A comparison of Micklem bridles and conventional bridles fitted with restrictive nosebands

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract

Equestrians and sporting governing bodies are under pressure from equestrian communities and beyond to improve equine welfare. In order to continue to operate, they require social licence and community approval of their actions. As a result, many people who participate in equine sports are seeking new products and techniques to improve their horses’ welfare and the market is responding with a plethora of new products claiming to be ‘welfare friendly’. One such product is the Micklem™ bridle; which the manufacturer claims is “more comfortable, more humane and more effective”. However, as with many ‘welfare friendly’ products the claims would benefit from robust scientific scrutiny. The aim of this study was to test these claims using measures of rein tension and horse behaviour. Nine horses, with a mean age of 6±3 years, from two professional training stables, were ridden by one professional rider who was familiar with all the horses used. The horses were at various levels of training as dressage mounts. Horses were allocated to either the control condition - worked in a traditional bridle with restrictive flash noseband (tightened to two fingers) or the experimental condition - worked in a Micklem™ bridle (tightened to two fingers) on day 1, and in the opposing condition the following day. Rein tension (N) and equine behaviour were recorded simultaneously during a standardised workout comprising canter left lead (x3), canter right lead (x3), canter/trot transition (left lead) (x3), canter/trot transition (right lead) (x3), and trot/halt transition (x2). Horses showed a significant increase in the time spent with ‘correct’ head carriage (i.e., eyes the same height as the wither and the head held in a vertical position) (0.53±0.24) in the Micklem™ bridle as opposed to a conventional bridle with restrictive flash noseband (0.31±0.24; t8=3.08; P>0.05). Horses were also found to spend significantly more time with their ears pricked, which is commonly seen as a positive behavioural sign, when ridden in the Micklem™ bridle (0.21±0.21) compared to a conventional bridle with restrictive noseband (0.12±0.12; t8=2.64; P>0.05). A number of other behavioural trends emerged that appear to support the manufacturers claims that the Micklem™ bridle is a more welfare friendly alternative to conventional bridles with restrictive flash nosebands. These trends did not reach statistical significance nor were there significant differences in rein tension (all P<0.05). The results of this study appear to support the manufacturer’s claims however, further research is needed in order to draw definitive conclusions. Lay person message: As calls for greater equine welfare standards grow, numerous ‘welfare-friendly’ products are appearing on the market without undergoing objective scrutiny. One product is the Micklem™ bridle. This study demonstrated improvement in two key behavioural indicators, ‘correct’ head carriage (eyes the same height as the wither and the head held in a vertical position) and having ears pricked, in the absence of increased conflict behaviour or rein tension. The findings of this study comparing Micklem™ bridles to conventional bridles with restrictive nosebands suggest that the claims of the manufacturer of the Micklem™ appear justified; however, drawing definitive conclusions requires further research

Conference

ConferenceInternational Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleBringing Science to the Stable
CountryCanada
CityGuelph
Period19/08/1921/08/19
Internet address

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