The cavesson is an important tool for longeing and for the work in-hand. It offers clearer communication with the horse while sparing the mouth. However, many struggle with finding the right cavesson and adjusting it to the horse. So, to kick off a video series on the work in-hand, we’re starting with a video on just the cavesson!
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There are a few important needs for a good cavesson. One of the biggest of those is a fixed nosepiece. Many cavessons are made with a joint under the center ring in the noseband, but this creates a “nutcracker” effect on the nose or makes them slide around more easily. Hinges on the side allow for a better fit but are not necessary, especially on smaller cavessons for smaller heads. Three rings are also useful for other specialty uses of the cavesson, but one in the center is often sufficient. The jowel strap should fit low, not high like a throatlatch. Its main purpose is to keep the cavesson from rising into the horse’s eye rubbing it.
Padding is also important; some cavessons do not have padding, just a leather wrap, and this can make them stronger than padded ones. Sometimes, however, the padded ones don’t fit securely on certain head shapes, so the unpadded ones (like the 4th in the video) are a better choice in those cases. You absolutely DO NOT want a cavesson that has metal knobs that press directly against the horse. These “serretas” can be very harsh.
The traditional method of fitting the cavesson places the noseband four fingers above the nostril. The noseband is then tightened enough that it does not twist off to the side off the horse’s nose. If it is too loose, it can rub a blister onto the horse’s nose or twist into the horse’s eye. It shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t give the horse a treat comfortably. The jowel strap should be tight enough that the cavesson doesn’t slide toward the eye. If you’re using a bridle with the cavesson, it may be wise to remove the noseband. If you’re using a plain noseband, you can put the cavesson below it like a flash. With bridles that have a flash, you should remove the flash. You should remove a drop noseband unless you are very comfortable with it, as it sits where the cavesson does. The jowl strap should run under the cheek pieces (the part of the bridle that holds the bit). That way, the cheek pieces can move freely over the relatively fixed cavesson to allow freedom with the bit.
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