A preliminary report on estimating the pressures exerted by a crank noseband in the horse

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The pressures applied to horses via restrictive nosebands are of growing concern to equitation scientists and horse sport administrators. They prevent the expression of normal behavior, may compromise blood flow, and even damage bone. This report describes an approach to estimate in vivo pressures applied to the dorsal and ventral aspects of a horse's nose via a so-called crank noseband. A load cell calibrated over a load range of 0-100 N was integrated into a commercially available crank noseband. These force values were combined with anatomical curvature data to estimate the pressure applied by the noseband to the underlying tissue at any point along the internal surface of the noseband using Laplace's law. Partial profiles of both dorsal and ventral aspects of the horse's nose, at a position corresponding to that of the noseband, were taken by contouring a flexible curve ruler to the nose. The ruler was stiff enough to retain the profile when removed from the nose, thereby allowing faithful transfer of the profile to paper for digitization. Once digitized, straightforward mathematical algorithms were used to provide an analytical expression describing each profile, to calculate profile curvature point by point, and, using measured noseband force values, to transform the curvature into a corresponding sub-noseband pressure profile. This process was used to study pressures applied when the horse chewed hay, chewed concentrate mix, and when it was cued to step backward. The calculated pressures ranged from 200 to 400 mm Hg; pressures that, in humans, are associated with nerve damage and other complications. As such, these preliminary data strongly suggest the need for more research in this domain. The current approach should inform some of the welfare concerns in ridden horses but should also be of use in studies of oral behaviors around foraging as well as crib biting and wind sucking.