Poor bridle fit can adversely affect the cranial nerves which influence Balance, Hearing, Smell, Vision, Tongue and Mouth function, and more
Much like us, the Cranial Nerves of the horse make up an intricate network of nerves that stem from the brain. Information sent to the brain includes temperature, pain, proprioception and pressure. There are 13 nerves in the Cranial Nervous System which are found in pairs branching to each side of the body. Each set of nerves is unique in its purpose; some are for relaying messages to and from the brain while others are used for controlling muscle movement, or motor function. Some Cranial Nerves serve both motor and sensory purposes.
Each and every one of the Cranial Nerves are vital to a horse’s daily actions and behaviours, so it goes without saying that the whole horse can be affected by impingement on any of these delicate structures.
As one important example, issues stemming from dysfunction or damage in the Trigeminal nerve in particular can cause problems such as tensed muscles to the jaw, sensitivity or discomfort to the head, ears and poll, head shaking, and grinding the bit, to name just a few. Note that the Trigeminal nerve is encased by the temporal bone, which can be directly affected by tightened muscles of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). In short, freedom of jaw mobility is hugely important to the horse and undue pressure from nosebands and headstalls should be avoided.
Circulation and facial nerve damage can be done with ill fitting halters, bridles and bits. Be especially cautious of tack that is too tight or causes any rubbing or pinching.
Select equipment for your horse that is appropriate for his unique conformation. Ensure properly sized and fitted halters, bridles, and bits in order to minimize pressure with highly sensitive points while maximizing comfort and supporting harmonious performance.
Check out the links below for fantastic online resources on bit and bridle function, fit and use: