I was going through my tack locker at the barn trying to find something and figured it was time to reorganize. What a mess in there! Somewhere, somehow, I have misplaced a piece to my English bridle, the cavesson. I know I should assemble my bridle so that the cavesson is always attached, but it seems like my favorite one is always getting shunted from one bridle to another. It must be time to hit up the tack catalog and see if I can find another cavesson similar to the one I like so that I can keep everything together.
I guess I had never realized how many different kinds of cavessons – or nosebands, as they are also called – there are. All I wanted was a plain one, but was surprised to see besides the plain, or French cavesson, that there are others called drop, flash, crank, figure-8, and Hanoverian cavessons, to name just a few.
Why use a cavesson?
Other than a parade bridle on a western horse, which is just for looks, cavessons are mainly used with English bridles. The primary purpose is to keep the horse’s mouth closed so that he cannot evade the bit and/or put his tongue over the bit, and the plain and flash cavessons can also be used for the attachment of a standing martingale. Fitting any type of cavesson to a horse – just like fitting a bridle – is important. One should not pull the noseband so tight the horse cannot open his mouth slightly, therefore being able to relax his jaw. When you have finished bridling up, you should be able to put a finger underneath the strap of the cavesson.
What are the different types of cavessons?
Plain, or French: this cavesson is the one most commonly used for most of the English divisions. It sits about halfway between the prominent cheekbone and the horse’s lips.
Drop: This one fits on the nasal bone and runs below the bit and around the chin groove. Care must be taken to be sure that the band is not below the nasal bone. If it is lower, on the soft tissue of the nose, it can restrict breathing. Besides keeping the mouth closed, this cavesson also holds the bit up in the horse’s mouth.
Flash: A flash cavesson combines the plain and the drop, being connected in the middle of the plain as it crosses over the nose. It has the flexibility of keeping the bit up in the mouth plus being able to attach the standing martingale.
Figure-8: This one is attached at the cheekpiece of the bridle, making a figure-8 from one cheekpiece, across the nose, under the chin groove, then back up across the nose to the opposite cheekpiece. This noseband is, in effect, very similar to the flash cavesson.
Crank: The crank cavesson is a plain noseband but with the ability to be pulled very tight versus just a plain buckle. It is very commonly used with a double bridle in upper levels of dressage as drop and flash cavessons cannot be used with this type of bridle.
Hanoverian: This is the combination of a crank and a flash noseband and is found on a lot of dressage bridles.