“Fit To Compete”

It’s been a week now, and I have heard nothing from the Danish Equestrian Federation. Well, technically it’s been more than a week, since I asked them the first time, via email, if it was possible to get a dispensation to ride without a noseband at dressage competitions.

At first, they ignored me. Then I started calling them… And so they, sort of, answered my email.

I had simply explained that my horse find the noseband very unsettling, Saleem is a headshaker, and no matter how lose the noseband is, it bothers him. I had asked too, why the noseband was mandatory, since it clearly serves no purpose at all?

The email I got stated simply that the noseband is mandatory and that there will be no exceptions. If my horse cannot wear a noseband, he is not “fit to compete.” I was told that there were a lot of different variations of the noseband and that I should be able to find one that was suitable.

No explanation as to what purpose the noseband serves…

So I finally got through to them on the phone, and was met with a rather aggressive woman, who kept repeating that the horse must be “fit to compete” and she didn’t want to discuss it.

When asked why the noseband was mandatory, she said that “it’s tradition.”

So, no way around it then. Tradition.

I did try to explain to her that my horse is NOT sick, unless we afflict an illness on him. Saleem can be ridden perfectly, completely without shaking his head, as long as he is not wearing a noseband. He does become very uncomfortable while wearing one, he snorts a lot and he shakes his head. So, forcing Saleem to wear a noseband would be submitting him to unnecessary pain, which does collide with their ethical rules, would it not?


I tried to explain that a headshaker is not necessarily bothered at all times, Saleem, for instance, does not respond to the classic nosenet. So to bend it in neon, this is a sensitive horse, but not a sick horse, unless he is forced into a noseband, which will cause him unnecessary pain no matter what shape, size or model I use.


But it’s tradition. Only, there are so many nosebands to choose from, one should be able to find one… very untraditional one, that may not bother him. How can it be tradition and still, be changed?

Could it be because the Danish Equestrian Federation cannot tell me the real reason?

Because we all know, the noseband was designed by hunters, to prevent the horse from opening its mouth when it fell, thus, breaking its jaw… But I am thinking, do we expect dressage horses to fall on their faces at random, and therefore, must their mouths be tied shut? Or can it be simply because, allowing one to not wear it, would make me stand out amongst all those who do wear it, and use it, to hide the fact that they use the rein and the bit so much that their horses would open their mouths in pain, if not tied shut by the nose band?

Not to quote Epona.tv, but could be truly be that “there is nothing quite like pretty, to bring ugly into perspective,” and that the Danish Equestrian Federation continues to protect “ugly?”

I know, jumping to conclusions here, shame on me. I just can’t help but wonder.

I remember a time when the hut was not allowed in dressage competitions. That has been allowed now. Why? To keep the horse from being bothered by flies? To prevent the horse from being subjected to unnecessary pain?

But, wasn’t it tradition, not to wear a hut in dressage competitions? So, some traditions can be changed?

Why not then, make the noseband optional? Isn’t dressage about displaying a well trained, relaxed, harmonic horse and rider? Would it be any less dressage, if you didn’t wear a noseband? Or the spurs? Or the saddle? Or the bridle entirely? Wouldn’t that just be pretty perfect? Shouldn’t we strive to achieve less equipment, rather than more?

And don’t get me wrong here. I am not arguing to ban the saddle or the bridle, hell I am simply asking, why the noseband is mandatory. Such a simply little thing, which is, according to the Danish Equestrian Federation, only there because of tradition, why must it be forced upon my horse if I want to show him?

For Saleem, it wouldn’t be a matter of dressage then. For him, it would simply be a competition in how well I have taught him to endure pain, how well I have taught him to wear the required equipment. Is that dressage?


Is that where the sport is going these days? Competing in how much pain one can teach ones horse to endure and still get the job done?

Because if so, that will never be me, or my horses. I never want to teach my horses to endure pain, to please me. I teach my horses to avoid pain. For instance, if my horse is ignoring my leg, then I am not afraid to wear spurs for a while, simply teaching him that if he ignores me, I will use the spur, and if he does not ignore me, I won’t use the spur. Apply pressure until you get a response you can accept, and then release it. I teach my horses how to never end up in a situation where they have to endure anything they find uncomfortable. I always leave them a way out of any given situation, a way to escape the pressure.

I will never allow my horses to endure pain and discomfort if I can help it.

I was told, by the charming lady on the phone, to contact their veterinary consultant. So I did. I called her up. She didn’t really want to hear me out, she just told me to take a picture of the bridle I wanted to wear and explain why, in an email and she would get back to me. So, I did.

unnamed 1 This one, would that be so horrible? I am not even asking to wear our blue one…

I got the reply from her, that she had received my email and she would discuss it with the dressage committee, because it wasn’t really a veterinary matter, but a question about equipment. And then, silence.

I almost wrote back, explaining again, how this IS a veterinary matter, how this IS about a very good horse, with extra sensitive skin, and how I have no doubt that the dressage committee WILL refuse the me, but I didn’t.

How show jumpers are allowed to wear a nosenet, while jumping internationally. How very sick horses are absolutely “fit to compete” as long as it is in jumping, where as my horse, who is a little extra sensitive, are not allowed in dressage, without being forced to endure unnecessary pain… How is not wearing a noseband, “unfit to compete?” where as horses with much bigger problems, are very much “fit to compete” as long as they are jumping? How does that make sense?

I have to say though, I am not going back. I removed the nosebands from all of my horses, and even if Saleem is the only headshaker, he is not the only one who is much more relaxed, and happier without it.


So yes, I am going to make this my thing. The optional noseband. If the Danish Equestrian Federation continues to ignore me, who then might I write to, for a change of rules?


Because I truly don’t see the function of the noseband. Unless you need to keep your horse’s mouth shut. But should our federations be protecting that kind of riding? And even if they feel they must protect it, why not allow those few of us, who wants to do better, to not wear it?


I am not asking for special treatment, I am not asking to be judged mildly, because of my sick horse or my “horsemanship”, I am simply asking to be allowed to not wear a useless piece of equipment on my horse- all of my horses- because they are all bothered by it, no matter how lose it is.

If you doubt me, go home and try removing your noseband. If your horse stops chewing on the bit, stops snorting and stops tightening his nostrils, then yes, he was bothered by it. Of course, if your horse instantly opens his mouth, then you have a very different problem and needs to learn how to ride without holding on to the rein at all times, but wouldn’t you want to know then? Wouldn’t you want the horse to be able to tell you that you are doing something wrong?
That is why I always wore my nosebands loose. I wanted my horse to open his mouth, if I held on to the rein too much. But it took me long enough to realize that a loose noseband creates friction. Imagine that, right underneath your eyes. How can that not be a bother, when you are supposed to work, no matter if the horse is sick or not?


Yes, I wanted to test the waters, so to speak, with Saleem, to see if he could get a dispensation, because I am pretty sure I could have my own vet support me on that, if need be, but clearly, the horse that won the “horsemanship” dressage event a few weeks back, with 70%, without the noseband, is not “fit to compete.”


Isn’t that nice to know.


So, since the whole set of ethical rules clearly don’t apply to the world of dressage, I figure it is about time someone asked why.

Why is the noseband mandatory?


And please don’t say “tradition.” I am not buying that. Give me another, good reason, and if you can’t, please make the noseband optional. I have five brilliant horses, and I am never going to show them, unless I can do so without compromising their well being.

Considering how little “tradition” there is in show jumping, how there are absolutely no rules what so ever, for equipment, why is the world of dressage so stubborn? Anything goes in show jumping. Even horses with severe headshaking syndrome are more than fit to compete.

Couldn’t we have a few less rules in dressage and a lot more rules in show jumping, once again, protecting the animal in the sport?

Why is it so criminal of me to ask, to be allowed not to wear a noseband?

I realize of course, that I shouldn’t be writing this post, before I got the final answer from the Danish Equestrian Federation, and I would like to point out, that should I be allowed to not wear a noseband, I will take it all back and write a very nice thank you post instead, from my horse and me.

So, the ball is still in your court. I am still waiting for the final answer. And for a very good explanation to why, it will be a no.

Because it can’t be that the Equestrian World, does not want people like me, can it? People who value horsemanship and the well being of their animal above all else?


No, there must be a reason. Something I haven’t thought of yet. We wait with bated breath.


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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3 Responses to “Fit To Compete”

  1. Jenny - says:

    I can’t remember that I have heard of someone trying to compete in dressage whitout the noseband… But I know quite a lot of people here in Sweden that get extra licenses to have extra stuff on their horses (like nosenets for headshakers, and I haven’t heard many or almost any complain that they haven’t gotten approval of their extra equipment), but none for skipping any piece of equipment… Don’t know any that tried to get it approved so I have no idea if it’s because no one have tried or nobody have gotten it approved.

    • Starstone says:

      Thank you 🙂 Yes, I figure it would be easier to have more equipment added, than to be allowed to remove something, sadly…
      I do know one who had been allowed to ride with a hackamore in dressage… I am not sure if that was an official permit or if it was the local clubs that allowed her, but either way… It might be possible… but yes, it would have been easier if I Had been asking to add something…

  2. Pia Kirkegaard says:

    Når nu du skriver “Danish equistrian Federation” tænker jeg det går at jeg skriver på dansk, da det vil tage mig dobbelt så lang tid på engelsk.

    Jeg har skrevet til DRF et par gange og hver gang det har været et afslag fået den samme vage grund.

    I december skrev jeg ang læderbid, da jeg egentlig gerne ville ride med det i dressur/military (i dressur-appen er læderbid skrevet som tilladt i military ø, men ikke i reglementet). Begrundelsen var herfor at “DRF lægger deres reglement op ad FEI’s og da FEI ikke tillader læderbid vil DRF heller ikke. Suk!

    Jeg skal have skrevet til FEI og spurgt om de kan give en logisk forklaring.

    Måske det er samme vej du skal gå. Måske er det faktisk i FEI der skal laves en holdningsændring. Tror faktisk det er det der ligger til grund for ændringen af reglerne ang hut i dressur. Og DRF sender nok desværre ikke vores forespørgsler videre, selvom de godt ved det er det der skal til.

    Tradition eller ej… der sker en rivende udvikling i hestesporten, som de burde følge med, i forbundene!!!

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