Flash nosebands are quite popular among riders. They serve a couple of important purposes: keeping the ring bit steady and centred in a horse’s mouth, and addressing some behavioural issues like a horse putting its tongue over the bit or crossing its jaw.
Have you ever wondered about the correct way to fit a flash noseband on your horse? Or maybe you’re not sure how tight it should be?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the uses of a flash noseband and how to properly fit your horse’s noseband.
What is a Flash Noseband?
A flash noseband is a thin leather strip that attaches to the plain noseband or cavesson and sits in the centre of your horse’s face. You can see Kalli putting the Bridle on Elle below. The flash is not yet done up.
It holds the ring bit steady and central in dressage horses’ mouths. A flash also keeps the horse’s mouth shut to prevent the animal from putting its tongue over the bit, while it is also useful for eliminating issues such as jaw crossing or the horse trying to avoid the bit.
Except for the aesthetics of wearing a noseband, riders use it to limit the excessive mouth opening, while allowing the animal to chew and swallow.
It is popular with show jumpers as it can be used with a standing martingale. But, because a standing martingale is not allowed in dressage, many riders opt to use a flash noseband on their dressage horses.
How to Fit a Flash Noseband
When fitting your horse’s flash noseband, the cavesson should fit comfortably and be positioned below the cheekbone (width of about two fingers).
This ensures the flash doesn’t rub the horse or cause irritation or discomfort. Fitting the cavesson higher would put pressure on the facial nerves which can lead to discomfort. When tightening the cavesson, you must be able to fit one finger underneath the front of the noseband.
Next, the flash noseband is attached to the centre of the cavesson and fastened under the horse’s chin groove. The flash should sit above the horse’s nostrils and the buckle should then be fastened so it won’t rub or pinch the horse and the strap tucked away in the keeper.
Ensure that the flash fits comfortably and also check that it’s not too tight to avoid any pinching or that the bridle is pulled down. You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers underneath the cavesson, while the space between the flash strap and the horse’s nose should be one finger wide.
The horse should be able to relax its jaw and easily chew on the bit – a too-tight noseband can restrict your horse’s breathing and prevent it from moving its jaw while a too-loose noseband can pull the noseband down and out of position.
Check out our handy video to see how to fit a flash
Why is a Too-Tight Flash Noseband a Problem?
There is a tendency among some riders to use the flash noseband to force their horses’ mouths shut.
Equine experts say that forcing a horse’s mouth closed does more harm than good, as it reduces the chances of creating a natural contact. Some horses tend to tilt at the poll, shake their heads and cross their jaws, or drool excessively due to noseband tightness.
A flash noseband that fits too tightly can:
- Cause the horse discomfort and increase stress levels. Research has indicated that tight nosebands lead to increased heart rate, decreased heart rate variability (HRV), and elevated eye temperatures in horses. These signs indicate heightened stress levels.
- Make it difficult for your horse to lick, swallow and chew. Tight noseband fitting can restrict a horse’s ability to lick, swallow, or chew comfortably.
- Lead to breathing problems. Excessively tight nosebands can make it harder for horses to breathe properly.
- Increase the risk of injuring the horse’s mouth. A study showed that right nosebands can compress the horse’s soft tissues against their teeth, increasing the risk of mouth sores and injuries.
- Compress sensitive structure in the face. Excessive noseband tightness can compress the sensitive tissues and nerves in the horse’s face, causing discomfort.
- Potentially cause nerve damage in equine nasal bones. Studies have found that tight nosebands can lead to reduced blood flow and potential nerve damage in the horse’s nasal bone.
- Potentially deform the bones of a horse’s head. An X-ray study has shown changes in the horse’s jaw bones and nasal bone structure.
- Impact a horse’s movement. The restrictive nature of a tight flash noseband can affect a horse’s natural; movement patterns and potentially influence its gait.
You should be able to fit one finger underneath
Do I need a flash noseband for my horse?
If your horse does not open its mouth to evade your aids, you won’t need a flash noseband. In horses that do not display this evasive behaviour a normal noseband will properly stabilise the bridle and the bit, which means a flash noseband is not always needed.
When should I try a new noseband on my horse?
Try a new noseband when your horse finds a particular noseband uncomfortable or shakes its head, opens its mouth, or crosses its jaws often. However, you should first consult your vet or horse dentist to check for any oral injuries or tooth abscesses which might lead to evasive behaviours. The best noseband would be one that is comfortable and doesn’t cause them any stress or pain.
How do I make a noseband more comfortable for my horse?
It is suggested that you use a noseband covered with soft sheepskin to reduce friction on the horse’s skin. The padding will also discourage the horse from raising its head too high, which might affect its balance. The padding will also help reduce any pressure or pinching.