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Teeth gnashing is driving me insane, ideas?

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  • Teeth gnashing is driving me insane, ideas?

    The big horse developed a new habit about two months ago: chomp-chomp-chomping and gnashing his teeth while sucking his tongue back up in his mouth. He does this throughout the entire ride, and it is driving me INSANE.

    We've checked:

    *lameness exam
    *chiro + stretches
    *saddle fit
    *about 10 different bits tried, including mullen mouth, KK, myler, plain loose ring, french link, waterford, and a few others plus a combination of different cheeks on the above
    *cavesson, no cavesson, flash cavesson, loose cavesson, tight cavesson
    *higher bit placement, lower bit placement
    *diet changes to more ulcer-friendly foods + 24/7 hay net
    *feet fixed from previous farrier's slack job
    *ride outdoors vs. indoors
    *more turnout

    In addition to that, his teeth were done in March of last year. Despite having not been touched for 5+ years, they weren't in bad shape at all. I don't see or feel any sharp points, and he's eating well, but it's possible (though seems unlikely) that they may need to be done again. He's on shark cartilage, Hyaluronic Acid, and MSM. Feels great, moves great, looks fabulous.

    Chiro didn't find anything remarkable that would explain the mouth activity.

    He prefers a fixed cheek bit, relatively thin diameter, and has a narrow mouth with a low palate. Right now he's happy, if a bit heavy on the contact in a french link D. I tried (and bought) a different saddle with a wider channel and he's been pleased with it. The work he's offering me is great - better than ever before, really lifting his back and pushing from behind.

    But the mouth. Especially when he gets worried or tense - chomp chomp chomp chomp clack clack clack clack. Loudly. It doesn't look like he's crossing his jaw. About 3/4 of the way through our ride, he settles a bit and starts really working correctly, it happens less - but still happens. I try to provide a steady connection up to that point but can feel him dithering behind the bit and sulking off my leg.

    It also happens on the lunge line, with side reins.

    It happens less if I ride with ZERO contact and hack him along like a hunter.

    I've owned him since March 2010; this began in December 2011. He's 14, OTTB of 42 starts, retired at 6 with clean legs, and he's a BIG boy.

    What have I missed? Ulcers? Teeth? Massage therapy? Possibly some arthritis somewhere in the neck vertebrae? I'm fully willing to accept that maybe I've brought this on myself, that my riding style has somehow caused it, if that's the case. I don't have any video, sorry. This is my absolute favorite horse of all time - the one I ride for fun.

  • #2
    Try a defusing ride.

    So, if you are trotting along and he starts gnashing, sit quietly, ask for some half steps, and wait until you get quiet, no-gnashing halfsteps and then let him out again.
    Or ask for a few steps of legyield, wait him out until he gives moment of softness and acceptance and then let him out again.
    Very often you will go from gnashing, to your request getting more resistance (it's ok, just wait it out), and then the horse goes, "Oh ok" for a second. That is when you let him out.

    He will learn that gnashing = more "pressure" and quietly accepting = less.

    You are using physical exercises, but it is more of a brain-training thing than a body thing.

    However, I find that teeth moving is often a sign that they are starting to "get it," so you don't want to discourage it too much. Rather, focus on that as something that tells you, "Hey rider, this is a good time to add a little pressure and see how he handles it."
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    • #3
      My mare does it too and have checked pretty much what you have already. I've learned to ignore it, but she's doing it less than she used to, not sure why.
      Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
        However, I find that teeth moving is often a sign that they are starting to "get it," so you don't want to discourage it too much. Rather, focus on that as something that tells you, "Hey rider, this is a good time to add a little pressure and see how he handles it."
        Well, that certainly makes sense... I've been pushing him much more in the last few months than I did previously.

        I do think we need to head to the beach or an open field somewhere and clean out the pipes, soon.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
          I do think we need to head to the beach or an open field somewhere and clean out the pipes, soon.
          What I love about eventers - they KNOW this! Happy horses relax better.

          Did you try a center revolver or roller ball bit? the Sprenger WH or Mylers come to mind. I'd also look at dental again too. Have the TMJ checked?


          • #6
            I also find that acupunture is great to find those places that are bugging a horse - a few staples in the head and a b12 shot to the poll and voila, happy horse lol!

            Also, we like to use Gastrogade (not GastroGuard which is for confirmed ulcers). Seems to help with a variety of anxiety related issues. They love the purple stuff and we just shoot an oral syringe of it in their mouths before feed time.

            I was going to suggest a trail ride or nice hack out too - sounds like he's stressed from too much work too soon.
            Good luck!


            • Original Poster

              No, actually...haven't tried anything with a roller. That's a good idea. Of course the right answer would be another $$$ bit. Story of life.

              He's a blast to gallop. If we had the space for it I'd be out there every day! Bridge the reins, crouch down a bit and I could just cruise along for miles.


              • #8
                I have never tried them, but you could try those gummy "treats" which are sort of waxy. I think they are called GumBits??

                You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


                • #9
                  Mine used to grind his teeth all the time. It was not because he was "getting it." It was obviously because he was pissed and anxious. I tried all the same things you tried to no avail. It was maddening.

                  What cured mine was a bitless bridle and a looser rein. And then lots of time (for him to trust in the looser rein).

                  I know that's no help if you're competing.
                  I have a Fjord! Life With Oden


                  • Original Poster

                    No grinding, cindy...just chomping. My other gelding will grind his teeth when he's working on something particularly challenging.

                    I'm not sure how this one would do bitless. Interesting idea.


                    • #11
                      It's ulcers in my opinion until proven otherwise. That is a pretty textbook symptom.
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                      Home Away From Home


                      • #12
                        My guy does this too, he is on maintenance for ulcers, I switched him to a myler with a very high port and he no longer does it at the walk, only trot and canter now. He is a track boy and I think it's a habit from his racing days.

                        No matter how relaxed, through, or nice he goes he still "smiles" and clacks his teeth a little bit. It does get worse with stress though.

                        It is something we are always looking to improve, but I know we will probably never cure it completely.
                        Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                          It's ulcers in my opinion until proven otherwise. That is a pretty textbook symptom.
                          If you read the "textbook" about ulcers, pretty much ANYTHING can be a symptom.

                          Will keep it in mind, and add to the list of things to explore.


                          • #14
                            My OTTB began doing the same thing just after his change from the hunters. He eventually progressed to full-out grinding and now will do it no matter what. I've tried everything and am still looking for the "cure". It's frustrating and I definitely sympathize with you OP, I spent a fortune on bits, chiro, massage, acupuncture, vets, supplements, etc etc etc.

                            What I've found helps us is when he really starts going with grinding, I ask him to do something he does well and is good at, like a circle with a leg yield out. It gives his brain a minute to chill, keeps him working and then I can soften, pat him and make a fuss and it stops the grinding for a while.


                            • #15
                              My mare is a definite bit chewer like that, it happens more if she is kind of stressed out, but the more I worried about it the more stressed we both got. I have just been ignoring it and riding her like normal and still expecting her to behave. The more I ignore it and carry on. She does do it sometimes still, but not as much as she did. It kind of started when she was having a lot of back trouble and ulcers were starting, so I think it was an anxious response, that even after all of that has been treated and maintained comes out a bit if she is a bit nervous or if something is "hard".

                              Her bit also hung a little too low in her mouth, so I punched another hole to pull it up a tiny bit so she couldn't have as much movement to lift it up (if that makes sense) higher into her mouth when she would chew it, hoping for more consistent bit placement in her mouth. It wasn't a miracle fix (nothing was), but seemed to help a little.

                              So overall-if everything else on him checks out I would say ignore it and carry on (and try to keep him happy) and see if he just relaxes a little and stops.
                              ETA: I definitely agree with JustABay, in that when they start to do it, do something that you know can be a positive thing that they are successful at. Lots of praise when they settle and stop grinding.


                              • #16
                                Take bit out!

                                Try a hackamore for a while. Lots of different kinds to try. Try one with leverage first then without. See what he does. You will probably be surprised.

                                I would avoid a bitless bridle that has to have a tight noseband to work.


                                • #17
                                  I second this....

                                  Originally posted by babecakes View Post
                                  What I love about eventers - they KNOW this! Happy horses relax better.

                                  Did you try a center revolver or roller ball bit? the Sprenger WH or Mylers come to mind. I'd also look at dental again too. Have the TMJ checked?
                                  You can get a relatively inexpensive roller bit - I just saw a full cheek with a center roller at the feed store for about $20. The roller gives them something else to think about - I've used it with a horse that would grind his teeth in the hunt field because standing at draws was boring for him.

                                  I have an OTTB that does the same thing - he's improved from the grinding/clacking and head held sideways to just the grinding and clacking. I tried a crank and a flash, and it just made him mad. He quickly figured out that he could exact his revenge by trotting around with his head flat out sideways - like he was laying on a pillow. Guess he showed me! LOL


                                  • #18
                                    If you send me your bit size and address, I have a TON of bits I can send that you can try. Some with rollers, some that are just odd shaped. No point in going out and spending more money on something that doesn't work.
                                    May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      That is very kind! I'll send you a PM.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                                        In addition to that, his teeth were done in March of last year. Despite having not been touched for 5+ years, they weren't in bad shape at all. I don't see or feel any sharp points, and he's eating well, but it's possible (though seems unlikely)
                                        Not unlikely at all IMO. Lots of horses need dental work every 12 months, and it could be as simple as "He used to put up with the mouth pain because he didn't know any different, and now that you've exposed him to the wonderful new world of NOT having mouth pain, he's feeling pretty pissed about the wee little points that are forming on his teeth 11+ months after his last dental appointment."

                                        Given all the effort you've put in elsewhere, it seems as good a theory as any.
                                        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/