Nosebands and their purpose

Nosebands and their purpose

Anthony Hewitt

Nosebands and their purpose

With so many nosebands on offer, it can be difficult to know what your horse needs. No matter what type of noseband you choose, it’s important that it correctly fits your horse. If in doubt, book a consultation in with a bridle fitter, or your saddler should be able to advice.
No matter the type, your noseband should sit centrally and symmetrically on your horse’s face. Make sure the buckles or fastenings are clear of his lips and jaw bones, as these can create pressure points.
Don’t forget that not all nosebands are allowed in all competitions, so check the guidelines of the event you are entering before you tack up with prohibited kit.


A cavesson noseband is probably the most standard noseband, and it’s one I use for my young horse. It is one band that fastens around the horse’s nose.

Fitting wise, you need to make sure that it sits below the bony facial crest so that it doesn’t rub on the bone. You should be able to fit two stacked fingers between the noseband and your horse’s face; it is possibly too tight if you can’t do this.


A flash is an extra strap attached to the cavesson that circles around the horses mouth, sitting below the bit. This prevents the horse from being able to open their mouth.

For correct fit, the flash should not be adjusted too tightly as this will pull the front of the cavesson down. The buckle should not lay near the bit or lips, and the point of the strap should face down, not facing up and tucked into the attachment.

If you are looking to ride your horse in a flash, then choose a cavesson noseband that already has the flash attachment fitted, rather than using a removable flash, as this can cause a great deal of pressure.

Popularity of the flash has waned in recent years, as research* has shown that it exerts more pressure than other nosebands tested.


A crank noseband is similar to the cavesson, but doubles back on itself, as the back jaw strap is separate and attaches through metal rings. It doesn’t come with a flash attachment.

Whilst the crank exerts less pressure than a plain cavesson, it has a bad reputation as it can be over-tightened.


Simply put, a grackle looks like an X on the horse’s face. Its purpose is to stop the horse from crossing their jaw, and it exerts less pressure than a flash.

To fit this noseband, the central pad should sit on the nasal bone, so can take some adjusting to make sure it sits symmetrically.

There are two types of grackles: English and Mexican. The English style is a made up of two straps that go around the nose; these should fit below the cheekbones and care should be taken that the straps are not overly tightened.

In comparison, the Mexican style has rings, which give more freedom for jaw and tongue movement. The rings should sit on top of the cheekbones, and the straps should be fitted so the buckles don’t interfere with the bit or the horse’s mouth.


A drop noseband, arguably, is a balance between a cavesson and a grackle.

It sits lower on the nose than both and goes around the chin groove in front of the bit. Its purpose is to prevent the horse from opening their mouth and crossing their jaw; when the horse relaxes, the pressure releases.

A drop noseband can be difficult to fit correctly, as it should sit lower than a cavesson without impacting the horse’s airways. The chinstrap should fit comfortably under the bit without the buckle or rings impeding the bit.

Whatever noseband you decide to use for your horse, it’s key that it suit fits comfortably to keep your horse happy and performing at his best.

*Murray et al. 2015. A bridle designed to avoid peak pressure locations under the headpiece and noseband is associated with more uniform pressure and increased carpal and tarsal flexion, compared with the horse’s usual bridle.


Blog written by: Mel Beale

About The Author: After graduating at the top of her class with a degree in Equine Sports Science from Nottingham Trent University, Mel took over the reins - no pun intended - of her family livery yard, alongside setting up her own freelance business in equestrian copywriting and content production.
When she's not mucking out, filling up hay nets or picking out hooves, then Mel is quite possibly writing about it. Away from work, she's usually behind a camera, with her nose in a book or on the back of a horse.

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Photo by Kirsten LaChance on Unsplash