*Flat video added post 35* Why has my horse gotten worse in the mouth?
So I was looking back at some old videos of me and my horse and noticing how much worse he's gotten in the mouth. I'm not sure what has changed. My current trainer has really gotten him better on the flat about not yarring on me at the canter, but he still has tendencies towards it and still hasn't been able to carry it over to over fences. He's always had this yarring problem, but it was much less over fences in the first year I had him. http://pic50.picturetrail.com/VOL481.../368377434.jpg
First ride after I bought him to prove this is a problem since the start haha.
I know I tend to be a hand rider. Since my horses have all had engines I feel like I'm constantly trying to bring them back and I'm not using my leg properly to aid me in this. My current trainer is getting after me to use my leg more to at least encourage proper bend when he's strong so I can supple him.
Here are 3 videos. One from the first year I had him, one from the second year I had him, and one from today ( he was off with a fractured leg this winter and has only been jumping for 6 weeks).
The first 2 videos, my horse is in the same bit (single jointed happy mouth 2 ring with 2 reins) and was with the same trainer. Today's video he's in an eggbutt happymouth straightbar snaffle with a different (current) trainer.
The straight bar is the bit he's most willing to stretch into when flatting ( he used to want to be really light in the mouth at the trot, and would curl on anything more than a loop in the reins). We've tried many different bits and it seems like if he's ok with the bit he reacts the same way to it as any other bit he's ok in. (so I seem to have no more control in a 2 ring or pelham that he likes as the straightbar snaffle) and he generally really lets you know it a bit he doesn't like.
Any tips to help me restore his mouth back to how he was going in the first video?
Teeth are checked every time shots are done (2 times a year) and done when needed. Saddle fit is checked whenever we feel he might be getting a slightly sore back (saddle fit was just adjusted a few days ago as I felt him back was a little sore, also got him an ogilvy pad on recommendation from saddle fitter), chiro just saw him a couple weeks ago (and he's been done a few times over the years I've owned him), he's also had times where he was getting massaged every 6 weeks and it didn't change anything. He did initially go great in a hackamore but as he got used to it he wanted to curl and I didn't have the skill to get him up and out in it.
Last edited by ElisLove; Jun. 19, 2013 at 10:04 AM.
You might consider some dental x-rays. My horse had a canine tooth that was rotting/reabsorbing for likely more than a year below the gumline and was missed until it finally got bad enough to visibly affect the crown (even then, hard to see what was wrong without x-rays).
He has been a bit funny in the bridle for about a year, though it was subtle. Just got it removed and am not riding in a bit yet, but he seems more comfortable and I'm riding him in a halter for now. Maybe try a hackamore to test this theory then have the vet out?
I'm from eventer and Dressage land but I thought I would chime in.
The first Video you do look more solid in the tack, but you do not seem to be being restrictive with your hands at all. You have a bend in your elbow and are following his motion.
I had a TB who did the same thing when I rode him in a Flash.
He was an idiot about it. I did not make the connection for some time, but when I quit using the flash he quit the head tossing.
Probably not much help. Your boy seems like a pleasant fellow, nice and calm and consistent to the jumps.
"you can only ride the drama llama so hard before it decides to spit in your face." Caffeinated.
Maybe I am just dense but..."yarring on me" and "always had a yarring problem"?
What the heck are you describing?
Sometimes back pain or sore hocks/stifles manifest in front with all sorts of behavior issues. Since he is coming back from a layup, maybe he is trying to tell you something hurts? Saddle fit the same way it did before? You moving more in the tack? maybe getting into his mouth too much since you lost a little condition too?
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
My two cents is that you need to let go over the fence. If you notice him at every jump his chin flexes in towards his chest over the top of the arc. This shows to me that you are not releasing enough. It's like a little punishment over every fence. If he's stiff in the jaw it could be his resistance to this. Since he's a jumper I know you may have to support him off the ground but you have to let go over the top.
From the first video, you were ok with your hands but your upper body position (roach back) was not helping you at all and your legs were sliding back.
From the second video, you are using more your upper body and your hands are still ok...maybe playing a bit too much in between the fence. Your legs are still moving a lot.
The third video, your position is straighter and you are using more your upper body for balance but you are constantly yanking your horse in the mouth. See-sawing from left to right.
The only time he is quiet, is when you stop the nagging or are pulling equally with both reins. Stop trying to put him 'round' at all time during a course. Let go of his face, and give more over the fence (follow him). Use your upper body strenght to re-balanced him and if you have to pull on the reins, do so evenly with both hands.
Flexion of the body of your horse comes from your legs first. Understand that a mullen mouth is for straight contact. Learn to turn without pulling on just one rein.
I think you are now developping a nice upper body strenght and your legs will get more stable over time. The more you'll get that the less you'll feel about using your reins.
The horse has to take you to the fence by going into a stable contact that your hands should provide.
first, video 2 and 3, your horse is the same. the difference is in video 2 you're asking him to move forward so he's less fussy. if you're asking him to move forward, you're not hanging on his face.
second, in my opinion, horses who do this are anxious about having freedom of movement in their neck and shoulder over the jump. your release is minimal and may be fine for some horses but not your's. i've had success minimizing fussy horses by exaggerating my release over the jump. come hell or high water, i do not touch their mouth at take off even if i get left, i shove my hands forward. when the horse learns it will have absolute freedom over the jump, he becomes far less anxious and less fussy with their head. but it takes time for them to trust you'll do this every.single.time. be patient. imagine the difference for a person jumping over a small hurdle normally and jumping over it with their arms restricted to their sides. you need your whole body to jump over something safely.
third, the jumps are bigger in vid 2 & 3, so you are likely riding differently, i.e. more handsy. in my experience, too, as the jumps go up horses with this issue get more anxious about having freedom of movement and the head issues get worse.
lastly, a stronger core and a deeper seat may help rock your horse on it's hind end and be lighter up front. if he's pulling you out of the tack between fences though, you have to have a deeper seat. the american seat won't help you. unlike some schools of thought it is not appropriate for all horses.
a dentist is a good idea and should be part of your regular routine if it isn't.
Thanks everyone for your replies. I am surprised a bit that a couple people said I looked stronger in the tack from the 3 years ago video as I thought overall (when my horse wasn't yanking me out of the tack with his head tossing) I looked better in the 3rd video.
My trainer had me one time bridge me reins and just really work on keeping an feel and planting my hands in his neck to let him pull on himself and that did seem to help. I think my horse wants a more consistent feel of the reins but I just can't keep up with his head tossing. I tend to allow my hands to get really still, when he's being good with his head as I'm like 'please don't do the head thing' but I think then I don't follow him as nicely and then he starts tossing again.
I think I will try hacking him at the show in a regular cavesson bridle and see if it helps at all. I will also think about doing those dental X-rays.
Yarring is what my dressage trainer calls his head thing (see my pic I posted from when I first got him in OP) haha. She had her own vocabulary for things but it fit well.
I know I tend to be a hand rider. Since my horses have all had engines I feel like I'm constantly trying to bring them back and I'm not using my leg properly to aid me in this.-UNQUOTE
He can't jump with you tugging on his mouth in front of the fence.He needs the freedom of his head and neck, so he is yanking. Your trainer is correct You need to spend more time on your flatting, and then make yourself trust your training. over fences.
A couple of equipment suggestions to try, since it sounds like the hackamore solved his mouth opening and head flipping, so this may be mouth related:
1) Have you tried a bit with a wide port? If he has a big tongue or a sensitive tongue, that would get the bit off of it so he can swallow and move his tongue more easily. Standard mullens or jointed bits lie across the tongue. I'm thinking of the Mylers. You can contact the Mylers and send them a video for bitting suggestions, and Mylers can be rented from several online shops, to test them.
2) How about a hackamore combo bit or Micklem, perhaps with two reins? Ride mostly off the hack, but if he curls up you have the bit there to help.
I also agree that some x-rays of his head may be helpful, especially since this has gotten worse. He may have some bone spurs in there, or a damaged tooth. Good luck
As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.
Thanks for the replies everyone. I have flatted him in a nathe ported snaffle and he wasn't really wanting to relax and stretch into it but maybe it'd be worth it to try it over fences.
We haven't tried a hack/bit combo yet. Last time we tried him in his hack he went insane haha, so we've been a bit shy of putting him back in a hack. But I think this year he would be his normal self in it again.
I see if giving a larger release over fences will help as well. I have a hard time not having hand on him due to the fact he wants to be too forward, but I need to be stronger in my core so I can hold my position and be more effective with my body AND my hand.
Really, the people at Myler are really helpful if you are interested in trying different bits.
Since this is a problem that has become worse, I would investigate physical reasons. I can't get the vids to play well enough to see a riding issue.
Good luck with your guy
As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.
Thanks. I want to say that I've tried a bit like the first one you posted except it was a 2 ring. I think it had about the same results as most other bits, though we tried it during a time period where he had kinda lost his head so maybe it'd be worth it to try again.
Hmmm I typed out a long response to this but I guess the internet ate it.
I went through something like this years ago with my gelding. I tried him in every bit imaginable and even a hack. Nothing made a real difference. One day a friend got a cross-pull (Dr. Cook's) bitless and I threw it on him for the heck of it. What a miracle!! Turns out he has a low palette and doesn't like a bit, but is way too sensitive for a leverage hack.
Thanks for the replies everyone.
I'm not sure the jumping hack would be enough control for my horse but it's always something to try.
For those interested, here's a video of my horse when he was going well in the hackamore (english hack) This video was taken after the 2nd video I posted above I believe. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DuUycqDFzw
Take this for what it is worth because I am not a jumper rider and don't jump at the same heights as you. But based on a similar experience with my horse, here is what I see:
1) My horse used a similar “yarring” behavior as a way to a) avoid contact and b) avoid engaging his hind end. When your horse is doing this, it looks like he is telling you he doesn't want to accept your contact and rock back. He looks like he is getting a bit heavy and pulling rails. You said he has been off work a bit, so maybe this his just him saying he is not quite there yet?
2) In your first video, I think you are less fit, particularly in the core, but it looks like you are relying more on your seat and leg, than your hand, which he seems to appreciate. You do look stronger in your other videos, but you also look like you are relying more on your hand. It looks like you are trying to out muscle him into rocking back, where maybe, again, he needs to be stronger.
My horse seems similar to yours in that he has a very sensitive mouth and curls to avoid contact. His absolute favorite bit is the happy mouth double jointed roller bit snaffle. He really tries to avoid contact with anything metal or ported. I also use a happy mouth mullen to work with him on establishing contact. I can do limited jumping with it, but it is not quite enough for bigger heights or more technical courses. I have also used the double jointed happy mouth mouthpiece in a two-ring elevator, but it is too much bit.
I have been doing a lot of dressage with my horse to help get him more comfortable using his back end. As he gets stronger, I can ride him with whisper-quiet aids. With a sensitive horse, I have found you need to do way more with your body and less with your hand. A half halt, for instance, is just lifting my shoulders. I make corrections just by squeezing a finger or two, then lightening the contact. He also prefers a very giving hand. As soon as I get what I want, I have to release. I am used to being more of a strong rider and have had to work very hard to keep my body very free of tension and my aids whisper quiet. I can and do jump him out of hand at times, but he prefers little to no contact in the air over jumps. I think I remember seeing some pictures of your horse and it looks like he tends to curl a bit even in the air. It could be him wanting a more relaxed release?
It definitely doesn't hurt to do a physical work up to see if there is a dental, hock or other reason for this behavior; however, I would start by modifying my ride to see if getting him stronger and riding him a bit more sensitively helps. He is a really cool horse and I hope you can figure it out!