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Stressful Olympic Riding Equipment
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Stressful Olympic Riding Equipment

Scientists have raised serious concerns regarding stressful Olympic riding equipment . Researchers have discovered evidence showing that nosebands and double bridles are uncomfortable and painful with the equipment causing suffering and distress to horses that participate in equestrian events.

Professor Paul McGreevy, a renowned veterinarian confirmed the results of the study by saying that the equipment produced a stress response in the horses. The University of Sydney conducted research through the Faculty of Veterinary Science to look into the effects of the nosebands and double bridles that included:

  • Prevent yawning
  • Hinder tongue movement
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Binding of jaws

The Origin of Nosebands

The noseband is among one of the first tools created by humans for domestication of horses. It was initially made using leather or a special type of rope. Other cultures switched to using a halter which was worn under the bridle to allow the rider to quickly remove the halter from the mouth of the horse.

People from ancient Persia, introduced the use of nosebands to act as tools for training horses. Some of the uses of nosebands include the following:

  • To keep the mouth of the horse closed and also preventing it from avoiding the bit or putting its tongue above the bit.
  • To provide a balance and correct appearance at shows; when the noseband is raised, the effect is that it can make a horses face appear more proportional.
  • It is used to help halt the horse from pulling; a well fitted nose band is used in place of a strong bit to allow riders gain more control over the horse.
  • The tool is used as an attachment for other types of equipment such as the shadow roll.

Effects of Nosebands

Recent tests done on horses suggest that tight nosebands are very dangerous because they cause horses to have a stress response.  These horses are sensitized to bit equipment pressure which results in reduced blood flow.

Nosebands fitted tightly usually hide unwanted behavior in these animals. The masking in behavior can indicate deficiencies in training or pain. If the nosebands are loosened, then the horses might reveal violent behaviors that could result in injuries to the riders.

The physiological stress response was noted in horses that had no riders and lacked rein tension. This means that horses that have riders experience high levels of stress resulting to poor health and inactivity.

The Crank Noseband

One particular type of stressful Olympic riding equipment is the crank noseband. This tool is made of leather strap which is placed around the jaw of the horse. The crank noseband is usually tightened through a system of pulleys.

When the noseband is tight, then the contact between the horse’s mouth and the bridle is increased. This effect makes the rider have more control of the horse. The indication of pain and suffering is the result of their stress response. It is measured by testing the eye temperature and the heart rates of horses subjected to the use of nosebands.

There are some cases where the heart rates rose from 34bpm to 100bpm when horses used stressful Olympic riding equipment.

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  1. PonyGirl
    While I am adamantly against tight nosebands during dressage, you have gotten some of your information wrong. Nosebands do not hide violent behavior. On the contrary, a noseband that is too tight may actually cause a violent response in a normally calm horse. The noseband does make it harder for the horse to evade and resist the bit. In dressage, the whole point is to ride a horse without evasion or resistance. (A point which, unfortunately, many people seem to have forgotten.) So tight nosebands are definitely out of place in dressage. The curb bit in the double bridle is not cruel when used correctly. (The same can be said of the snaffle as well.) A curb is supposed to be used to further refine the cues of a higher level horse. The bit should be engaged with only the lightest of touches and should certainly never be used with force. While I applaud the investigation into the scientific measuring of horses' responses, this study was certainly flawed. The study was done on horses who were unused to nose bands. The fact that it was unfamiliar equipment would be enough to cause a stress response in many horses and have nothing to do with whether or not the equipment was actually uncomfortable. (I certainly believe a tight noseband is uncomfortable, but that must be tested on horses who are used to it to be scientifically significant.) At any rate this is certainly a subject that would benefit from further study and a more realistic approach to measuring the horses' responses.
    1. Equinophile
      I had many similar thoughts while reading this piece. Pleased someone addressed these misrepresentations. Thank you.
  2. BiologyBrain
    This is a faulty piece of reporting as well as science. The research done should have tested the actual Olympic horses if that was the point to be made, saying equipment increases stress response is like saying handling increase stress response. A feral horse that ha never been handled will show physiological signs of stress when approached by humans, just as a horse presented a new piece of equipment will show signs of physiological stress. To draw broad negative conclusions based on this is biased and inflammatory. I I'll read the research articles again to see if there is really any conclusion to be drawn, but from this story it seems like the anti-equestrians are out in force.

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