Become a Horse Noseband Know-It-All

Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price

Find out about the various types of nosebands available and how to choose the right one for you horse.

There is no one way to determine the best noseband for your horse, just like in horsemanship. Sharon White, an eventing trainer and competitor, says that it is important to pay attention to the behavior of your horse. Start with the easiest and most basic horse, then move on to the more complex.

Horse Noseband

It’s important to understand the purpose of a noseband (or cavesson) before you start experimenting. Nosebands can be adjusted in a variety of ways, depending on how tight or loose they are.

  • Keep your horse’s mouth closed and quiet. This allows for contact with the bit, which is essential for communication and control.
  • Avoid any maneuvers that allow your horse to avoid the bit, such as crossing his jaw or keeping his tongue above the bit.
  • Anchor a standing martingale.
  • Assist in holding the bridle in its place.
  • Balance the appearance of your horse’s head.

A plain or a crank noseband is the most popular in hunter/jumper, dressage, and eventing disciplines. It can be with or without flash attachments, a drop or figure eight noseband, and a simple noseband.

A plain noseband. Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

Plain Noseband

Alternative names: regular noseband. cavesson. plain cavesson. English cavesson

A plain, flat noseband wraps around your horse’s nose at about two fingers below his cheekbone. This noseband can be adjusted to fit a well-trained horse and is comfortable in this position. When you try to make contact with him, he does not shake his head or turn his head. He also doesn’t root into your hands or stick his tongue out his mouth. These actions are usually an indication that your horse is trying not to be bit pressured.

A regular noseband alone may not be able to stop your horse crossing his jaw, depending on how tight the band is secured.

There are many opinions on the effectiveness of a regular, properly placed noseband in keeping a horse’s mouth closed. The noseband should be placed just below the horse’s cheekbone. It will close his mouth at the mid-point. Flash attachments and drop nasalbands can be stronger options to keep his mouth shut. Missy Clark, top jumper, hunter and equitation coach, says that traditional nosebands are not as effective for horses with problems with their mouths.

Crank Noseband

Alternative names: Swedish, Cinch, Adjustable

This is a regular noseband that has a leveraged closing mechanism under the horse’s chin. The leverage is usually achieved using roller bars or rings on either side. A leather strap is then threaded through the holes before it is secured. Leverage allows for a more precise fitting that distributes pressure evenly. A crank noseband can be adjusted more precisely. The jaw area is also padded with padding.

A crank noseband. Photo courtesy Smith-Worthington.

Crank nosebands are a common feature in dressage, particularly at higher levels where horses use double bridles which don’t allow for a flash attachment. (See the section on flash nasalbands at right). They can also be found in hunter and equitation divisions where they are considered a conventional noseband.

When used correctly, the crank can be a useful piece of tack. Because it can be fitted more tightly than regular nosebands, the crank is able to keep your horse’s mouth shut and prevent jaw crossings and other evasive maneuvers. It should be placed at approximately two fingers below the cheekbone, just like the plain noseband.

However, the crank can be easily misused. Lisa Gorretta (a U.S. Equestrian Federation dressage technical delegates and owner of The Paddock Saddlery in Chagrin Falls Ohio) says, “I hate the word crank because it implies that that’s exactly what you do to it.” For this noseband, she prefers to use the term “adjustable”.

She says, “It can help to have a better fitting Bridle by having the bridle snug but not too tight.” “Unfortunately, many people believe that a little bit is more than enough.
A crank that is too tight can cause your horse to close his jaw. This will prevent the muscles from relaxing and allow the bit to contact the horse. The crank can press the horse’s cheek against his teeth, making it painful.

Flash Noseband

Another name: Aachen

The thin strap is attached at the middle of a plain or crank-shaped noseband. The strap is attached under the chin and drops at an angle below a bit. It’s very effective at keeping the horse’s mouth shut, so it’s sometimes called a “mouth closer” here in Germany.

Flash noseband Arnd Bronkhorst

It is located low on the horse’s head and can be used to stop your horse crossing his jaw, placing his tongue over it, or trying other evasive maneuvers.

The flash was designed to close the mouth and have a noseband that anchors a standing martingale. It is used in jumper rings and schooling for all divisions.

Some flashes can be attached to the noseband by a permanent loop. Flashes are either “convertible” or “removable”. They attach to the noseband using either a detachable or discreet strap that wraps around the noseband.

Lisa points out that flashes need to be correctly placed in order to work properly. First, secure the regular noseband properly. It should be approximately two fingers wide below the cheekbone. Then run straight around the horse’s nostrils. Next, secure the flash under the chin groove. Finally, make sure that the noseband is tight enough to prevent the flash from pulling down on the horse’s face. The noseband’s center point should always be against the nasal bone, not the soft cartilage close to the nostrils. It is important to not secure the noseband too low or over the cartilage. This can limit your horse’s ability to breathe, which is crucial for any type of work, including cross-country, jumping, and galloping.

Lisa points out that sometimes riders think they are showing kindness to their horses by loosening the noseband. The flash can then be adjusted very tight to compensate. This can pull down the noseband, lowering the flash’s anchor and placing it too low to the nose.

Drop Noseband

Also known as: Hanoverian

This noseband was created by a German trainer at the Spanish Riding School. It is lower than the regular version and rests on the nasal bone.

Drop noseband Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

Properly worn , this noseband reminds your horse to keep his mouth shut and stops him from crossing his jaw. This is a common aid for young horses learning to accept the bit. Although the drop was once very popular in dressage it has been replaced by crank-with flash combinations. Riders and trainers believe that the drop’s position low on the nose is less flattering for the horses’ heads. This may explain why it has been declining in popularity. It is not suitable for attaching a martingale because of its placement.

Figure Eight Noseband

Also known as: crossed, Grackle and Mexican

This noseband has a buckle at the top of the upper jaw, above the cheekbone. They cross the nose diagonally, then extend underneath the bit and fasten with a second buckle in the chin groove. It closes the horse’s mouth and prevents him from slipping his jaw. The position of the disk is high on the nose, allowing for maximum air intake. The nose is protected by a leather disk that is often lined with fleece or Neoprene.

A figure eight noseband. Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

Figure eights have become very popular in show jumping and cross-country. They are more comfortable than regular nosebands for horses because they don’t pull on the horse’s cheeks and allow for more expansion of his nostrils.

The Right Noseband

Sharon says, “I do this per-horse basis.” Some horses don’t like the pressure and others need a snug fit. It all depends on my plans for the horse on any given day. On competition days, she will often tighten her noseband slightly. “I believe that it makes them more open to the possibility of something being different and helps them be more focused on the ball.

A tighter noseband is a good thing for her horse. It doesn’t affect the way her horse uses the bit.

Sharon says, “Happy” is what Sharon used to use to describe when she found the right noseband for a horse. “The horse is happy in his job and responds easily to you. There’s no fussing, head chuckling or fussing.

Comfort-driven monocrown bridles (also known as “single crown” or “comfort crown”) has led to a new type of noseband. It features two cheek straps and two buckles but no hanger. These nosebands have a hanger that is integrated into the monocrown bridle. This is different from traditional nosebands that have one buckle and a separate hanger that runs through browband loops, and under the main crownpiece of a standard Bridle. These two types of nosebands cannot be interchanged, so make sure you get the right one for your bridle when looking for a replacement or custom noseband.

The bridle trend has also been followed by nosebands. These have added padding to the horse’s comfort, and offer a wide range of aesthetic options. There are a variety of widths, including fancy stitching , rounded and square-raised styles. It is believed that a larger head will look better in a bigger bridle, and vice versa.

The Rule Book

Although figure eights and flashes are not allowed in the hunter show rings, they are permitted in certain jumper-oriented divisions of equitation. The U.S. Equestrian Foundation Show Jumping Talent Search classes, and the jumper phase at Washington International Horse Show Equitation classes permit a figure eight or flash to be used. However, USEF Hunter Seat Equitation Medal classes and ASPCA Maclay classes require a plain cavesson. In lower-level dressage competitions, as well as in all phases of eventing, flash and figure-eight nosebands can be used.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!