to ride without a noseband.
So… it is really about the noseband or the bit? Or is it about the intention behind the noseband or the bit (or any piece of equipment for that matter)?
So… it is really about the noseband or the bit? Or is it about the intention behind the noseband or the bit (or any bit of equipment for that matter)?
If the “intention” it to keep the horse from opening his mouth, then maybe we need to think about it? Keeping their mouth shut solves our problem, but does it solves theirs?
And re Bits: If the intention is “control”, then maybe we need to look at our training? My question would have to be: “Why do we think a bit “controls” more than a “noseband”? Because it hurts more? If that is the case, do we really want to be “controlling” our horses through pain?
If the “intention” is better communication… well, you must be one heck of a rider to have earned that privilege! Congratulations! In my book, if you can ride your horse in walk, trot and canter without any gear on its head, then you have earned the right to ride in a bit…. you will most probably not be using it for control!
If the “intention” does not include removing options from the horse or making it difficult and impossible to share their views or cause them pain, then why not? In the end, it really isn’t about the tools, is it. It is how they are used. I get some people like the “look” of a flash nose band…. or purple hair…. or tattoos…. or high heels! Whatever! That is a matter of taste. What I don’t get is why we continue to accept that it is OK to cause animals pain in order to get what we would like, whatever that is: a flash noseband, a bit, a rope halter, a string around their blooming neck!
Our true intention
And you know, I remember saying, not so long ago, to one of my clients: “For crying out loud, if your aren’t going to crank that noseband up, then why use it at all”. I cringe now at the memory.
So I say, it is not about making a mistake, it is about the reluctance to consider that we might be making a mistake. And it is about being very, very honest about what our true intention is.
I know…. that’s the difficult bit.
Photo Credit: Alessia Lucia Mestrone : My favorite photo of myself sharing space and time with Blue, a horse that was destined to the grave because he was difficult, unpredictable and dangerous. Here you see us soft and light, regardless of our tools!