Lesions associated with the use of bits, nosebands, spurs and whips in Danish competition horses

Equine Vet J. 2019 Mar;51(2):154-162. doi: 10.1111/evj.12827. Epub 2018 Mar 23.


Background: Information is needed to guide sport administrators in formulating rules for equipment use in competitions.

Objectives: To seek associations between spurs, bits, nosebands and whips with injuries in horses during competitions in four equestrian sports.

Study design: Cross sectional study.

Methods: Post competition evaluations were performed in 3143 horse/rider combinations competing in Danish Equestrian Federation competitions in dressage, showjumping, eventing and endurance by trained evaluators who recorded the presence and type of spurs, bits, nosebands, and whips. Further evaluations recorded noseband tightness, (in three categories <2 cm, 2-3 cm, >3 cm), the presence of hair or blood on spurs; hair loss, lesions or blood on the ribcage behind the girth; abrasions and/or blood at the commissures of the lips; and swelling, lesions or blood on the forequarters or hindquarters. Statistical analysis was performed to determine relationships between discipline (dressage, showjumping, eventing, endurance), level of competition (level 0-7), type/tightness of equipment, and prevalence of injuries.

Results: The presence of hair (3.2% of horse/rider combinations) and blood (0.4% of horse/rider combinations) on spurs were highly associated. Longer spurs and lower competition levels were significantly associated with hair on the spurs and worn hair on the horse's ribcage. Oral lesions or blood were visible at the commissures of the lips in 9.2% of horses and increased with level of competition but did not differ between bit types or bitless bridles. Looser upper noseband category was associated with decreased risk of oral lesions (odds ratio [OR] 0.66, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.51-0.86, P = 0.002). However, the absence of a cavesson increased the risk of lesions at the commissures of the lips 2.39 times compared with the loosest noseband (95% CI 1.4-4.11, P = 0.002).

Main limitations: The rules of the equestrian federation did not permit a full intraoral examination. Selection of rider/horse combination was not random.

Conclusions: Lesions of the skin or mucosa at the commissures of the lips may be decreased by limiting noseband tightness and lesions on the chest wall may be decreased by limiting the length of spurs.

Keywords: equestrian sport; equipment; horse; injury; tack.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark
  • Horse Diseases / epidemiology
  • Horse Diseases / etiology*
  • Horses / injuries
  • Mouth / injuries
  • Skin / injuries
  • Sports
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / veterinary*