View Full Version : OTTB who sticks his tongue out

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:06 PM
I just recently bought an OTTB, and whenever he has the bit in his mouth he always sticks his tongue out to the right. Any thoughts of how to break this habit? I'm training him for eventing, and judges aren't fond of tongues during the test.

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:18 PM
Have you had his teeth checked? I would do that first to rule out any dental issues.

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:27 PM
My last OTTB was BAD about this. He was like michael jordan - tongue always out to the side. Like flopping around.

Good call about checking teeth first. The next thing I would do is make sure the bit is comfortable in his mouth. Is he mouthing the bit, or does he just like to stick his tongue out? Mine just always held his like that.

From what I understand, the mechanics of the bit vs the tongue vs the palate and breathing with the bit in the mouth at high speeds cause a lot of horses to do this. When I found this out, I didn't want to strap his mouth shut with a flash, especially because I tried it once and that seemed to make him more anxious.

Make sure your bit is not too big - my guy had a large tongue and there wasn't a lot of room in the mouth for a bit as well. The other thing that really worked for him was picking a bit with NO tongue action (we used a myler low-port snaffle that didn't collapse, but he also liked a mullenmouth plain bit). Eventually he just stopped fussing with his tongue or hanging it out after being ridden in a more comfortable bit with good hands. It just takes time.

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:29 PM
Horse wouldn't happen to have Roberto close up, would it? :D

I have one (Roberto doubled) who does this. She had 63 races. I've had her teeth checked and done twice in the year that I've had her, and it isn't her teeth. I've also asked the vet about possible nerve damage from tongue tying, and he didn't see any signs of that--but I suppose it's always possible.
When she's happy and has the "right" bit, she isn't nearly as bad a tongue loller as usual.

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:46 PM
Mine just has an oral fixation and will do this with or without a bit in her mouth. Teeth are fine. She does it more when she anticipates food. She's so cute that I forgive her this one "sin."

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:54 PM
Definitely have the teeth checked and try different bits. However, if you try and try to solve the problem and never find a solution... you might have to face the fact that it could just be habit.

My boy sticks his tongue out - even without a bit (both being ridden and in the stall/turned out). He is a very comical horse and finds it funny. He mostly does it when bored or very relaxed. Although, he also sticks it out at our pony and wants the pony to play with it --- ???? :lol:

His mom did the same thing - her only fault that kept her from going further in her dressage career due to the negative connotations with tongue lolling, even though hers was also an act performed only when super relaxed or bored. Not exactly a genetic trait, but he might have picked up the idea from her as a foal.

Anyway, I hope you're able to find out why and a solution. I'm stuck with my boy who thinks it is hilarious (said affectionately while rolling my eyes :winkgrin:), but we work around it with growling and buzzer noises - the eh-eh, wrong answer sound - to discourage it when riding.

Jan. 11, 2011, 05:57 PM
Remember when they are racing and training their tongues are tied to the side when bridled....could be force of habit and I'm assuming eventually he wll get over it and realize it's not tied. :yes:

Jan. 11, 2011, 08:43 PM
Horse wouldn't happen to have Roberto close up, would it? :D

I have one (Roberto doubled) who does this. ....When she's happy and has the "right" bit, she isn't nearly as bad a tongue loller as usual.
Vernon has a tongue thing...he's a Roberto grandson ;):lol:

Check teeth, play with bits. Vernon was BAD as a three year old and early on his four year old year. He got better as he got steadier in the bridle and more confident in what was being asked of him. He prefers plastic bits, preferably straight bars, but is happy in some french links (he LOVES his jumping bit/hunter bit...french link with a copper roller in the middle). I used a flash on him as a baby, which I think helped to a degree, but he's actually happier without his mouth shut.

Time seemed to be the biggest fix (he's newly 7), but he still sticks it out every now and then, usually when he's stressed and/or really, really concentrating.

I did ride an older horse who stuck his tongue out some, but it was more just the tip, like he was concentrating...never got knocked for it.

Jan. 11, 2011, 10:26 PM
TTouch mouth work really helps. See "The Ultimate Horse Training And Behavior Book" by Linda Tellington-Jones. Also, because they tie the tongue down when they race they have the potential to bother the hyoid bone. Try a chiropractor! Also, tension in the neck and elsewhere in the body can make this tongue thing worse. I reschool OTTBs too.

Lots of luck!! :)

Jan. 11, 2011, 10:56 PM
My trainer has a foal who's done this since birth. Since he's not undersaddle we can rule out biting/training issues. Thus far we've just told the kids not to pay any attention to him when he does it to avoid teaching him to do it as an attention getter.

Right on Target
Jan. 11, 2011, 11:01 PM
Just my personal experience, but most racehorses don't go in a tongue tie daily. Only to work or race. Usually they had tight nose bands or figure eights. A lot of them have weird habits like sticking their tongues out, or carry their heads crooked, but I don't think it is b/c of the tongue ties- more of a nervous or playful habit.

That being said, I have no idea how to fix this. My mare likes to cock her head and stick her tongue out just for fun or if she's nervous. She does it alone in the stall, in cross ties, or under saddle. Teeth have been checked. When she galloped she always liked to stick her tongue out. I think hers is just a habit.

Jan. 12, 2011, 12:58 AM
My OTTB does it a lot, whether he's anxious or relaxed. He looks like a dork, but hey, it is what it is! :0

Flying Hippotamus
Jan. 12, 2011, 10:41 AM
Why do they tongue tie at the track? I saw something about the tongue blocking the airway. But is that possible? is their tongue actually long enough to get into their pharynx? I only just found out about this from watching the videos of zenyatta and I am curious about.

Jan. 12, 2011, 10:50 AM
Another thing to check is not just teeth, but bars - my TB (unraced) had bones spurs on his (extremely thin) bars, probably from injury before I got him. He would pad the larger spur by putting his tongue between bit and bar. Luckily we have a fabulous dental vet specialist around here, so I had the spurs surgically removed this fall and we are now transitioning back into a bit (Sprenger Duo wrapped in latex) and still working on learning that it won't hurt.

He's also a tongue-sticker-outer when he's concentrating or anxious. A crescent noseband helped some; it gives me a moment to interrupt/ get his attention when he can't cross his jaw to stick it out. Moving laterally and softening him immediately to get his mind back on work, praising him so he relaxes. It's definitely made me more aware and sensitive as a rider, but I have a long way to go...

Jan. 12, 2011, 10:53 AM
*also v. happy to read about others with tongue-horses, can we start a suport group?*

Jan. 15, 2011, 11:46 PM
We had his teeth done not too long ago, about a month or so. We had him for a month, and the equine dentist took about 3/4 of an inch off, and he didn't get all off that he wanted to. Right now I have him in a loose ring snaffle bit. He also sticks his tongue out in the pasture, but more so when he has the bit in.

Jan. 16, 2011, 12:57 PM
My mare used to do this all the time. Especially when she's working hard, it will hang out and flap around. My trainer says its an evasion and will get better with time. I ride her without a flash. After several months of dressage work, her tongue stays in her mouth now.

Jan. 16, 2011, 01:31 PM
My trainer has a foal who's done this since birth. Since he's not undersaddle we can rule out biting/training issues. Thus far we've just told the kids not to pay any attention to him when he does it to avoid teaching him to do it as an attention getter.

Mine does this also. Teeth have been checked, chiro work done, but no one has found anything thing to be "fixed". He just stands around with playing with his tongue waiting for someone to notice how cute he is and play with it. It drives one of the trainers I clinic with absolutely bonkers, but I don't think theres much to be done about it.

No Roberto, but does have Unbridled close and Ive heard that he and many of his offspring do this also so maybe hereditary?

Becky Rocky
Jan. 16, 2011, 08:53 PM
My little Arabian gelding from my childhood show years, always tried to stick his tongue over the bit - similar habit. I practiced in a figure eight and he couldn't do it and in over the ten years I showed him there was only one time he got his tongue over the bit in a competition. If you have on a snug figure eight (or drop nose) he shouldn't be able to open his mouth enough to stick his tongue out, and then he may be able to get in the habit of carrying it in his mouth.

Jan. 17, 2011, 10:42 AM
I had a Saddlebred who stuck his tongue out the end of his mouth. Tongue ties, figure eights, flashes and cranks had ZERO effect.

A winter in a waterford snaffle, side reins, and no caveson fixed it. He learned to play with, pick up and hold his bit in the right place. Afterwards, he was quite happy in a tongue port (segunda) mouthpiece because he could wad his tongue up in that.

Jan. 17, 2011, 01:12 PM
Just have his teeth checked. We had a hunter gelding who would ALWAYS stick his tongue out while going around a course....not attractive! His teeth weren't bad he was just a goober :lol:

Jan. 17, 2011, 10:08 PM
My trainer had one that always stuck it's tongue out. They put his tongue in a hair net to solve the problem.

Jan. 18, 2011, 11:13 AM
Check the back, especially the sacro-iliac joints and pelvis. If the spine isn't free to be flexible, the tongue can appear out of the mouth. It is usually on the same side as the stuck area. I have found osteopathy to be extremely helpful for the the tongue and other evasions mentioned above.

In Col. Podhajasky's book, The Complete training of Horse and Rider, this is mentioned towards the back. (I don't have my copy handy, so I can't give you the page number)

Jan. 18, 2011, 06:50 PM
My beloved OTTB did this as well. The only thing that helped was a waterford bit, which he seemed to really like. For dressage we used a thin myler comfort snaffle but the waterford for everything else.

He was euthanized in 2008 at the age of 11 due to cancer. Looking back, the tongue thing is a very fond memory that we have of him.

Jan. 18, 2011, 07:48 PM
I had a horse that only did it when he was very tense, which was usually when he was in the dressage ring. LOL. He did it less and less. eventually I did sell him but by then he was doing it very very rarely.