Choosing the Right Noseband for Your Horse's Bridle

Cropped side view of horses head and shoulders
Adie Bush / Getty Images

One of the important parts of many bridles, especially English bridles, is the noseband. The noseband is the part of the bridle that goes around the horse’s nose, and the plain versions on English bridles are called cavessons.

The cavesson doesn't attach to the main part of an English bridle, but rather hangs on its narrow cheek pieces that sit beneath the cheek pieces of the headstall of the bridle. On western and other types of bridles, the noseband may be attached directly to the cheek pieces of the bridle. 

The purpose of the noseband, or cavesson, is simply to help keep the bridle on the horse. Most horses don’t need anything other than a plain cavesson or noseband. However, slight alterations to the simple noseband can increase its usefulness for controlling the horse.

  • 01 of 06

    Crank Noseband

    Also known as a Swedish, cinch, or adjustable noseband, the crank noseband uses a leveraged closed mechanism under the horse's chin. A leather strap is threaded through rings or roller bars on either side to achieve leverage before it's secured, allowing for a more precise fit that distributes pressure on the horse evenly.

    Crank nosebands are most common in high-level dressage in which double bridles are used, as these don't accommodate flash nosebands. In hunter and equitation divisions, crank nosebands are considered conventional.

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    Drop Nosebands

    An English bridle on a horse.

    sv40 / Pixabay

    A drop noseband, also known as a Hanoverian, hangs lower on the horse’s face, hanging down below the level of the bit rings and helps prevent the horse from opening its mouth and evading the bit.

    Drop nosebands aren't as popular as crank, flash, or combination nosebands these days. However, they're useful tools for training young horses that need to learn how to accept a bit.

  • 03 of 06

    Flash Nosebands

    A horse wearing an English bridle and ear covers.

    kirahoffmann / Pixabay

    A flash noseband, also known as an Aachen, is a small strap attached to the top of the cavesson that buckles underneath the horse’s chin. This noseband aids in the horse’s mouth shut, so it can’t evade the bit.

    Some flashes attach to the noseband with permanent loops, but convertible and removable flashes use a detachable strap or by threading a strap through a slot in the noseband.

    The flash must be properly positioned to work, meaning it needs to be secured approximately two fingers' width below the cheekbone and run straight around the horse's nose. Then, it must be secured under the chin groove. Check to make sure that the flash isn't pulling down on the horse's face because it's not cinched tightly enough. A loose noseband will restrict the horse's airflow.

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    Figure Eight Nosebands

    Horse wearing figure eight nose band on bridle.
    Ronjamin -Ronald C. Yochum Jr.

    The cheek rings of a figure-eight noseband, also known as a crossed, Grackle, or Mexican noseband, sit high up on the horse’s cheeks. The straps cross over the horse’s nose and buckle under the horse’s chin like a flash noseband. It helps keep the horse’s mouth shut but may be more comfortable for the horse, as it does not impair the expansion of the horse’s nostrils.

    Horses that must jump or gallop hard may be better off in a figure-eight noseband than a flash noseband. That's why this type of noseband is often seen on racehorses.

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  • 05 of 06

    More Severe Nosebands

    Keniton noseband

    Other nosebands involve levering buckles that can be tightened and nosebands that transfer some of the pressure of the rein aids to the nose. These types of nosebands should be used only by experts as they can mask rather than solve some problems. One example is the Kineton noseband, which puts pressure on the horse's nose when the reins are pulled.

  • 06 of 06

    When to Use a Special Noseband

    Horse ridden in standing martingale with rider in English gear.

    Paul Keleher

    If your horse is opening its mouth and attempting to evade the bit, it may be tempting to put a flash, drop or figure-eight noseband on, but this isn't always the best idea. Your horse may be evading the bit because it has a dental problem. Some horses find certain bits uncomfortable and require a thicker or thinner mouthpiece. Before you know what is causing the problem, it is unfair to strap a horse's mouth closed. ​​

    Sometimes the rider’s hands are to blame. If you are too heavy-handed, your horse may try to relieve the pressure by opening its mouth. Without correcting the problem, and strapping your horse’s mouth shut, you could create even more problems that are more difficult to fix.