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Bit Grinding & the Green Horse

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  • Bit Grinding & the Green Horse

    8 yr old ottb mare. Chesnut. Enough said? LOL JK

    She was restarted, by me, in Jan/February after her purchase in December of 2009. Had spent 5 yrs out in the field doing nothing but being a horse, waiting for someone to do something with her.

    She's sound. Lots of energy, very athletic. Kinda witchy towards other horses, not really enjoying shared space with any equine, at any time. Took some time off between February and now due to my own illness as well as a thorough vetting to check hormones and also pain-just about everywhere: teeth, ulcers, back, saddle fit, hocks, front legs, etc. Nothing has been found.

    Anyhoo, when riding, she's a bit grinder. She was when I first started her, and then bringing her back into work recently she reminded me of this. She can be pretty tense throughout her whole body, and she'll have moments of being relaxed, but in general, she's tense. And grinds. grind grind grind. I've tried so many different bits- wide to narrow, 2 to 3 piece, standard to copper to aurigan, loose ring to full cheek to baucher and more. I don't really think it about any specific bit- nor really about "the bit" but her general sense of well, being relaxed.

    Now my first inclination was: OMG Pain! Thus all the vet/chiro/dentist/saddlefitting workup.

    Turns out, the best we can come up with is that she's just green and not very happy about this.

    If you had a horse like this- did you just continue working, knowing in time they relax? Did the bit grinding stop? Or is there something very specific I (and my trainer) should be doing or trying?

    Just looking for your experiences. Thanks in advance.
    My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

  • #2
    Combination of a bit that does not fit her mouth properly, and hands that are doing too much holding in a misguided idea of contact.

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    • #3
      We've had a few high strung youngsters who would grind when learning something new, our over-achievers. Once they figured it out, the grinding always stopped...until it was time to step it up again. Rodawn gives some good advice for these types, given that you have ruled out pain.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by myhorsefaith View Post
        8 yr old ottb mare. Chesnut. Enough said? LOL JK

        She was restarted, by me, in Jan/February after her purchase in December of 2009. Had spent 5 yrs out in the field doing nothing but being a horse, waiting for someone to do something with her.

        She's sound. Lots of energy, very athletic. Kinda witchy towards other horses, not really enjoying shared space with any equine, at any time. Took some time off between February and now due to my own illness as well as a thorough vetting to check hormones and also pain-just about everywhere: teeth, ulcers, back, saddle fit, hocks, front legs, etc. Nothing has been found.

        Anyhoo, when riding, she's a bit grinder. She was when I first started her, and then bringing her back into work recently she reminded me of this. She can be pretty tense throughout her whole body, and she'll have moments of being relaxed, but in general, she's tense. And grinds. grind grind grind. I've tried so many different bits- wide to narrow, 2 to 3 piece, standard to copper to aurigan, loose ring to full cheek to baucher and more. I don't really think it about any specific bit- nor really about "the bit" but her general sense of well, being relaxed.

        Now my first inclination was: OMG Pain! Thus all the vet/chiro/dentist/saddlefitting workup.

        Turns out, the best we can come up with is that she's just green and not very happy about this.

        If you had a horse like this- did you just continue working, knowing in time they relax? Did the bit grinding stop? Or is there something very specific I (and my trainer) should be doing or trying?

        Just looking for your experiences. Thanks in advance.
        There have been a couple bit-grinding threads on this forum lately and it reminded me - hey, I haven't heard my boy grind for awhile now!

        Initially, he did it whenever he was tense or concentrating hard. Now that he is relaxed physically as well as mentally, it seems to have halted altogether. If it is not a physical issue, it seems to be an expression of anxiety, even if the horse's body is relaxed (not enough tension emotionally to reflect physically, but enough that, when they are really focused, they grind). We had a couple horses on the track that grinded and it definitely seemed to corrolate to their tension and anxiety. That is the best I can come up with based on my experiences.

        FEI actually has a really good point!!

        With my jumper OTTB, I continued the work we were doing, work designed to progress us through the Training Scale and encourage relaxation, and eventually the grinding reduced and stopped.
        ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
        ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Well, a little update on this mare. So, she was being flat out NAUGHTY, (err, dropping head between legs and going backwards at mach speed, spinning like a roomba and going backwards again) at which point I knew I was not the right person to be dealing with this.

          So I asked the resident colt starter who is very fair, gentle but firm, if he'd work with her for a month or so. He saw the behavior so he know what he was getting into. First ride she threw everything in the book at him. He was so calm, yet so assertive, clearly not scared of her, and got her going in the correct direction. Day 2 she was grindy and tense, but she went forward. We're on to day 6 or so and she's going much more relaxed, and the grinding has stopped. She's mouthing, but she's not grinding.

          Her other big hurdle is sharing the arena space with others. Her bubble is rather large- and when intruded- she is a bucking, spinning, kicking mare. I rode my very sensible mare in the arena with the colt starter the other night, where we were set on desensitizing maresy. She once again reverted to her old ways, but he got her through it. My other mare gets the gold medal for having zero reaction to CrazyPants's drama. By the end we were able to ride up, around, next to the mare. While she was halted, I was able to bump her with my mare's body, reach over and pat her all over, have my mount's nose touch her, with no negative reaction at all.

          She has a long way to go, and will likely be with the starter for at least 2 more months before I attempt riding her again.

          So, i think this is a case of what FEI and Rodawn were alluding to when they posted. Everything is hand in hand, and with this one, the bit grinding is just one more tension. I am very happy with the progress so far, and look forward to future bit-grinding free rides.
          My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

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