At first glance, it’s easy to spot that Southerly Roberts’ mare Fizz IV isn’t wearing a noseband. Unusual, yes, but not unprecedented.
But look again. Notice anything else missing? Yes, that’s right — she’s not wearing a browband either.
When we realised the 12-year-old mare, who won the novice class at the British Eventing Baileys Jumping and Style finals last Saturday (17 February), competes wearing essentially only half a bridle, we had to know more…
“Fizz was bred by Keith Doyle and his son Peter and they sent her away to be broken as a youngster,” says Southerly. “Two weeks later, she was dropped back at the Doyles, who were told they would never get a bridle on her again.
“You couldn’t touch her ears and she was an emotional wreck. She spent two years turned out in the field — she was basically feral and wore a lunge line, so you could catch one end and work your way towards her.”
At the time Southerly was helping Peter’s wife Sally with her racehorses and eventually she started backing Fizz again.
“Anything new she was fine with, but anything which she’d experienced when she was sent away she had a strong memory of and the bridle was one of those things,” says Southerly, who ended up buying the Carnaval Pleasure mare, who she has now had five years.
“She’s still petrified of anything going near her ears and head — everything has go to round her neck and be slid up the neck. You have to use a noseband for dressage and I can get a noseband on her, but she never wears a browband. She’s 17.2hh so by the time she puts her head in the air she’s huge and as she doesn’t need a strong noseband, most of the time she goes without one. It’s easier and saves cleaning tack!”
Fizz wears an eggbutt snaffle with a sweet iron mouthpiece and Southerly says she has to ensure the bit is slightly high in her mouth so that the headpiece doesn’t flap about, but otherwise the bridle is completely normal to ride in. The pair have won up to novice level in affiliated eventing, as well as competing in working hunters and unaffiliated dressage.
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“People look at her and think she looks a bit different, then look closely and realise there’s nothing there at all,” says Southerly.
Full report from the JAS Final in H&H this Thursday (issue dated 22 February).