View Full Version : Teeth Grinding, any ideas aside from gumbits?

Sep. 22, 2009, 09:03 PM
ive got a 4y/o oldenburg gelding that tends to grind his teeth in the beg of the rides, once he gets going he stops, but if he is nervouse or the pressure is on he grinds like crazy! My trainer is telling me to use gumbits, but they are very $!!! A friend rec trying to line the bit with honey. He is a healthy, sound, guy, with a proper fit of saddle, bridle ect. So it isnt that he is uncomftorable. Just looking for ideas to cure the gridding before it becomes a habit! many thanks!!

Couture TB
Sep. 22, 2009, 09:08 PM
I had a young horse that would grind his teeth at the begining of the rides due to being tight in his poll and jaw. Started doing stretching with him before the ride : side to side, up, and then from up to level with where he would be for under saddle and staying in that position to flexing more to his neck.

Like I said his was due to soreness and being stiff, which is why he would work out of it.

Sep. 22, 2009, 10:27 PM
If there is no other sign of tension, and this is just eagerness or anticipation, and the horse otherwise looks correct and relaxed, it will not count against you at a competition. But if it is a part of a general pattern of tension, it will affect the score, and it does need to be addressed.

It may be that the horse will stop grinding if the bit position is raised, the noseband tightened, the bit type changed (a 3 piece snaffle sometimes is better than the older style two piece snaffle), if the bit is rubbed with soap, oil, or if something that encourages chewing and relaxing is put in the mouth - diced apples, diced carrots. Bending and suppling can remove it only if the horse does it because he is tight in the jaw and poll.

Canterbury Court
Sep. 22, 2009, 11:07 PM
Have his teeth checked to see if they need floating. Once you are sure his teeth are fine try riding without a nose band. That way he can open and stretch his jaw until he feels comfortable.

Sep. 22, 2009, 11:36 PM
I have what sounds like a similar 4 yo. Started with the KK Ultra Soft, the one with the rubber nugget. He liked that a lot. Now he goes in the KK WH with the roller. Likes that even better. I do agree that he is now much softer in the jaw and poll - he is getting trained up, becoming supple and almost never grinds his teeth anymore. Used to be a nervous thing or when we were working on something new. Haven't heard it for about 4 weeks now and I can position his neck/head/poll about anywhere I want. Good luck. nasty habit, was the only thing I did not like about the horse when I bought him. Thankful I was right in believing it would go away.

Hampton Bay
Sep. 23, 2009, 12:13 AM
No suggestions, but I feel for ya. I have a 3-yo Arab with super-stretchy lips. He can actually suck the bit far enough into his mouth to chew on it with his molars. Drives me insane.

Sep. 23, 2009, 08:24 AM
ive got a 4y/o oldenburg gelding that tends to grind his teeth in the beg of the rides, once he gets going he stops

Well it's good that he stops once he gets going. Sounds like he's a bit of a 'worrier". You are wise to think about not having it become a habit, though. I would not look at the bit as the cause because he works out of it.

I would work on the old faithful training scale with the relaxation,etc as a basis for the other work. Reduce the stress if possible, warm up for relaxation and then continue with the work as usual.:).

Sep. 23, 2009, 09:05 AM
I think it was Conrad S who said that there is good grinding and bad grinding. Some horses grind when they concentrate - so part of the challenge is to determine if this is what your horse does when he thinks hard, or if he is just plain worried. He is 4. How long has he been under saddle? Pretty new to the "game"? Maybe it is just a matter of getting him relaxed with the concept of working.

As already suggested - relaxation is your friend. Do you start with some freewalk, easy walk work just to get his muscles (and mind) warmed up?

mzm farm
Sep. 23, 2009, 09:15 AM
I had two young horses (full brother and sister, incidentally) that would grind teeth when learning new things, or when new riders were up and asking for things in a different way. I took it as a peaceful (vs. rearing, bucking) sign of being pushed and would most often back off a touch and break down the lesson into smaller pieces. Several times, I did ride through it - once I got what I wanted from them, and praised them for it, they stopped and did not start again. They seemed to grow out of it as they got more experienced and confident about being riding horses.

Horses were 3yrs apart in age, and never lived on the farm at the same time. Both were ridden in KK type french link gentle snaffles and were REALLY good minded and easy to train.

That is my experience with teeth grinding, I think a lot of how you choose to deal with it depends on what you determine the root cause to be.

Sep. 23, 2009, 09:19 AM
Teeth grinding in horses is often a sign of ulcers.

Sep. 23, 2009, 11:33 AM
I wonder why horses get ulcers?

Sep. 23, 2009, 02:32 PM
My own idea was to use honey-comb as a cheap alternative to gumbits. (honeycomb = edible wax). However I never actually tried due to how messy/sticky honeycomb is. Maybe you can be brave and try it.

Sep. 23, 2009, 03:01 PM
I have a 3 year old that grinds when he gets nervous. He did it in the cross ties when I was getting him ready, bit not even in his mouth yet. I just give him tons of treats, and I mean tons, carrots, apples, whatever I can get my hands on, and I do it when tacking him up, and even when I ride. I will stop and give him a treat. He doesn't grind at all anymore, and has relaxed a bunch as well, the work and handling is always rewared with a treat. It helped him a bunch, just a simple carrot every minute or so. Now I don't have to give them as often.

Also I don't put his noseband on very tight at all.

Sep. 23, 2009, 03:09 PM
My ottb did (and occasionally still does when anxious) all sorts of things with his mouth. I ignore it and it goes away. It is often a wake up for me to check my position and ride him forward.

Christa P
Sep. 23, 2009, 05:57 PM
Instead of a gumbit, you could try a basic soft rubber bit. They tend to be pretty cheap and this worked for a tooth grinder I have.


Sep. 24, 2009, 03:57 PM
We have a horse that grinds his teeth when he gets mad.

Sep. 24, 2009, 07:19 PM
I have not had a single horse in my barn that would grind their teeth and did not have ulcers, including grinding their teeth in the cross ties with no bit in, like someone else mentioned. I would strongly suggest you look into that. It correlates with new riders, new exercises and harder work because all of these things can add stress to a horse. I am not saying that all horses that grind their teeth have ulcers, but every single one that has come through my barn that does it has had them in some form or another.

Sep. 24, 2009, 07:26 PM
No offense, but tightening a noseband, imho, only increases grinding and/or anxiety. Getting to the root cause of the grinding is the only answer, not muffling the sound.

Sep. 24, 2009, 08:03 PM
[QUOTE=mzm farm;4394572]I had two young horses (full brother and sister, incidentally) that would grind teeth when learning new things, or when new riders were up and asking for things in a different way. I took it as a peaceful (vs. rearing, bucking) sign of being pushed and would most often back off a touch and break down the lesson into smaller pieces.

I have a guy who used to do the same thing. And he only ever did it if I was asking him to work on tougher stuff. But, he would only grind his teeth when he was actually doing the movement correctly and then would quit after a bit. I just took it as him saying "I dont like it, but Ill do it".

Sep. 24, 2009, 08:43 PM
My now seventeen yr old OTTB went though stages of that. It always was when he was working through something new and usually doing it very well, like working through his back and moving to a higher level of consistency/throughness and collection. I tried to stop as soon as he would stop for a moment. My instructor thought it was his emotional way of dealing with the mental pressure of the more concentrated physical work. He still does this on a rare occasion.

I (we) did not take this as a thoughtful "I'll do it but I won't like it" activity. Just kind of like how we people might twist our own tongues when we are trying to unscrew a tight cap or something? I also had another advanced level rider teach me and she thought the same thing.

Sep. 24, 2009, 11:03 PM
Perhaps nervous anticipation gives him a bit of acidosis. There is usually a reason if you can find it.

Sep. 24, 2009, 11:25 PM
If there is no other sign of tension, and this is just eagerness or anticipation, and the horse otherwise looks correct and relaxed, it will not count against you at a competition.. . .

According to USEF DR23.7.d, yes, it can count against you -- for every movement in which it occurs -- as well as the Collective Marks.


Sep. 25, 2009, 05:17 AM
Yes, most of the time, it is going to be an issue for the judge, and going to affect the scorebut if it's simply a habit, and not a part of an overall picture of tension, it is mentioned in the comments but doesn't affect the score. This is not new. I had a teeth grinder for years and scored very well on him. He ground his teeth when he came to the barn, that was just his habit. In the wash rack, if he saw you coming with a treat, he ALSO ground his teeth.

Under saddle, his ears flopped, his tail swished loosely from side to side, his neck was relaxed, his jaw was relaxed, working slowly and calmly, he was very supple, his gait flowed along beautifully and he got very good marks on gaits, general impressions, etc - the teeth grinding in that case was considered as a simple habit, and not a sign of tension.

Our judges aren't dumb, and can't usually be fooled. If it is coming from tension, incorrect riding or bad training, they will know the difference.

If the teeth grinding involves muscle tension in the jaw and poll and throat and neck, if those ears are back, if those eyes look pissed off, if the work is tight and the gaits are jerky and tense, if it is just another part of a faulty performance, oh yes, it is going to be a very big effect on the score, and is simply one more sign of a whole lot of very obvious tension.

Same with the swishing tail. If it simply is a habit, it figures very little into the score. But if that tail is just another part of a tense, disobedient, resistant picture, it's going to be just another part of a score for a tense, disobedient, resistant picture. Gaugin de Luly would positively circle his tail when he did tempe changes, while his ears flopped and his jaw slowly chewed the bit, and his back was swinging beautifully. In that sort of case, it is judged differently.

Mary in Area 1
Sep. 25, 2009, 10:48 AM
I agree with EventRider. In my experience, it has been an early sign of ulcers.

Sep. 28, 2009, 12:00 PM
Just sayin'----it isn't ALWAYS ulcers.
I have a horse that has ground his teeth since age 3, usually in anticipation of work (like in the cross ties) or during work if he's concentrating or stressed about it. I treated him for ulcers, and even had him scoped afterward to confirm that they were healed, and it made no difference whatsoever to the teeth grinding.
He's a stallion and always thinking of some way to outsmart me, which may have something to do with it. I'm planning on gelding him soon, in the hopes of a better work ethic on his part. Will be interesting to see if it affects the grinding.

Sep. 28, 2009, 08:49 PM
He might have less driven behavior once he's gelded.

I thought the horse I had who did it, just was a very mouthy, busy horse. But if it were a part of obvious tension and discomfort, that would be a completely different picture - especially if it started in an animal that never did it before. Then I'd be really worried.

As far as ulcers, I think the best thing is to not guess at all, but to just have the horse scoped if one has any concerns.

Sep. 29, 2009, 01:53 AM
Mine ground his teeth like crazy when I first got him. He was 9 years old, newly gelded, and not adjusting well to his new home.

It took me a long time to try riding him on a loose rein in a rope halter, but when I did, the tooth grinding disappeared. I still ride him in a rope halter, but he can take contact (even collection) without resorting to tooth grinding.

I know this isn't an option for everyone; but I'm glad I could do it for my horse.

Oct. 10, 2009, 10:11 PM
I am surprised that only one person mentioned the most likely cause of your four year old grinding his teeth and that's his teeth. If you are not using an equine dentist at least once a year for a thorough exam, floating and correction of any malocclusions, then your horse most likely needs a thorough dental workup. At his age, he easily could have wolf teeth that need to be extracted (which interfere with the proper placement of the bit), a "cap" that never came off properly or sharp points on his molars that can cause ulcers inside his cheeks, etc., etc. Keep in mind that most large animal veterinarians don't have the proper equipment, training or interest to practice good dentistry. Starting him off right with a reputable equine dentist and regular check ups will provide you piece of mind that his mouth is in excellent health.
Also, I am assuming that you are warming him up properly and not trying too quickly to put him "on the bit" and/or that you are not tense at the beginning of your ride and therefore not riding with a following hand, which could cause tension in him.
Before making any radical changes in equipment, please have a complete dental exam and necessary treatment.

Oct. 11, 2009, 04:27 AM
The assumption being that dental issues are always the root of teeth grinding, and suggests that any time a horse grinds its teeth it has a dental problem.

Actually I find it usually is a result of training and personality, even though dental problems do need attention and horses need regular dental care.

I think that there are many types of teeth grinding. Agree with the quote from Schumacher earlier.

First there is just the busy, eager horse. Some horses are quite smart and they anticipate things. It doesn't always mean they are tense, so much as eager or just having a very quick mind.

In some horses it is a sign of a lack of submission, and that's where the judge comes in and the score goes down.

No, not fearful cowering obedience submission, but classical dressage type submission, accepting the aids without blocking them with muscle tension type resistance. Why do horses lack submission. A difficult personality that resists the rider whatever he does, a lack of consistent, correct training, poor natural balance. In them it is frequent, and often increases before a movement they anticipate that requires more submission. One sees a pattern of lack of submission that the grinding is just one part of - ears back, jaw muscles and neck muscles tighten, the horse slows down, the forward energy decreases, the horse tightens its back and hind quarters. The rider may not even be able to get the horse to go as forward as he should.

I don't believe it is always a sign that the rider has bad hands. It may be, but more often, I think it indicates a problem with submission. Those problems aren't simple - balance, suppleness and even conformation can be a part of it, and often, the more passive the rider tries to be the worse it gets.

Oct. 11, 2009, 09:46 AM
many years ago, before ulcers were so often diagnosed, i owned a 6 y.o. ish who also would grind his teeth at the beginning of the ride. the "trainer' would crank up the nose band in an effort to make him stop but it was futile. i had read an article about ulcers in ph but was dismissed by the pro.
sure enough, he was diagnosed with ulcers but it took a colic to get them resolved. i would now scope a horse when i hear teeth grinding. it might lead to nothing but at least i would know.

Oct. 13, 2009, 12:01 AM
My Tb mare used to grind her teeth on her bits. When I went to the Happy Mouth Mullen mouth , the grinding really lessened. I think it was the joint in the bit that was irritating her. I have been riding her for several years in a hackamore for the most part and no more grinding.

Oct. 13, 2009, 09:06 PM
I gave 2 cups of rice bran with a cup of aloe to a HORRIBLE grinder and it reduced the grinding significantly.
Now he doesn't do it at all, but in the interim he's been treated for EPM and given gastroguard at the same time because the EPM treatment made him colic-y.