Let’s Discuss: Nattering about Nosebands

First of all, does the word natter translate into American English? It may be one of my favorite words. Along with ninny. So today I’m a silly ninny nattering about nosebands.


This past weekend, while assisting a friend in her own horse shopping adventures, I witnessed some very, erm, strong opinions on nosebands. In the world of dressage, there’s a lot of different nosebands that are totally legal. Flash nosebands, regular cavessons, drop nosebands, figure-eights… all totally legal. Beyond dressage, there are even more options. And in this individual’s opinion, the flash was the only thing a dressage horse should go in and the rest of it (as in a bridle without a flash) was “hunter jumper stuff.”

Happily modeling a well-fitted flash

Happily modeling a well-fitting flash

Now I’ve used a flash noseband plenty of times, but my main preference is to go without if possible. So as soon as I purchased the PS of Sweden bridle, I tossed the flash attachment in the bag and never looked back.

Wah, I loved this bridle.

Wah, I loved this bridle.

To me, a flash can easily mask training issues, like bracing against the bit and hide underlying tension in the form of gaping and gnashing the bit. I have nothing against those that use a flash in their training, so long as the flash is at an appropriate looseness. But plenty of times I have seen a horse with the flash making an obvious depression in the horse’s skin, to me an unfair application of equipment for the sake of a better impression. For me, I go the way of the Wofford when it comes to flashes.


A dressage pony modeling a Micklem bridle

But then there are other controversial nosebands out there. Some people absolutely abhor crank nosebands, reasoning that they invite overtightening. Some dislike a dropped noseband, or a big floofy noseband, or a thin noseband, because of aesthetics or other reasons. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of the way Micklem bridles look with their noseband. But I have no beef with those that use them, since I appreciate that the riders who use them are doing so for the comfort of the horse. Nonetheless, there are dressage enthusiasts who would wish them out of the arena in a second.

Johnny models a traditional noseband

Johnny models a more traditional noseband setup

It’s interesting to me that for such a basic piece of leather, that there are boundless options that elicit so many opinions from horsepeople. Whatever your style, or beliefs, or discipline, I’m guessing you took some kind of consideration into what adorns your trusty steed’s snout.

Or, you know, no noseband!

Or, you know, the naked nose works too!

What do you use on your horse? What is your rule for tightening, if you use a crank or otherwise? What nosebands do you avoid at all costs? What options would you consider other than your current choice?



29 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Nattering about Nosebands

  1. Ah nosebands. People really do get all wound up about them don’t they? I feel like if you’ve made an EDUCATED decision on what your horse goes best in, then use it. Keeping in mind the tightness, like you said. As long as people are kind to their creatures I could give a flip what they use. That being said, and seriously no offense meant at all, I dislike traditional nosebands because I think they make horses look like elephants! I think flash and figure 8s balance out a face evenly and keep the horses’ face/nose from getting chunked apart from the rest. Faces are gorgeous and noses can be dainty, but even a dainty nose with a traditional noseband I think looks chunky and can give the effect of a giant nose. My boys DO have big noses, so I thin the figure 8 kept a little loose helps balance them out a bit. I also think micklem’s are ugly in a different way and wish they would all die haha. PS are gorgeous and its a life goal to own one!

    • Smitty has the daintiest nose of any horse I’ve owned before, so finding a bridle that looks balanced on him is going to be tricky! I definitely intend to get another PS bridle but first gotta find a saddle! XD

  2. This is actually a very relevant topic to me right now (and will probably eventually spark a post of my own too) bc new baby race horse is Very mouthy to start (he appears to be anticipating getting his tongue tied down) and has been doing a lot of gaping in our first few rides. I tend to think it’s just him sorting and figuring it out and am therefore not sure a flash would be appropriate at this stage. The reasoning being maybe the flash would in some ways make the tension worse instead of just letting him process? Idk tho!

    • I’ve seen a flash be a good tool to stabilize bits, and also seen it make the horse claustrophobic.. sounds like a bit of experimenting is in order with your new guy- which is tricky since you’re still figuring each other out! (ask me how I know 😉 )

  3. I’ve never consistently ridden anything that needs more than a conventional cavesson, and I always adjust it SUPER loose. Like, almost kind of floppy. Even crank nosebands I make really loose. I don’t want to be holding the horse’s mouth shut with the noseband, or taking away his ability to work his mouth and tongue. But some horses do need and like the increased stability of a figure-8 or flash, and there are certainly cases where a Micklem or a drop might work best, too! The only type of noseband I’m opposed to and would never ever use is a tack or chain noseband. There’s just no reason for that kind of painful nonsense.

  4. I’m really curious to read everyone’s comments about this- Addy always went in a snug (not tight) flash to encourage her not to cross her jaw. I tried Frankie in a flash and forgot to buy a flash bridle, so he’s been going in a plain cavesson with zero problems. I’d love to put him in a figure-8 since it fits the “jumper aesthetic,” but I’m not going to mess with tack purely for the pretty factor. If it ain’t broke, I ain’t fixin’ it.

    • The flash is definitely a good tool for horses who cross their jaws, and that makes total sense to use one to stay safe. Bonus that Frankie does not need one- and I totally agree with you on loving the figure 8 look… I can’t wait to put one on Smitty myself!

  5. I have a variety of bridles (tack whore here) with nosebands from drops to cranks to flashes and more. No matter what I use, it’s adjusted loose enough that I can usually slide my entire palm in between it and the horse’s face. Does that mean it’s not “working” like it’s supposed to? Maybe. But I don’t ever want to mask issues by strapping my horse’s mouth shut. Honestly I only use most of them because they came on the bridle and I’m required to show in one.

  6. I mostly use my western bridle setup because I love my split reins (a crop without carrying a crop for the win…) and it allows for a naked nose. 😉 When I use my el cheapo english bridle, I have a regular cavesson.

    I LOVE that bridle that Foster is wearing. Drools. I need. In brown.

    • I used to trail ride (agggggessss ago) in a western bridle that my Haflinger came with, and a bareback pad (we were minimalists back then!). And I totally agree that split reins can be really convenient- for me they also doubled as fly whisks in the summer 😛

  7. My mare will absolutely cross her jaw out on xc so we use a figure eight. And I use a flash when doing dressage. It’s pretty loose. To the point where I shouls probably punch some more holes in it, but have not… There is a lot of controversy about nosebands. I loved the pics you had of horses modeling different types.

    • Interesting that you don’t see crank nosebands in the hunter world? To me it’s fascinating that just a variation in buckling the strap can make a big difference.

  8. Well I exclusively dabble in “hunter/jumper” stuff lol, but I am a minimalist. I prefer a wide noseband tightened as tight as it will go. Like you, I threw the flash attachment my jumper bridle came with off to the side. My horse doesn’t need it, and if he’s gaping his mouth and resisting that’s usually a training issue – either me relying too much on my hands versus my seat or my horse needing to listen better overall!

    • Totally agree! And I had to hold my tongue when this individual made the “hunter/jumper stuff” comment. But even that didn’t stop me from telling her that I didn’t use a flash, and I did dressage. I wish there was an eye roll emoji!

  9. Great topic. Riesling goes in a flash because it encourages him to keep his mouth quiet (it is still plenty loose). Monty on the other hand needs a flash so bad because he is ultra mouthy and ignores you by playing with his mouth. I don’t like to crank anything down but also want a secure amount of tension.

  10. I love basically all nosebands. I think drops and micklems are super ugly, but they both have their uses and that’s fine. I have definitely put a horse in a figure eight for purely aesthetic reasons and frankly, if the horse doesn’t need it, the horse isn’t going to use it, so no harm no foul imo. That said, I’ve also put horses in flashes/figure eights because they definitely did need them and while I like to play dress up, I can always 100% tell you why my horse goes in every single piece of tack I put on it on any given day.

    For my current situation, Courage is definitely working through what he thinks about bits/nosebands/contact and a tight noseband or flash doesn’t mask the situation. It exacerbates it. Thus, we do a loose caveson (or crank, depends which bridle) and let him figure his stuff out. I love the look of a little bit more noseband, especially on his rather-long face, but it’s not in the cards for us right now.

    • I always thought the figure 8 bridle also allowed for easier breathing, which was why I employed one on XC. I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but like you said, no harm, no foul. And you’re a good horse mum for working with Courage to find the right fit 🙂

  11. My dressage bridle has a crank. I wasn’t looking for one, it just happened to be there when I checked off everything else I wanted in a bridle. I keep it super loose–like a fist fit between leather and jaw. I didn’t use the flash until Bobby started playing the tongue over the bit game, and now I keep it on there to try to give the bit some stability–something the Micklem is very good for, and he doesn’t try that nonsense when in that bridle.

    • I ended up with a crank bridle for the exact same reason, and I feel like as long as I don’t abuse the crank for over tightening, it’s a totally legit option. The flash and the Micklem can be wonderful tools, and it sounds like Bobby appreciates them (or maybe not, since maybe putting one’s tongue over the bit is more fun?).

  12. I’m pretty happy Chimi doesn’t need anything more than a plain noseband bc I like the minimalist look on him 🙂 However when I was riding Marley she went terrible in normal bridles (plain, flash, and figure 8)but I had a chance to try a Micklem on her and holy wow there was a major difference in just the first ride. It’s not my favorite bridle as far as looks go but pretty is as pretty does- she liked it and that’s all that matters!

    I’m not a fan of nosebands that are cranked tight no matter what style you use- a properly fitting noseband should have room for 2 fingers snug between nose and band- and if it’s tight enough to create scarring (the white hairs on the bridge of the nose) than its to tight and you need to solve the training issue through riding not equipment

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