Carl Hester has been competing his Shearwater National Four-Year-Old Dressage champion, Valegro, in a nose net. So what is it for?

What is it?

THE Equilibrium Net Relief Muzzle Net is the first dressage-legal nose net on the market, because it is so unobtrusive.

When horses wear the net, the judge can still see the rider’s contact and see the action of the bit, whereas other nets don’t allow the judge to see if the horse is resisting. The small mesh covers the nostrils and upper muzzle and stops insects from landing on this sensitive area and causing the horse to shake its head.

Why does Carl use the net?

“VALEGRO is very sensitive with flies — they make him headshake,” explains Carl. “The nets are a simple, cheap way of combating a problem. The other options are really extreme — I’ve even heard people talk about brain surgery — and I just don’t want to take them.”

Valegro has had huge success in competition with the net on, but Carl does sometimes ride without it at home.

“It’s a good option for prevention, and I hope that the more he wears the net the more chance there is he’ll get over the problem,” he adds.

Who else uses it?

EVENTER Oliver Townend uses a net at one-day events on his advanced horse Topping (but not at international three-day events because they are disallowed under FEI rules for international competitions). Topping is a headshaker.

Endurance rider Liz Benwell trains and competes with one to help prevent headshaking due to insects, which would be a drain on stamina.

“The Equilibrium Net Relief Muzzle Net makes the difference between being able to ride in the summer and not being able to ride at all,” says Liz.

How do you use it?

THE net attaches to the horse’s noseband with small Velcro straps. The contoured mesh fits closely over the upper muzzle, not restricting the bit nor the horse’s breathing.

Where can I buy one?

THE Equilibrium Net Relief Muzzle Net comes in various sizes from pony up to extra-large horse. It is available in black, white and brown and costs around £25.95. Contact Equilibrium (tel: 08700 500 760) www.equilibriumproducts.com

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (24 August, ’06)