Know your nosebands!

It might be something you learnt about years ago at Pony Club, but with the vast array of nosebands available nowadays (and more emerging all the time!), it’s all too easy to forget which nosebands do what! There might be noseband fashions to contend with but, as Julia Andrews from Kate Negus Saddlery explains, the key is to pick what’s right for your horse and to ensure that it fits correctly.

Fit is a really big deal to us at Kate Negus Saddlery. This applies to every aspect of the horse’s bridle. KN Combination NosebandThere’s been a lot of talk about how ill fitting nosebands in particular can cause pain and discomfort for the horse, and the talk is correct, so it’s important to know how your tack should fit your horse. Well fitting bridles should be comfortable for the horse to wear – use ill fitting tack and you might just find that you’ve created a huge problem for yourself when there wasn’t one there to start with! Here’s a look at some of the most popular types of noseband with a quick guide to how they fit. Do remember that modified nosebands (and we see a lot of these at the moment) will probably have different fitting guidelines, so do ask the manufacturer or the person you buy it from – they should know.

Let’s start with the most basic – the cavesson. When it comes to ‘action’, the cavesson doesn’t have a huge one, especially when it’s a simple buckle fastenings and not a crank. The headpiece leather that passes over the horse’s head should sit just in front of the cheek piece on the bridle with the noseband part sitting a thumb’s distance below the cheekbones. You should be able to fit two fingers between the noseband and the horse’s face.

Pull backnoseband
Pull backnoseband

If you opt for a crank or pull back fastening version of the cavesson, it’s a bit different. The idea behind the crank is that it allows you to help keep your horse’s mouth closed for those who try and evade the contact but, this aside, it should not be too tight as this will cause pain around the jaw and mouth. It’s usually padded with a padded back strap and should sit at a similar height to a ‘normal’ cavesson, but you should always be able to fit a finger between the leather and the horse’s nose.

One step up from the cavesson is the flash, which incorporates an extra bit of leather that passes below the bit. The flash helps to stop the horse from opening his mouth to evade bit contact and helps to keep the bit steady in the mouth. The top part of the noseband should fit closer than a cavesson and the lower part that fastens around the mouth should be fastened to allow it to fit comfortably while still being effective.

The drop noseband is a pretty traditional piece of kit that has seen a bit of resurgence lately (so much so that we brought out a patent version of it!). It helps to prevent the horse opening his mouth to evade the contact and has more of an action than the flash as it sits lower on the nose at the front. It is, in essence, a more simple version of the flash. The leather section should sit on the hard part of the nose, above the nostrils, to prevent any interference with breathing and you should be

Patent Drop Noseband
Patent Drop Noseband

able to fit a finger all the way around it.

The grackle noseband is a regular sight on the cross country course due to the additional control it allows without restricting the nostrils and oxygen intake…that is, if fitted correctly. The noseband will cross on the nose and it’s essential that it does so on the hard part, not on the soft part. The top strap should avoid the horse’s cheekbones to prevent rubbing and the bottom strap should fit in the chin groove. You should be able to fit a finger around top and bottom straps. It helps to prevent the horse from opening his mouth wide and crossing his jaw. There are variations of this noseband available, such as the elastic version we produce. This has the same action, but for horses who feel too restricted by leather and like to argue rather than focus, it’s ideal.

Have you ever heard of a Kineton? This is a very traditional type of noseband and one that we still sell to this day! It looks a bit like a drop and sits in a similar place, but it doesn’t fasten around the nose. The noseband incorporates metal c shaped pieces that sit under the bit. If the horse takes a serious pull and the rider responds, the focus he/she exerts goes to the horse’s bit AND the top of the noseband. It’s a pretty severe noseband that shouldn’t be used without proper thought and need…but it can also prevent a dangerous situation with a very strong horse and allows a less severe bit to be used.

The lever or combination noseband is another product we sell and, actually, has quite a lot of fans in eventing circles. It’s particularly popular with those who ride older, wiser horses who know ALL the tricks and aren’t too concerned about listening to their riders! It has a piece of leather that runs across the nose (ours is reinforced with metal to prevent stretching) that is attached to a lever, and has leather straps that sit in the chin groove and where a normal noseband would. Like the Kineton, this is a severe noseband, but if used correctly, it can help to make a potentially dangerous situation a lot safer.

As with any bit of kit, whether it’s a noseband or a bit, start at the least severe and work up as needed.

For more information on Kate Negus Saddlery’s range of nosebands, bridles, breastplates and other tack, see

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