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"Lipstick" foam - opinions

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  • "Lipstick" foam - opinions

    Could we have a discussion about "lipstick" foam that seems to be a desired physical response in dressage? I was always led to believe that it was a good thing, but I'm starting to wonder...

    My mustang varies in his mouth foaminess. He goes in a Myler comfort snaffle and Micklem bridle and there's nothing unusual about his mouth anatomy.

    In my observations over the past few months about my mustang's foaminess, he gets foamy when he's fussy with the bit and not supple. His "working the bit" that produces the foam isn't chewing in a soft manner, but from tension. When his mouth is quiet and he is light and supple, there's minimal foam. Lately I have been riding him with a different approach (from reading the French Method thread) - higher, forward, lighter contact than I had been instructed in lessons where the contact was low, wide, and heavier. For him the lighter contact = less foam. The rides where he produces less foam are the rides where he feels softer and more supple.

    This topic has come up in my head when for some reason I put something in my mouth to hold it there when I'll need it soon but don't have an extra hand. If I don't swallow, I start drooling. Obviously my human mouth is different from a horse's, but the drooling (which I would imagine would lead to foaminess in a horse) is a byproduct of NOT being relaxed and not swallowing.

    I think that Dr. Cook (of bitless bridle fame) had an opinion on foamy mouths - that they were a sign of tension, maybe? I'd have to look up his website to be sure.

    To be fair, I am not giving him cookies anymore after I mount, so I suppose that also could have something to do with it.

    Anyway, I thought it might be an interesting discussion.
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

  • #2
    This just came up in another thread. A wet mouth is created when the horse is flexed lightly laterally and chews it pulses saliva out of the parotid glands. If the tongue thrusts then it creates soft foam part of which should drip toward the chin (because the horse is lightly ifv...if it is only on the lips the horse is held vertically). If it thrusts too much w/o swallowing it creates too much foam. If it produces saliva (a good thing) but does not chew, the horse will often blow its nose or cough because it is inhaling some of the saliva. All those things are information about the character of the contact.

    Jaw mobilization is (should be caused by) a light action (or hh) on the corners of the lips which causes the horse to 'taste the bit' and to chew and swallow. Singular action (of the inside rein) causes light lateral flexion (in millimeters) as well. This action affects the hyoid apparatus as well. It is felt as lightness in the hand.

    However, horses which are closed/low will often thrust their tongue actively when the bit is acting on the tongue or bars in order to relieve its pressure. That often creates huge amounts of foam or drooling saliva as a tensioned response.

    Less foam, from what you have said, is from a better response.

    The bitless peeps say they do not want a wet mouth as it inhibits breathing according to them, but that would mean the mouth is dry... and as we can point out in ourselves that is not a good thing.
    I.D.E.A. yoda


    • #3
      I have found that an extremely minimal amount of saliva/foam on the edges of the lips is a good thing. Not much that it's very noticeable, but just a little tells me my horse is relaxed and working well.


      • #4
        My mare went from slobber hog when still fitting up to just a lipstick of various thickness and she works softer now so I will vote lipstick without it being overly done (dripping all over) it is a great thing.
        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


        • #5
          I think the amount of foam also depends on the horse. My gelding will get white lipstick when being free lunged and nothing on his head but a halter.


          • #6
            There's a difference between discreet lipstick and looking like a two year old that got a hold of mommy's purse. It should be LIPSTICK not a big mess.
            chaque pas est fait ensemble


            • #7
              Thank you for the information, ideayoda et al.

              Is bar pressure typically the culprit when the foam gets messy, or are other bit/bridle issues similarly likely to cause this?

              If foam is lipstick, then my horse is a bit like the great aunt who used to get ready for church by smearing it liberally and indiscriminately in the general mouth area. I've been suspicious about her bit comfort and now am even more so...
              Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!


              • #8
                Do we know if there is any correlation between type of bit and amounts and kinds of saliva? Degree and types of contact? Types of riding and saliva? Why would a horse not swallow? I'm pretty sure ,oh dear -I've forgotten her name -the vet in the mid-west, did a treadmill study that said "over flexion" of neck did not impede swallowing.


                • #9

                  The warmblood that I have been referring to in the French school thread used to have the driest mouth. I mean nothing. Really concerned me.
                  He goes in a plain snaffle.
                  Since I have been doing the new work with him, No side reins, practically non existent noseband. He is nice and foamy, Not dripping but nice and noticeable.
                  So what gives? Why now?


                  • #10
                    Again, I would repeat there should not be 'lipstick' if we are riding according the fei guidelines (which is ifv). The light foam should drift toward the chin (because the horse is working into the hand ifv).

                    Horse which do it while lunging are relaxed, the mastrix muscles (same as for chewing) are pulsing on the parotid glands which put out saliva. If the tongue is thrusting, the foam will be created.

                    LOL petstore...thats a good one.

                    Different bits create different pressures, and every horse is an individual. Some horses just give up trying to protect the tongue (esp with tightly adjusted nosebands) and flex precipitously longitudinally (since most riders are taught to pursue that flexion first). The majority will have dry mouths, and others thrust repeatedly trying to rid themselves of tongue or bar pressure, these whip up huge amounts of foam which is a sign of tension.

                    Horses with excessive foam and salivating and thrusting the tongue through tension or pain. There would not be excessive saliva or thrusting if the horse was swallowing routine. Just as humans we can have dry mouths, or drool if we do not swallow (ie when tensed). If we overflew, we have difficulty swallowing. For horses, overflexion impedes breathing and swallowing (i personally know a vet student who works on treadmill projects where the trachea of horses trained that way have be shown to be weakened/collapsed/are causing roaring only in that position).

                    As the activity level of the hind leg, and the proper bearing of the horse is most correct, they 'offer to taste the bit'. So it is then lightly wet, soft foam. It is one of the greatest offerings a horse can give a rider imho (good for you sannois).
                    I.D.E.A. yoda


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by grayarabpony View Post
                      I think the amount of foam also depends on the horse. My gelding will get white lipstick when being free lunged and nothing on his head but a halter.
                      Same with my mare! It's like a Pavlovian thing...


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dkcbr View Post
                        Same with my mare! It's like a Pavlovian thing...
                        Before I even get a saddle on him, my horse drools when I hit a good spot as I groom him. Should it be running out the side of his mouth or the front? Do I need to change my grooming style?
                        "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                        the best day in ten years,
                        you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."


                        • #13
                          I am totally new to dressage, so all of this is interesting. They really call it that? My horse never had foam until he started learning dressage. Well, he had some licorice flavored horse "cookies" one day right before I rode. I thought he was bleeding. The foam was red. Talk about lipstick foam...


                          • #14
                            I think a relaxed horse is not more "lipsticked" nor drooly then you would be if you were holding something in your mouth that was kinda in the way of swallowing normally, but not totally so. Normal saliva is a clear fluid. To make it foamy/white (or green, or any other cookie/candy color) agitation is required - ie a tongue that is moving, and lack of swallowing. Like a mixer in a bowl of eggwhites.

                            I think most of the drooly mess is due to horses being tense/fussing with bits, riders fussing with their horses' mouths and the clamping shut effect of nosebands of all sorts.

                            Some creatures are overly drooly or dry mouthed when nervous. My comment applies to "average", pavlovian responses aside.

                            It is neither a desired nor a common thing in most of the other equestrian disciplines. Just imagine the level of fluid loss an endurance horse would suffer drooling its way through 100 miles.
                            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.


                            • #15
                              If they are trying to 'spit the bit out' or 'champing/chomping' on the bit they can create a foamy mess everywhere. Sometimes it isn't foamy, but it is an excess of clear saliva. Either way, they are not relaxed.

                              When they enjoy the work (leaving out the entire classical training scale here), they will softly carry the bit and they will swallow.


                              • #16
                                I have found with my various horses that even when relaxed and soft in the bridle the amount of foam varies from horse to horse. In my human dental patients there is varying amounts of saliva from patient to patient. Also some have more watery saliva and some more mucous. I think it is fair to assume there are differences in horses too.


                                • #17
                                  well..... i have 2 very different horses.... one a youngster who is 4 and who is always foamy - sometimes overly so..... he just has a very wet mouth....

                                  my mare? very different - she is a minimal foam kind of girl.

                                  however what both of them have in common is that true forward activity will produce foam. add in lateral suppleness and you get more. once they start chewing then more again....

                                  i would not necessarily rely only on foam to tell me if the work was correct - perhaps chewing, the feel in the saddle and most importantly maybe at the lower level - will the horse immediately go into whatever gait i require? that alone tells me a whole lot

                                  also fwiw, i think really really really good riders can ride with minimal contact and have fantastic results - the rest of us need contact because we don't have the same ability....
                                  Last edited by mbm; Oct. 10, 2012, 12:54 AM. Reason: dyslexia!


                                  • #18
                                    My STB mare foams excessively in most bits (not a waterford)...and she is neither flexed or "relaxed" - she works the bit constantly. She doesn't flex well at all - I've stopped riding her and we never got to that level when I was.


                                    • #19
                                      Just in case anyone wonders .....

                                      "Chewing" as in/or "Softly Chewing" is a specific term and it is very unique. You will not feel any crunching of the bit. You should only feel a very soft jaw movement as if they are chewing very slightly .... what they seem to be doing then is more of a sucking on the bit.

                                      When I go to remove the bridle, the horse will still be holding and sucking on the bit. I can have the entire bridle off and the horse is still holding the bit. I have to ask for them to let go.

                                      They are holding the bit themselves. They are in control of the bit because (hopefully) you have taught them to work from your seat and leg and they only need to hold the bit because they trust you (and you aids) and they want to work.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by mp View Post
                                        Before I even get a saddle on him, my horse drools when I hit a good spot as I groom him. Should it be running out the side of his mouth or the front? Do I need to change my grooming style?