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View Full Version : Odd mouth behavior: insight needed!



2DaPoint
Jul. 3, 2009, 08:41 AM
Hi Guys,
I need some help and insight from all you experienced folks.
I am working with a horse right now who does some strange stuff with his mouth.

The bit he was in when I started working with him is a Dee ring snaffle, copper mouthpiece, with a flattened "bean' as the center link.

This is a big horse, 16.2 at least, who was started elsewhere and then was purchased by the gal who currently owns him. He had some stifle issues and they decided to do the surgery to strengthen the ligaments there. (Actually cutting into the ligament in several places to create scar tissue which helps "tighten" the ligament so it doesn't slide off the patella...) He's been hanging out in pasture for a good 3 months and I am bringing him back to fitness. He's a quiet guy most of the time.....

OK, so what he does with his mouth is this: He sucks his tongue up behind the bit and "chews" on it constantly. Not the good "Lick-and-chew" like you want to see, but more of a worried, blocking, not real contact kind of chew.

The biggest problem is that I have no Half-Halt, and I really really need it on this big guy!
I'm not expecting him to travel in a "made" frame right now, for heaven's sake, but I do need to balance him so we can, oh, I don't know......STEER?

I thought it was the bit, like maybe he needed more room for his tongue. Something with a slight port, maybe.... But I went ahead and tried a plain old regular single broken snaffle first. That time he got his tongue OVER the bit and was wagging it around outside his mouth like some sort of alien creature. Bizarre looking, and not a good feeling in my hand either.

So I tried a couple of other bits, (ported, one with full movement and rotation, and one more solid with the "slots" for reins and headstall), but he just seems so outrageously tense about not being able to hang on my hands and use me for balace.
I always longe him in the new bit each time, with side reins to simulate hand contact, and he's just not responding in a positive way.

The owner says she has never seen him do this before.
She also assures me that he has had his teeth floated recently (May) by a reputable Equine Dentist.

Do I just slap a flash noseband on this guy and tie his mouth shut so he can't open it enough to get his tongue back there and chew on it?
Do I lower the bit more? Do I raise it?
Should I try a Gag? (My next thought, because then the mouthpiece will be plain and gentle....)
Do I just go back to the original and let him tank around on my hands? (Mind you I'm riding four other horses a day here.... in the Texas heat..... with no covered arena.....)
Hayulp!!
KD

twofatponies
Jul. 3, 2009, 12:34 PM
If he's "never done it before" then he's definitely expressing some kind of tension or discomfort. Don't tie his mouth shut - the mouth part is just a symptom of something else.

Do the usual round of chiropracter, a round of massage, saddle fit, etc. etc. checking to see if there's anything going on in his back end, back, shoulders, etc.

I bet it's got almost nothing to do with the head/bit/mouth - it's his way of telling you something else isn't right.

If he'd been doing it for years and years, I'd say it might be just habit, like nail-biting. But if it's something relatively new, I'd look at the rest of him and see if there's something he's trying to tell you.

ETA: I say this because I have a mare who will chomp and grind her teeth any time we introduce a new exercise - it's sort of her way of saying "this is hard, this is weird, I don't get it". But after we've practiced for a few days, when she gets the hang of it, her mouth is soft and relaxed again. For her it's a way of communicating mental tension or physical difficulty.

2DaPoint
Jul. 4, 2009, 01:16 AM
I tried a Dr. Bristol today, (Because it was already hanging on a convenient bridle), and it seemed to be a good compromise.
The owner was actually there today to see me ride!
I pointed out all the odd times that he did things, and she could see everything.
She really thinks it's just that the last few times he had been ridden before the surgery, he was in a great deal of discomfort, and he's always worried about that.
Mebbee.
Anyway, today's ride was one of the best I've had on him, so maybe things will just work themselves out.
He still had his mouth open most of the time and was "chewing". I was able to float the reins at him more, and the half-halt seemed to mean something.
It's still weird.
Thanks for your input.
KD

broughton_sporthorses
Jul. 4, 2009, 06:30 AM
If you think he needs more "room" in his mouth, have a think about this bit-

http://www.calevo.com/cgi-bin/calevo/process/locale/en_US/page/1130515.html?id=P7dfiAIB&mv_pc=303

yellowbritches
Jul. 4, 2009, 09:56 AM
Please don't tie his mouth shut. While I am not anti flashes or figure eights, I am learning from my very busy mouthed horse that closing it up does nothing beneficial (though, he doesn't seem to care...it just doesn't make it any better or worse). I agree with the thought that he is communicating some kind of discomfort or anxiety. It may be worth having him gone over thoroughly, head to toe (including checking his teeth again).

But it could also just be his protest to being taught to use himself and not rely on you to tote him around. You may just have to live with it until he gets strong enough to understand he CAN listen and balance himself. As he gets stronger and fitter, he'll be happier to do his fair share of the work and be less likely to resist.

Also, just because he is strong, don't be afraid to try some softer type of bits. Going back to my busy guy, who sticks his tongue out when things are hard or stressful, chomps gleefully on his bits when he's not being asked to do anything, and flaps his lips when he's happy and relaxed (while working...very funny in the middle of a dressage test), he is actually his happiest in soft, rubber or plastic bits, although he can be quite strong. His ultimate favorite is plastic straight bars, as in Nathes, Herm Sprenger Duos, or Happy Mouths. He is responsive in them and argues less (I think partly because he doesn't feel like he's being over powered), sticks his tongue out less, and chews and foams nicely (and flaps his lips, since he's happy and relaxed). He can also do single jointed plastic-y things, but his favorites are the straight ones. I think horses who worry with their mouths are often far less intimidated, for lack of a better word, by the softer feel of these types of bits. Might be worth a shot with this guy. The added benefit with these bits is there are lots of "big" options in them if you need more of something as he gets more broke. While my guy spends the majority of his time in a snaffle of some sort, he jumps in a Nathe "wonderbit" and has also used a straight bar Happy Mouth three ring bit...and has been happy with them.

Liz
Jul. 4, 2009, 10:17 AM
Horses can break teeth. Just because he had his teeth done in May does not mean there is nothing going on in his mouth. If the problem persists I would consider having a vet take a look.

2DaPoint
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:12 AM
If you think he needs more "room" in his mouth, have a think about this bit-

http://www.calevo.com/cgi-bin/calevo/process/locale/en_US/page/1130515.html?id=P7dfiAIB&mv_pc=303

Ooooooo....... me likey!
If you could see my current bit collection, you wouldn't dangle interesting things like this in front of me!
Seriously though, looks like a good one.
KD

2DaPoint
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:12 AM
Horses can break teeth. Just because he had his teeth done in May does not mean there is nothing going on in his mouth. If the problem persists I would consider having a vet take a look.

Agreed..... now, could you tell the owner this for me, please??
KD

centeur
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:17 AM
this month that raises and discusses the particulars for salivation and such. It's worth a read. It certainly made me think twice about the copper mouth piece and all the gimmicks out there regarding salivation. You should try to get a hold of a copy, it may help you think through this. Good luck.

2DaPoint
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:20 AM
Yellowbritches..... Really? The straight-mouth Nathe? (Happy Mouth similar..?..)
Would make me think he could really get his tongue behind that one.... Have one I can borrow to try out.

I have a Happy Mouth 3-part "wonder bit"..... have thought about using it, too. I'm just worried that it might be too much "action" for this basically green horse.

I do NOT want to put a flash on him. Mostly because you can't use it in the Hunter ring, which is where this horse is destined, if only at first. Also because I have recently noticed with other horses that although they may listen better, the contact most certainly does not become softer.

Yep, gonna muddle through and try to get him strong and happy, and then worry about TRAINING on him.

thanks to all for your insight
KD

yellowbritches
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:43 AM
Yellowbritches..... Really? The straight-mouth Nathe? (Happy Mouth similar..?..)
Would make me think he could really get his tongue behind that one.... Have one I can borrow to try out.

I have a Happy Mouth 3-part "wonder bit"..... have thought about using it, too. I'm just worried that it might be too much "action" for this basically green horse.

I do NOT want to put a flash on him. Mostly because you can't use it in the Hunter ring, which is where this horse is destined, if only at first. Also because I have recently noticed with other horses that although they may listen better, the contact most certainly does not become softer.

Yep, gonna muddle through and try to get him strong and happy, and then worry about TRAINING on him.

thanks to all for your insight
KD
It is just a thought. Horses are so so so individual about their mouths (and rightfully so), I don't think there IS a good fix all to any bitting issue. What has worked on one horse often had zero good effect on another. Some people tend to think double jointed bits are the kindest things ever, but I've ridden a few horses who would sooner you string barbed wire through their mouth than ride them in a french link. Something like a Nathe may work on this guy because IF he curls his tongue up because he feels defensive about his mouth, he may not like either the action or feel of a jointed bit (of any kind) or may not like the feel of metal. A Nathe (or similar type of bit), would give him something soft, flexible with very little action to disturb him. It MIGHT be perfect...or you might get run away with or it might do nothing. ;)

I personally would not go to any kind of bit with leverage or elevation for a green horse getting fit and broke. My horse, while young, is relatively educated (working on 2nd level dressage type stuff), and I feel his brain is capable of handling the added pressure his wonderbit comes with. Last year, when he was far greener and a lot less strong (physically, he'd still cart off with me as a baby when he felt like it), I wouldn't have dreamed of riding him in anything like that. I don't school him on the flat in it and often save it for only jumping at shows. Stick with simple snaffle type bits, preferably no twists or Waterfords. I think this guy just needs time and education and maybe a little accomodation for a sensitive mouth.

cute_lil_fancy_pants_pony
Jul. 4, 2009, 11:47 AM
Does he do it when he is longed in a plain loose ring snaffle with side reins?

sweetpea
Jul. 4, 2009, 12:04 PM
I say that because the whole stifle thing is such a pain--
When we ride we tey to connect hind to mouth and well --- he sounds to me like the connection is going to take sometime . I could be wrong but you said you had an Equine Dentist??? I assume certified??? Then they probaly would have noticed any goofy stuff in the mouth.

At this time my boy is sore in the stifle--- I just got back from chiro/acc and the vet that does this helped me understand that it really affects the whole ride when they are sore there. Just a thought.

Words of Wisdom
Jul. 4, 2009, 10:12 PM
I have a horse who does the same thing when he does not want to work. He'll do it one day, and then not do it the next, and I am almost positive that it is not pain-related. That said, this horse does also have an absolutely terrible mouth, and is ridden in a gag with a quarter-moon in the middle (like this: http://www.eqtack.com/catalog/product_info.php?pName=5-stainless-steel-quarter-moon-gag&cName=english-bits-gag-bits&osCsid=996078b04ace2cf30bc6ccc564e6196d but mine is all stainless, no copper). When he does start sucking back and chomping at the bit like that, I try to push him forward into my hands, and usually he'll stop-- it's more of a disobedience thing than anything else with this horse, and he's always done funny things with his mouth.

shalomypony
Jul. 4, 2009, 10:18 PM
I'd try a leather bit,about two inches wide.

2DaPoint
Jul. 5, 2009, 12:03 AM
Does he do it when he is longed in a plain loose ring snaffle with side reins?

Yes.
Well, it was a Dee, but it was a plain simple mouthpiece, and I did use side reins before I rode that time. This was when his alien tongue came wagging out when I was aboard.
Special, that.

KD

broughton_sporthorses
Jul. 5, 2009, 02:59 AM
Ooooooo....... me likey!
If you could see my current bit collection, you wouldn't dangle interesting things like this in front of me!
Seriously though, looks like a good one.
KD

Hehe yes I know what you mean, I am a bit collector too! Good luck with it all.

Romany
Jul. 5, 2009, 10:42 AM
Have you tried a Worcester noseband? It's a useful gadget for lifting the bit higher in the horse's mouth if the horse is inclined to get his tongue over the bit.

A drop noseband might work, too.