The tightness of nosebands in dressage horses has been a hot topic for the past few years. At the same time as animal welfarists have been complaining to show organisations and the FEI about excessively tight nosebands and wrong use of the bits, researchers have been investigating the matter scientifically and publishing papers on the topic. Paul McGreevy has become the front-runner in this field and now two members of the IDRC - Wayne Channon and Kyra Kyrklund - have joined the debate in light of launching an FEI Safety and Welfare Committee.
At the 2016 International Equitation Science Conference in Saumur, France, on 23 - 25 June 2016, researchers Doherty, Casey, McGreevy and Arkins presented their investigation into noseband tightness levels on competition horses. They measured noseband tightness in 750 horses competing in dressage, eventing and performance hunter classes internationally.
Working conditions are more and more pointed out as a main source of welfare impairment in horses, leading to an increased risk of aggressiveness and dangerous behaviours. Promoting positive educational techniques and, most importantly, being attentive to the horse’s behaviours and postures as only reliable signals of its welfare state will lead to a positive perception of both human and work and thus increase both horse’s welfare and human’s safety at work.
The influence of saddle position must be considered in order to improve rider balance and performance and optimise horse welfare. Research has shown that terms such as ‘collapsing of the right hip’ or the need to adjust one stirrup to ‘feel straight ’may be as a result of saddle positioning as opposed to rider mechanics.