I was competing today, and whilst wandering through the car park I was amazed to see such a number of tight throatlashes. Or throatlatches as some write. I saw a few horses tied up to lorries with their throatlashes flush with their jaw. These horses weren`t even working onto a contact and the strap was too tight already, so heaven knows how the horse felt once the reins were picked up and they flexed at the jaw.
I was always taught to fit four fingers between the throatlash and the horse`s cheek, and if in any doubt between two holes I usually opt for the looser one. As a horse works correctly and starts cantering the windpipe needs to expand so that the horse can get enough oxygen to perform properly. The purpose of the throatlash is to prevent the bridle from coming over the horse`s ears in an accident, not to control the horse.
I did a bit of internet research to see what everyone else`s opinions are, and many people seem to be confused between the fitting of the noseband and the throatlash. This seems to be a detrimental mistake for the horse, as it can mean the difference being able to breathe properly and opening the mouth.
In my reading I also saw a few more “fittings” , which mainly concerned the noseband. My Pony manuals told me that I should be able to fit two fingers between the cavesson noseband and the pony. Nowadays however, the trend seems to be one finger. And of course we have a choice of many different types of noseband, which all apply pressure in different parts of the horse`s face. I`m not saying it`s wrong or right, but I find with Otis a tight noseband, either cavesson or flash, creates tension in his jaw. After all, the purpose of the noseband is not to strap the mouth closed, rather encourage it to not open widely and to help with control. If the jaw is stopped from opening then the horse cannot relax; this is highlighted in the fact Otis licks his lips when he`s concentrating. If he wants to do that and he still performs well then I don`t mind!
Other forums mentioned having the flash so tight you can`t put a single finger between it and the nose. Again, to me this seems far too tight to be comfortable for the horse. Can you imagine galloping across country with someone pinching your nose?
I think what I`m trying to say here, was that I am surprised how many horse owner`s don`t seem to realise how they jeopardise their horse`s health and comfort by over tightening their tack and can hinder their performance. Perhaps it`s people taking the golden rules and adjusting them to a certain pony or horse but have forgotten to revert to the golden rules on other horses, which has resulted in tack being fitted incorrectly. Perhaps bridles or tack should be sold with a fitting guide booklet?It needn`t be big, but should just point people into the right direction. After all, if you`re told to buy a breastplate as your saddle slides back yet you don`t know how to fit it properly how do you know if the saddle is prevented from sliding back? In the worst case scenario the saddle slides back even with the breastplate on and there`s an accident. There`s so many options for tack nowadays that it is impossible to know the correct fitting and measurement for all of them, so a fitting guide would serve as a useful educating tool, as well as reminding owners to have a regular check of the way their tack sits on their horse.