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Heinz 57
Mar. 10, 2010, 01:22 PM
My young mare will be 5 in April, and has about a year under saddle.

Recently (within the last 2-3 months) she has begun to open/gape her mouth intermittently during work. It can be when she's feeling heavy and resistant, but also occurs when she's been working quietly on the bit. It causes her to be very inconsistent.

Previously, she's been quiet and steady in the contact, no gaping or other avoidances. She just had her teeth done last week, she's been adjusted by the chiro and does not appear to be sore or off anywhere. We haven't changed saddles or bits, and other than being a little more tense/anxious than she used to be, she's pretty much the same horse.

It almost seems like she has some anxiety about having contact with the bit. She can hack on the buckle quietly with no gaping or chomping, but we're obviously not doing correct work when she's poking around on the forehand like a pleasure horse. I'm hesitant to just 'strap it shut' with a flash or figure eight; when I've had her in a flash before she becomes even more resistant to contact and sucks behind the leg while trying to poke her nose in the air.

For reference, as I said she'll be 5 in April and she's pretty solid as far as Training level work, and we're in the process of fine tuning her leg yields and other lateral work/lengthenings. I'd like to figure out the source/cause of the gaping and eliminate it so we can move forward correctly.

merrygoround
Mar. 10, 2010, 02:16 PM
I would not worry at this point. You say you are fine tuning her leg yields/lateral work. for some horses unless they have been playing with moving away from the drawn back leg since early days under saddle, this is a big step.

Be sure that you aren't asking for too much correctness too soon.

o0hawaiigirl0o
Mar. 10, 2010, 04:25 PM
I just went through this with my older (now 17 year old) mare. My instructor started noticing the gaping during our lessons. After I ruled out pain and any health issues, I figured out that it was a combination of me getting too handsy and my mare simply being resistant to working correctly.
I use a flash noseband for most rides and I found that the tightness of it affects how well my mare goes in it. She tends to be heavy in my hands when it is too loose, but goes normally when it is snug. It took me over a week of playing with different adjustments to find out what worked and what didn't. She used to have a figure eight noseband before I bought her and she absolutely hated that.

So yeah, just my own personal experience.

goeslikestink
Mar. 10, 2010, 06:16 PM
go here http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=223453

also go here http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=178116
and read page 1 and all links on page one

NOMIOMI1
Mar. 11, 2010, 12:06 AM
I stopped having this problem with my very sensative horse when I retrained the half halt with my seat only.

It took a long time of me just sitting back and waiting but it was worth it because the more sensative horse will also lift so nice when their mouth is happy in connection :)

naturalequus
Mar. 12, 2010, 02:03 PM
My Thoroughbred ran in a figure-8 on the track. When I bought him, his mouth continued to gape under-saddle as well (I did not use a flash/drop/etc) in a simple D-ring bit, even with no rein/mouth contact. I changed bits and initially put him in a simple D-ring snaffle with a shaped/sweet-iron mouthpiece and low port. The port is low enough (usually under 2'' will not interfere with the pallet) to not interfere with the pallet at all, however it provides a little tongue relief. Same as humans, horses carry their tongues against the top of their hard pallet, so a bit restricts their ability to lift their tongue and slide saliva to the back of their throat, particularly with their head at the vertical or behind. Some horses do not seem to mind however I have found some to start gaping their mouths when they cannot lift their tongues. With a little tongue relief, they can lift their tongues enough and, as in my gelding's case, they's snap their mouths shut. Only problem is it (a port) is not legal in the ring :S Just something else to maybe try/consider :)

ETA: a double-jointed mouthpiece might also offer more tongue relief (???) for competition. Technically it places more pressure on the tongue, however I would think the horse would be able to move it more easily to lift their tongue and swallow, so it might make a horse happier.

howardh
Mar. 13, 2010, 11:36 AM
Agree on the port. Horses outgrow snaffles and opening their mouth is one way to escape the pressure of a bit.

If you insist on using a legal bit, a french link will give your horse some relief. It is still a tongue pressure bit, but the link spreads pressure out over a wider area v.s. a single jointed snaffle.

Many people I know train in ports and slip in a snaffle for tests. Horses learn when they are relaxed. If a simple change in the way your bit is shaped relaxes your horse than I would do it.

99 % of your time is training, not showing. It is hard to accomplish much if all your horse can think of is fighting the bit.

Of course you need to be strong enough to not listen to what everyone else tells you to do, listen to your horse. ;)

Perfect Pony
Mar. 13, 2010, 11:49 AM
Has she had her teeth done recently? At this age they should be seen by a dentist every 6 months. If her teeth aren't balanced she may need to open her mouth to do what you are asking. It could be causing pain in her jaw or poll. With mouth issues I would start with the mouth then go from there.

Edited to add that a GOOD dentist can also help with bit fitting...

mickeydoodle
Mar. 14, 2010, 12:34 AM
put a flash, or drop, or figure 8 noseband on her, adjust it properly (snug) and continue riding

howardh
Mar. 14, 2010, 07:59 AM
I disagree on flash nosebands. Strapping a mouth shut is never an acceptable solution, at least not in my opinion. The horse is opening its mouth to evade the bit for a reason. Either the rider has to change or the bit has to change.

Forcing the mouth shut with a flash or crank will make the horse start to evade in other ways.

An extremely common evasion that you cannot see easily is for the horse to suck its tongue back up into its throat. When the horse does this, it takes the pressure off the tongue, but it then restricts its own air flow. So, when the horse starts working harder, needs to breathe more, its air flow is restricted and it can panic, and act out in many ways.

Perfect Pony
Mar. 14, 2010, 01:01 PM
I agree with howardh. The OP states the teeth were just done last week, I would want to know who did them and what they found. Was the mouth bad? Did they find anything strange, do a lot of work? Did you ave the horse's mouth evaluated for bit fit? Did you give the horse a few days rest and maybe some anti-inflammatories after the dental work?

The horse is telling you something, especially if it just started a couple months ago.

naturalequus
Mar. 14, 2010, 03:06 PM
I disagree on flash nosebands. Strapping a mouth shut is never an acceptable solution, at least not in my opinion. The horse is opening its mouth to evade the bit for a reason. Either the rider has to change or the bit has to change.

Forcing the mouth shut with a flash or crank will make the horse start to evade in other ways.

An extremely common evasion that you cannot see easily is for the horse to suck its tongue back up into its throat. When the horse does this, it takes the pressure off the tongue, but it then restricts its own air flow. So, when the horse starts working harder, needs to breathe more, its air flow is restricted and it can panic, and act out in many ways.

This.

The Thoroughbred I mentioned above would suck his tongue back as an evasion and as a result had to wear a tongue-tie (piece of material that ties their tongues down to lie flat on the bottom of their mouth) on the track when he raced or worked (timed gallop) so that he would be able to breathe and thus run.

I personally do not find 'specialized' (as I call them, for lack of a better word - drop, figure-8, crank, etc) nosebands acceptable solutions either. Solve the root of the issue (which the OP seems intent on anyways, so kudos to them!).

Valentina_32926
Mar. 15, 2010, 01:18 PM
My mare hated the flash so I switched to a crank. :eek: (She also hated a very thin headstall as being thin it creates more pressure points.) :winkgrin:

Sometimes (rarely any more) I have to ride with it tight, mostly I ride on a medium setting. I have now added a flash without her protesting. We rarely need either very tight any more.

If she just got her teeth done (assuming they were done correctly) she might have experienced problems before getting them done and the mare may still remember and be reacting to that remembered discomfort. If not it just may be that time in her training where you need to tighten up a bit on the crank.

Just remember to not always have the crank / flash on the tightest setting - start with it looser and if she's not listening then tighten as needed. :yes:

alibi_18
Mar. 15, 2010, 01:36 PM
This at first

Valentina: If she just got her teeth done (assuming they were done correctly) she might have experienced problems before getting them done and the mare may still remember and be reacting to that remembered discomfort.


from Heinz 57 : when I've had her in a flash before she becomes even more resistant to contact and sucks behind the leg while trying to poke her nose in the air.


If she was previously sore from her mouth...strapping it shut might have hurt even more...and come back to first quote.


Shutting a horse mouth with a flash, figure eight or crank is not a good solution for a horse that never had problem with its bit before.

Sometimes horses get a bit nervous/anxious as the work goes on and up the levels but still, after a while the horse should come back to his 'normal' state when he gets the exercices correctly.
If a horse would have had a mouth problem from the beginning, and all the other options had been tried, then maybe adding a flash could be considered. But not at first resort, not on a one year training 5yrs old that just had teeth problem. My opinion.

Heinz 57
Mar. 15, 2010, 01:40 PM
I agree with howardh. The OP states the teeth were just done last week, I would want to know who did them and what they found. Was the mouth bad? Did they find anything strange, do a lot of work? Did you ave the horse's mouth evaluated for bit fit? Did you give the horse a few days rest and maybe some anti-inflammatories after the dental work?

The horse is telling you something, especially if it just started a couple months ago.

The teeth were done by Dr. Solomon up at Portland Meadows; I was present and felt/saw for myself what was found before the work was done. She had some slightly sharper edges on the outsides of the upper molars, but nothing severe. No hooks, no waves, just the beginnings of some points on the outer edge. It was a fairly routine float using power tools, and YES she was given more than a few days off and was made comfortable for the duration.

I appreciate everyone's thoughts. I'd prefer to stick with something legal, yes, and as I said I'm not interested in just strapping her mouth shut to "solve" the problem. After our show this weekend, I have a theory about this issue but I think another separate thread is in order. We had a lot of success this weekend and I think I have some difficult choices to make. I scribed for one of the judges Saturday and then rode for her Sunday, and she gave me some very thought-provoking suggestions regarding this very issue and bit choices.

naturalequus
Mar. 16, 2010, 02:04 AM
Please definitely share any wisdom or insight you have learnt so we can all learn, when you get the chance. I for one am definitely interested to find out more (if you're willing to share of course) - you never know when further knowledge/ideas might come in handy in the future :)

Zydeco Sport Horses
Mar. 16, 2010, 07:26 AM
Heintz, please do share if you are willing. I too have been following this thread with interest.

Thanks!

Heinz 57
Mar. 16, 2010, 12:58 PM
I don't have the tests in front of me right now, but one of the comments that provoked a lot of thought for me on the way home was regarding being careful not to overload the hindquarters at this early stage in her training, before she has developed the strength to really carry herself. There were also comments about helping her balance and push evenly from behind so she can come evenly into both reins.

I also ran into her as I was picking up my test at the coffee stand, and she reiterated her comment on my second test that she felt the mare would benefit from a thicker, german-silver type mouthpiece. Yes, one of those expensive KK types... which does not surprise me. My last greenie loved his, but up until a few months ago this mare had always been happy with what I had her in, so I never felt like it was necessary to go buy her one.

My other thoughts are regarding her living situation. The gaping, chomping issue is how she manifests her anxiety. I've bumped her up to about 18 hours of turnout hoping that will help her until I can figure out what is making her so anxious. We had a nice ride last night, lots of stretchy trot work and changing of bend. My Thinline pad came in the mail so we had to try it out. :)

ETA: Just wanted to add that we had some mild success this weekend - a 1st, two 2nds, and a 3rd with the highlight being a 69%. This was her first time showing at Training.

naturalequus
Mar. 16, 2010, 04:11 PM
I have been wondering about the KK types as well and wanting to try them, I am going to keep them in mind for my own horses. Thanks for the insight and congrats on the success :)

17Rider
Mar. 16, 2010, 07:14 PM
Well, it could be just me. I usually find contact issues related to saddle fit.
Right around 4 mos of great work, a year or so in... the saddle isn't right anymore.

In fact, custom-ordered saddle arrived a week ago, and what happens? Guy won't take contact and puts his tongue over the bit. No problem with the bridle the week before, and used the old saddle again, no problem. Its not always their mouth, or your hands.

arabtrainer
Mar. 16, 2010, 09:32 PM
I don't know how it works, but mouth -gaping is very often a sign of foot-soreness. It may be worth your while to look into that.

naturalequus
Mar. 16, 2010, 10:41 PM
Woah! How'd you come by that, arabtrainer? I don't mean it in an offensive way, just in a 'please-share-your-experiences-in-the-interests-of-learning' way :D I have never heard that before and am interested in possibly learning something new. What are your experiences?

Reddfox
Mar. 16, 2010, 10:58 PM
Yes, do tell!!! My horse tends to gape and she has thin, flat soles. It seems to be better when she's shod (I let her feet take a break in the winter...) Or, I could just be imagining that now that the suggestion has been planted:D

Nojacketrequired
Mar. 17, 2010, 08:13 PM
Some horses are contrary to everything tht is SUPPOSED to work!
My mare was shown to me in a single jointed kimberwick when I bought her, because she "Likes to balance off the curb chain!" :eek:I then put her into a snaffle and she hated it. I discovered she had a low palate so put her in a French Link and she went OK,but often opened her mouth. I then tried her in a Happy Mouth with the straight, wavy mouth and she seems to really settle into it!
She foams nicely and doesnt chomp on it, just chews.

See if you can borrow bits...sometimes tack shops will let you do that on a program they set up with the bit makers.

NJR