By Sid Fernando, eMatings Pedigree Consultant
Okay, you’re in the paddock looking at the runners before the race. You’ve done your major handicapping, and you want to get a look at your horse or horses. At first glance, they are all majestic animals, quick-twitch athletes, fine-tuned to race as fast as they can, and they all take your breath away and look the same.
Concentrate. You may not notice the different pieces of equipment each runner carries, but try to look hard at each horse, and you will soon note differences, from bandages to bridles.
Now concentrate on their heads, and you’ll start to see differences in “head gear.” Now, narrow your concentration to the nose and mouth areas. This is a primer on “breathing” apparatus, an important but little-known area of equipment that can be the difference in the outcome of a race for those equipped with some or all of these elements, described in depth below. With all other things being equal in your handicapping, use this information to tilt the scale to the runners that are equipped with “breathing” equipment. I prefer to see horses with one, two, or all three of these pieces of equipment.
Trainers will tie the tongue to the lower jaw, and it’s easily visible. Note the “tie” under the chin; sometimes you’ll see the tongue hanging to the side. This is done to keep the tongue from interfering with the bit – from getting over it, which will affect breathing.
See an image of a tongue-tie
The Figure-8 noseband:
Note the noseband criss-crossing over the nose, then holding the mouth shut. By keeping the mouth closed, it forces the horse to breathe correctly – through the nostrils.
See an image of a figure-8 noseband
The Nasal Flair:
The equine version of the “Breathe Right” strip; it expands the nostrils, allowing for better air flow. You’ll notice it as a “gray” flared piece of tape on the nose area. (editor’s note: 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another wore a nasal flair).
See an image of a nasal flair
TVG video on Nasal Flairs