September 7, 2012

Wofford and Nosebands

I've been pretty scarce around here lately, but I promise I'm still here!  Work has been burying me lately, but I'm hopeful that I'll get on a good schedule again next week.

My own personal opinion time!  I wanted to comment on the noseband part of Jimmy Wofford's 'The Times, They Are a Changin'' article that has made the rounds of the online eventing community recently.  I am not one of the conservatives he speaks about in his article.  Especially being employed in the information technology industry, and being a scientist at heart, I firmly believe in the wheels of evolution, both in the natural and artificial worlds, and in the ability of properly conducted research to improve our lives. "Because that's the way we've always done it," is a poisonous level of complacency, and one that we get all-too-often trapped in as equestrians.

Science and stuff!  Want...
I don't have one yet, but I've made it no secret that my first good bridle is going to be a Micklem, once I can afford it. Growing up, I was taught that the noseband was appropriately tightened "as long as his nose isn't turning blue."  In college, it was the one finger rule.  In a sport in which you can get dismissed from the ring for wearing a non-traditionally colored shirt, it's no wonder that we're still using equipment whose fundamental design hasn't changed in centuries. 

I'm not sure on the specifics, but it only takes looking at historical paintings to know that the bridle as we know it has been around for quite a while, certainly before we'd mapped out the nerves and tiny, delicate immovable joints of the skull.  For someone like Bill Micklem to say, "This may be the way we've always done it, but if we put some research behind this, I think we can do it better," was pretty impressive.  Staking your business's success on this industry's willingness to forego tradition for science was a huge leap of faith, and it only takes one look at the number of "Is this bridle legal???" posts on CoTH to realize that it has been an uphill battle (one that he appears to be winning).  I admire that so much, I can't even tell you.

That is my opinion.  How about you?  Should science stay hidden applications like high-tech, but traditional looking saddle pads, or should the industry be ready for more things like the Micklem bridles?  Even subconsciously, can a judge look past unusual, but scientifically-sound tack?


  1. Some people have described Mom and I as "horsecentric" so I am all for anything that is better for the horse. Now I think it will be hard for judges to look past the new and different tack. It will not happen overnight, but it really does need to happen and not just in dressage. All the areas need to look to the horse. I don't like that a western horse can't wear a snaffle after 5yrs old. If the horse can do the work, what does it matter what they wear as long as the horse is not hurt.

  2. Buy your Micklem bridle as soon as you can! I bought one for one of my horses who had been having "issues" (long story) but he improved immediately with the Micklem. I started using it on my other guy, it didn't make as big a difference, but I really like it, I'm going to splash out and buy a second one.
    Back to your point about the industry following science - I'm appalled at the savagery of some of the bits that are legal in eventing and show-jumping (can't comment on Western), yet William Micklem has had to battle long and hard to have this bridle approved. Where's the science behind a hackamore/gag combination? Oh yes, it causes more pressure over a wider area (should we read PAIN for pressure?), therefore the horse is more controllable, therefore it's legal. GAH!
    Why is a seat-saver not legal in dressage (here)? Definitely another case of the sport not following science.
    I know that as a sport, they have to watch out for Performance Enhancing stuff, but, really...

  3. I had a micklem and it was cool. My horse didn't care one way or the other, but if Conor is sensitive, it might help him out.

    Advances are being made--my favorite is the completely out of (price) range CWD 2G saddle. It's a carbon fiber tree that moves with the horse' s back.It's based on the same argument you just made--we've been riding in wooden trees for hundreds of years. Every other sport moves forward. The saddle is completely amazing and priced accordingly (7k), but I'm sanguine that the innovations at the higher price point will trickle down to something I can afford eventually.

    The bridle needs to fit the face and the saddle needs to interact with the dynamic surface of the horse's back in a non-limiting way.

    And don't even get me started on western stuff. They still think cowboy hats are a good idea...

  4. I am starting the search for a new bridle and love the look of the Micklem. I need to do some reading up on it, as it has been awhile. My previous trainer was very opposed to flash nose bands - even though her daughter rides with one (figure that one out!). But I have always used one of Riva - that said, yes I have tried riding her without one!

    I am all for new if it is improved, good for the horse, affordable and makes sense.