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teeth clanging/bit chomping?? extra relaxed or extra tense

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  • teeth clanging/bit chomping?? extra relaxed or extra tense

    coming 5 yr old OTTB, been off the track for over 1.5 years. Does lower-level everything. Just recently I have noticed when I ride him about 20 minutes into the ride I hear, "clack, clack, clack" At first I thought it was his bell boots took them off, still hear it. looked in the mirror his mouth is slightly moving and its his teeth (not sure if its his teeth against each other or against the bit)

    in clinics and lesson settings, horse has been described by clinician/instructors as relaxed and happy youngster. He has been dping this for about 2.5 weeks. I have not noticed it during clinics or lessons though (maybe I am concentrating too hard on other things, or maybe is is stimulated and using his energy otherwise)

    I have seen horses do this when they are irritated or tense, but it is usually associated with wringing their tail or some other indicator of annoyance.

    Is he just so relaxed in his jaw that his teeth are clanging or is he tensing and in some ways resisting the bit. Because he has not done this in a lesson, I cant ask anyone knowledgable (sp?)

    He seems happy, yet he seemed happy last month and this is a new sound effect

    opinions??
    \"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"

  • #2
    I've had two horses that did this - in both, it was a sign they were relaxed, through and working in maximum 'happiness' level. One of my current horses does it. IME it occurs when they're so relaxed in the jaw, their teeth just 'bang' together in rhythm with their movement. In current horse, starts about 15 minutes into the ride when he's really warmed up, and accepting the bit.
    Donerail Farm
    www.donerailfarm.com
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    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by cyndi View Post
      I've had two horses that did this - in both, it was a sign they were relaxed, through and working in maximum 'happiness' level. One of my current horses does it. IME it occurs when they're so relaxed in the jaw, their teeth just 'bang' together in rhythm with their movement. In current horse, starts about 15 minutes into the ride when he's really warmed up, and accepting the bit.
      Thanks, what you described is my impression with him, however I had never witnessed it with a horse that was relaxed and happy. Previously I have only seen the angry, chompers/grinders.

      I thought he was happy before but he must really be coming into himself, as this behavior has been a new occurrence.
      \"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"

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      • #4
        For my mare it was a big sign of tension. When she is relaxed she lightly chews and foams but it definitely is not audible.

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        • #5
          My guy taps his teeth together. He'll even do it just walking around with a halter and lead. I was worried about it for a while, but he had the dentist and saddle fitter out and the vet was out several times trying to determine what was "up" with him. The conclusion ended up being that he's fine and it's just a bad habit. However, when he gets tense and nervous, the clacking will change to this awful squeaky/grinding. I find that some bits exacerbate the problem. His teeth-tapping is least extreme while in his Happy Mouth.
          "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

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          • #6
            Usually this is a sign of a physical and/or emotional stress of some type.
            www.hartetoharte.org
            Ask and allow, do not demand and force.

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            • #7
              Teeth clacking is a sign of relaxation, but it also comes across as a horse that is behind the bit (because a steady contact means there is no clacking sounds). If I hear it, I will ride the horse a bit more forward into the bridle so that they I have more of a solid feel. It is wonderful to encourage a relaxed jaw and the clacking shows this, but you will get nailed in the show ring because the judge will believe what other people out here have stated (even when you know that is not what is going on at all) or they will recognize it as a sign that a horse is not on the bit and having a steady contact.

              At home, and in warm up, you can let it happen. Then put the horse a bit more into the contact and just stop the clacking. Not a big thing.

              Chomping and gnashing on the bit are VERY different than relaxed clacking. Count yourself as lucky to know the difference. Many people never have felt it and never will.
              "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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              • #8
                Make sure that your bit fits his mouth and that it is adjusted correctly.

                A bit that is loosely dangling in the mouth can cause that reaction, as can one that is sliding side to side. I would use a very "stable" bit, not a loose ring, and a flash to keep it steady in the mouth.
                "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks for the input:

                  He has a flash and its a loose ring. Nothing has changed bridle wise; it is adjusted as it normally would be. So it didnt clack before, there was no tack change and now he's clacking.

                  I think its a case of he is relaxed and its not heard and lesson and clinic situations because while he is still relatively happy he isnt in complete chill mode during those sessions.

                  As well as a possible case of him not having as much contact as Velvet mentioned earlier. So next time I ride him and hear it I will see what happens when I send him more forward with my legs into the bridle.

                  Our main goal is jumpers, so I am not too worried about being penalized for it during a dressage show. Scores are nice - but that is not a goal of ours at the moment.
                  \"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Keep1Belle View Post
                    Thanks for the input:

                    He has a flash and its a loose ring. Nothing has changed bridle wise; it is adjusted as it normally would be. So it didnt clack before, there was no tack change and now he's clacking.

                    I think its a case of he is relaxed and its not heard and lesson and clinic situations because while he is still relatively happy he isnt in complete chill mode during those sessions.

                    As well as a possible case of him not having as much contact as Velvet mentioned earlier. So next time I ride him and hear it I will see what happens when I send him more forward with my legs into the bridle.

                    Our main goal is jumpers, so I am not too worried about being penalized for it during a dressage show. Scores are nice - but that is not a goal of ours at the moment.
                    i echo eh, plus people tend to forget that as hes 5 hes still growing not just in his body but also in head- across the brow and doen the lenght of head
                    check your bridle fits him, and the bit isnt to big for the size of his palate
                    by width and lenght - also check that the loose ring isnt catching the corners of the mouth where the ring goes through the bit as it can pinch ( hence bit guards should be used on loose ring bits) as the horse will clench his teeth to get away from the pain
                    horses when working dont clattter teeth - if they do then you have something wrong
                    either dental bit or bridle or bad hands - for instance if one keeps jabbing ahorse in the mouth when ridden- guess what he will clench his teeth and chatter they dont always sppok and scoot or nap, but it is a sign of napping

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                    • #11
                      Yep, one of mine did this...but ONLY after he was really warmed up, relaxed and coming through.

                      He was a homebred and non-tense fellow -- well-trained with a nice work ethic.

                      In fact, he'd clack his teeth to the rhythm of his trot like a metronome.
                      www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                      "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                      Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sid View Post
                        Yep, one of mine did this...but ONLY after he was really warmed up, relaxed and coming through.

                        He was a homebred and non-tense fellow -- well-trained with a nice work ethic.

                        In fact, he'd clack his teeth to the rhythm of his trot like a metronome.
                        Yes, a metronome is what mine is like. And he does not do it until he's really connected and through.
                        Donerail Farm
                        www.donerailfarm.com
                        http://donerailfarm.wordpress.com/

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                        • #13
                          I've been doing a lot of jogging my mare in hand (in a halter) post-surgery and she does this- just like a metronome. I can't recall hearing it when we were working under saddle- but I hear it when I'm jogging next to her.

                          She seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing- so if its tension, I'd be a bit surprised.

                          On the flip side, my ottb mare is a bit grinder- and wrings her tail. She IS tense.
                          My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

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                          • #14
                            Thanks for this thread! My 8yo OTTB does the same thing. He never seemed particularly tense while doing it either, I figured it was just a bad track habit or that he was tense after all. I'm enlightened!

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                            • #15
                              Since you didn't mention it - when was the last time his teeth were checked? Maybe he's starting to develop a point that is slightly irritating his mouth and the clanking relieves some of the irritation?

                              OTOH my Dutch mare grabs the bit and holds onto it like concrete when she's tense. Pair that with a neck like concrete and it's a lot to work on. But when she's "on" she's wonderful, which luckily is most of the time!
                              Now in Kentucky

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                              • #16
                                We have a young QH at the barn who does this -he is wonderfully relaxed, very through, and moving beautifully forward. H'es schooling at the second level, and I was surprised when my trainer said she can't take him to shows because the judges think he's tense, however, his jaw is relaxed.

                                His jaw is so relaxed it's loose. The horse is very forward and perfectly on the bit. His face is vertical to the ground, his poll is the highest point. He's a small horse, barely 15 hands, pretty chestnut with high stockings, and jumps the moon, age just turning 7. Shame because he certainly would make someone a fantastic show horse, including trainer's advanced students to show. His loose lower jaw clacks teeth together in rhythm to the trot; he isn't doing it himself, its just the loose jaw clacking. It would be if you were jogging and letting your arm hang loose down by your thigh, and entirely loose, your hand flopped around with the gravity of the jog. Can't think of a better analogy.

                                I am surprised that its a negative sign to judges. Would have thought it was, while perhaps not desireable, simply indicative of the state of the horse. If a judge's curiosity was aroused because of it, further scruitiny could inform him/her of whether the horse was truly relaxed or no, but it shouldn't count against him, I would think.

                                It would be interesting for judges to weigh in on this. I'd like to hear what their thoughts are.
                                Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by AnotherRound View Post
                                  We have a young QH at the barn who does this -he is wonderfully relaxed, very through, and moving beautifully forward. H'es schooling at the second level, and I was surprised when my trainer said she can't take him to shows because the judges think he's tense, however, his jaw is relaxed.

                                  His jaw is so relaxed it's loose. The horse is very forward and perfectly on the bit. His face is vertical to the ground, his poll is the highest point. He's a small horse, barely 15 hands, pretty chestnut with high stockings, and jumps the moon, age just turning 7. Shame because he certainly would make someone a fantastic show horse, including trainer's advanced students to show. His loose lower jaw clacks teeth together in rhythm to the trot; he isn't doing it himself, its just the loose jaw clacking. It would be if you were jogging and letting your arm hang loose down by your thigh, and entirely loose, your hand flopped around with the gravity of the jog. Can't think of a better analogy.

                                  I am surprised that its a negative sign to judges. Would have thought it was, while perhaps not desireable, simply indicative of the state of the horse. If a judge's curiosity was aroused because of it, further scruitiny could inform him/her of whether the horse was truly relaxed or no, but it shouldn't count against him, I would think.

                                  It would be interesting for judges to weigh in on this. I'd like to hear what their thoughts are.
                                  I'm not a judge, but I've had two "clackers." Both were exactly as described above - so relaxed their jaw was so loose it was bouncing around so much the teeth clacked together in rhythm to their gait.

                                  I showed them both in dressage. I am not really even sure a judge could hear it. I can hear it, but it's not super loud. If they did, no one ever made any mention. My current "clacker" regularly scores 70+ in recognized competition so don't think it 'hurt' him. He occasionally even opens his mouth and no comment about that either. I asked my trainer about that - after watching one of my videos and seeing him occasionally open his mouth during a test - and she said if it's obvious the horse is not tense or doing it as an evasion, judges most often would not penalize for it.
                                  Last edited by cyndi; Apr. 14, 2011, 02:28 PM.
                                  Donerail Farm
                                  www.donerailfarm.com
                                  http://donerailfarm.wordpress.com/

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                                  • #18
                                    My coming 6 year old has started to do this when he's relaxed, more so when my trainer rides him but also when I ride him. Funny, my trainer's trainer (a judge) was on him the other day and didn't notice it, even when it was pointed out to him.

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                                    • #19
                                      I think you would know if it was tension. My (now retired) OTTB sort of refused to ever relax in his jaw (or anywhere else for that matter), and you could definitely tell the difference in the contact. He was chomping on the bit and the tension was clearly transmitted. If the horse is happily letting you give aids and responding calmly, it's likely not tension.
                                      "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht

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                                      • #20
                                        When my OTTB is truly mentally and physically relaxed with a swinging back and a steady contact he will clack as well. His jaw is simply relaxed. It is rythmical and only happens when I feel him come totally "through" his body into my hand. I must be totally relaxed as well for this to happen. So I think it is a good sound, and my horse is in no way shape or form behind the bit as some other posters mentioned.

                                        And as for showing, I'm quite certain that a judge at a rated show can tell the difference between grinding angrily and quiet, rythmical clacking. And honestly I'd be surprised if they could really hear it anyway with the loudspeakers and clapping all around.

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