View Full Version : Anyone have an OTTB that raced in a tongue-tie or had a Lewellen procedure?

Flying Ponies
Apr. 2, 2011, 08:04 PM
Hi Everyone,
I am mostly a lurker here and now I am hoping to get a little advice on a horse I would like to take on and hopefully event.
I am looking at a TB (still at the track) that apparently trains in a tongue-tie and I think maybe a drop noseband. I also heard he has had a Lewellen procedure for flipping his soft palate.

My questions are - do any of you have event horses who came off the track with this type of history and/or having had a Lewellen? Any lasting effects? Any big training issues? Would you take on another like that?

Thanks for any input and advice.

Toadie's mom
Apr. 3, 2011, 07:38 PM
I've never had a bitting problem with any of my OTTBs until the one I have now. He gets his tongue over the bit. I'm sure some of the other ones I've had ran with a tongue tie, but I just didn't think about it. I've tried 7 different bits with this one. My vet and my equine dentist told me that when they use a tongue tie thier tongue actually expands permanently. They both gave a more technical, and lengthy, explanation but that's kind of the short bottom line. He absolutely would not tolerate a flash noseband. I rode him for almost a year with a plain cavesson but the tongue over the bit got more and more frequent. I'm now riding him in a figure 8 with a plain loose ring snaffle. He's still very "mouthy", but is getting better. He actually liked the loose ring happy mouth the best, but I needed a little more control jumping so switched to the metal loose ring.

Flying Ponies
Apr. 3, 2011, 08:50 PM
Thanks Toadie's Mom, that is very useful information! I guess this guy used to flip his palate thus the Lewellen. They tie his tongue b/c he does get it over the bit- but only when galloping, not at any other time.... I'll keep a figure 8 and loose ring in mind if I take him. I just haven't had one get it's tongue over the bit so it concerns me a little, not really sure what to think...

Apr. 3, 2011, 09:05 PM
Can you provide a link to the surgery you are referring to as a "Lewellen"?
I have heard of soft palate procedures but I am drawing a blank to this one.
I've had a number of horses have in-barn palate trims, and they do heal well and come back very well from this and it's an easy thing to deal with and makes the horse better. No after effects, and no future concerns for non track life in my opinion.
Tongue ties also -- don't know what concerns I'd have, horses that put tongue over the bit might have a tendency to do that before a tongue tie comes in play; a tongue tie stops the horse from choking down, at least, that is the chief reason I used them; many horses race with them consistently (I would not race a horse without one, that's just my preference) and I've had virtually no problem after racing whatsoever.
The tongue over the bit thing is a separate issue in my mind from use or wearing a tongue tie. In racing we can deal with it but in riding we cannot use the tongue tie for that issue, so horses with tongue issues can be difficult.

Flying Ponies
Apr. 3, 2011, 09:16 PM
link to study with definition of Llewellen



"The next treatment approach was based on the assumption that palate displacement was due to a problem with the larynx (voice box): It is the voice box’s fault. That was based on the theory that the voice box was a button that fit tightly into the soft palate (the buttonhole). When the button (voice box or larynx) slipped back, the palate was left in the middle of the voice box and blocked the airway. In response to this belief, the popular treatment in the late 1970s and 1980s consisted of cutting the strap muscles on the underside of the neck, thus preventing the voice box from being pulled back and away from the palate. Curiously, this procedure is also associated with a 60% success rate. But it has fewer serious complications, and they are usually limited to incisional infections and abscesses.

In the last decade, it became fashionable to do both procedures at the same time, based on the assumption that one or the other would have a beneficial effect. Dr. Llewellyn cleverly modified the procedures to decrease complications, and this is the current "in vogue" treatment. However, this modified procedure is still associated with a 60% success rate."

bold is mine

Apr. 3, 2011, 10:14 PM
I have an OTTB right now whose tongue was tied so tight it is permanently disfigured. When I got him, I started him in a D ring snaffle with a roller in it - it gave him something fussy and distracting to do with the bit other than get his tongue over it. After about 6 months, I switched him to a french link and he's fine.

I guess I should have looked a gift horse in the mouth after all! :)

Apr. 3, 2011, 10:28 PM
there is a bone up in the skull that can actually break with a bad tongue tie. That said, lots of horses go with tongue ties that never have any problems.

If you had a horse who had DDSP, I'd run the other way, personally. My personal experience with it was bad, and the procedure to correct it is not very dependable.
I had a mare who could flip her palate at the trot, and she progressed bad enough that she became unridable due to the head-flipping to place it back. Lovely horse who will stand in a field for the rest of her life :/

Flying Ponies
Apr. 3, 2011, 10:45 PM
hhmmm, very interesting. it is giving me some pause about whether or not to take this horse. I don't like the DDSP issue. I wonder how many come off the track having had this procedure, and no-one mentions it, or do most trainers usually mention it right away....

Apr. 4, 2011, 07:53 AM
Most horses run with a tongue tie. That is a given. I have seen successful Llewellyn procedures and many failed ones. That would worry me but a vet can scope the horse to give you an idea of what is going on in there.

We get horses here and there that really play with their tongue when they first come in (picture those funny videos of long giraffe tongues reaching for food in safari park cars). It is almost like they can't believe their tongues aren't tied and it feels weird to them. Most get over it with time-I find a snaffle with a double joint (lozenge) really helps- some will tolerate a flash, some prefer a figure eight, some just want a plain cavesson.

Apr. 4, 2011, 08:33 AM
I would have the horse scoped by a sport horse vet before you went much further into the process.

There can also be issues with scar tissue after the surgery that can affect their breathing.

Apr. 4, 2011, 08:53 AM
I have one that came to me with a DDSP. I wouldn't take another. He had not had any procedures when he arrived. He has now had a myectomy and a paletoplasty. His prognosis is guarded. The vets at Auburn said the next step would be a tie-forward, but even then we're still stuck with a guarded prognosis. I'm very disappointed. He's a nice horse, but may be relegated to a life of low impact trail riding. If you don't have the horse in your barn yet, I'd pass.

Apr. 4, 2011, 11:57 AM
*Scope with treadmill (to add to what Jlee said).

I'll tkae this opportunity to say that there are a lot of breathing issues that OTTBs can have, and some of them are really, really bad to the point that they are career-ending or even bad enough to have to euthanize. (We've put down two in the past year with severe breathing issues). I encourage anybody interested in an OTTB to scope them because you just never know until you start upping the workload. One of our horses had severe behavioral problems that came out of nowhere and everybody said it was in his head. Well, he was the sweetest horse and the hardest trier ever--both Jess and I knew it was something else, and we finally figured out it was his breathing. He never made a noise because he never got enough air to make noise :(
He got bad enough that in the heat we were afraid he'd asphyxiate and had to put him down.

I'd avoid any horse with a known DDSP problem after the heartache I've been through.

Apr. 4, 2011, 01:14 PM
The horse that Fairweather talks about in her post was a young horse (8yr) and has ran 30+ times. I never suspected breathing issues but looking back there were some clues. He had a very hard time with contact even though he had good conformation. I was able to get him connected at the trot but always had issues with the canter. He went through a period where he absolutely would not go forward, started rearing and just was not happy. We treated for ulcers and gave him some time and he came back good again. He also had repeated chokes that were severe in nature.

He had been going super fantastic and I started thinking that we had treated for ulcers and were good to go.

Fast forward to a 90+ degree day and I am out x-c schooling. He jumped the first few fences really nicely and then went into a full meltdown panic attack mode. Bolting, bucking and just acting out of his mind.

In the middle of this, all I could think was something is wrong he isn't being bad to be bad. It took him an hour to cool down despite walking and repeated ice baths. I then knew it had to be breathing related but the horse never made a noise and never seemed to struggle.

When the vet came to evaluate him she trusted my instinct that something was not right but on the lunge line we couldn't find a breathing issue but his respiration was way up. She put the scope in and immediately said it was a life ending finding as in should be put down that day because the next day he could be found dead in the field. Talk about a shocking discovery. He had extensive scarring and a paralyzed pharanxy (sp?). He was not able to get air and there was nothing to be done. It could have been a result of a surgery or just something that happened over time.

The trainer didn't disclose the breathing issue or the prior surgery so we didn't think to look there and no apparent scars. Now if I knew a horse had a breathing issue I would want to have them fully checked before taking it on.

Flying Ponies
Apr. 4, 2011, 01:19 PM
Thank you everyone for the considered replies. I appreciate all the info and personal experiances. Fairweather, your story is so sad. It really is mentally stressful on a horse which thinks it cannot breathe... I agree with the scoping on a treadmill or maybe see if they'll work him without a tongue tie and drop noseband, then scope immed after. Altho', even if he scoped clean, at this point I am not sure I wouldn't still worry. Seems we rarely hear about Llewellens and show horses in general....Is this because these horses never make it to becoming showhorses, or does it remain a non-issue for some and the fact that a horse had the procedure gets forgotten?

Flying Ponies
Apr. 4, 2011, 01:21 PM
Jleegriffith, thank you for that info.

Apr. 4, 2011, 07:29 PM
FP, if you can talk to some folks at the track, do. The guys that operate the gate knew that my gelding had flipped his palate. I'm sure they didn't scope him, but they knew. Some of these folks have been around forever, and know what they're looking at.