Study: Too-Tight Nosebands Can Lead To Nasal Bone Damage In Horses

A new study X-rayed the heads of 144 horses and found many showed bony changes where the noseband typically sits. Though the scientists stress that their study doesn’t provide evidence of a link between the noseband, its tightness and the lesions, they do feel that the lesions warrant further investigation on welfare grounds.

The use of too-tight nosebands is concerning to veterinarians, scientists and other equine welfare advocates who worry that the device, if used too tightly, causes distress and applies too much pressure to the tissues in the horse’s head, potentially injuring both the tissue and the bone beneath it.

The study used 144 mature Warmblood horses, all used in the Mexican Army and based in Mexico City. Each horse began his career in training for dressage, showjumping and eventing. Noseband tightness is not routinely checked with any type of gauge. The horses were evaluated both physically and with an X-ray. The physical exam looked for lesions, pain on palpation or white hairs where the noseband or curb chain rest.

A week later, X-rays were taken and assessed by veterinarian diagnostic imaging specialists who knew nothing about the horses they were studying.  The X-rays were examined for bone remodeling, radiographic opacity and soft tissue thickness in the areas where the noseband meets the lower jaw and nasal bones. They reported bone thickening in the nasal bones of 6.9 percent and 8.3 percent of the horses, and bone thinning in 33.3 percent and 56.9 percent of horses. The radiologists found increased bone deposition in 18.8 percent and 32.6 percent of the lower jaws of horses.

The scientists conclude that these results are the first evidence of bone lesions in the areas typically subjected to pressure from restricted nosebands. They note that this deformation of bone for competitive advantage is difficult to justify on ethical grounds.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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