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Chewing at the bit?

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  • Chewing at the bit?

    Good morning! My OTTB is constantly chewing at the bit when working. He sometimes doesn't do it at the walk, and rarely does it at the canter, but is almost always chewing the bit at the trot. He can be a bit sensitive and hot, but never bad. It almost seems like a nervous habit to me. He's in a light weight O ring with a plate in the middle, very mild, looks like this:


    (but not copper)

    I know that the bit in the middle is supposed to encourage chewing/acceptance of the bit, but my guy is chewing in a way that he's trying to pull/avoid the bit, not be supple and accepting.

    I haven't tried anything to solve this yet, but he did the same thing when he was in a regular full cheek. I've been thinking about trying a flash on him to see if that helps at all. I'm thinking it could be possible that he also has ulcers as he's a bit girthy. He's in very good weight and generally happy, but does this same "chewing" motion when being girthed, and isn't thrilled about it.

    Thanks for any/all suggestions.
    "And my good dreams? They all come with a velvet muzzle and four legs. All my good dreams are about horses."--In Colt Blood

    COTH Barn Rats Clique!

  • #2
    If he is chewing quietly and developing a bit of shaving cream, it is not a bad thing. If he is clanking on the bit, it is either too low, or too wide.

    Since he does it sometimes when being girthed, it could be a result of tension. Tension will go away as his ability to handle the work improves. A flash will make no difference. Time and patience can help.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


    • #3
      My OTTB mare used to do that and I found that it was tension causing her to chew and chomp the bit. Like merrygoround said it will go away with time. My mare quit after getting stronger and in a work routine. She just doesn't like being girthed or having her belly touched for any reason so that part she will always be tense and does still chew a little!


      • Original Poster

        Thanks guys! He's clanking on the bit, not the normal submissive chewing that we like. He does develop shaving cream but not for the good reasons. It's not a very wide bit. I'll try raising it up a hole or two.

        He is a bit out of shape, but even when I was riding him almost every day he did this. I've owned him/have been riding for him for a year.

        I'm moving him to a facility with an indoor this weekend, so we'll see if with a higher bit placement and regular work he stops.

        Appreciate the advice.
        "And my good dreams? They all come with a velvet muzzle and four legs. All my good dreams are about horses."--In Colt Blood

        COTH Barn Rats Clique!


        • #5
          The bit could be placed improperly (super common), or too thick (also super common)
          Make sure it's equidistant from his front and back teeth. Also make sure that when his teeth are touching there's space between the upper and lower bars for the bit and some extra room.

          It could be that he needs his expectations changed, and less bit picking of his form. One of my students horses does the clacking when she over rides.
          chaque pas est fait ensemble


          • #6
            My OTTB did NOT go well in the bit you posted. It really made him chomp a whole lot more. I ended up going back to a fat rubber full cheek, then graduated to a sort of fat jointed D, now he is in a Myler D (1 mouthpiece). He LOVES that. I always think bring it down to the most basic bit, evaluate, and move from there. What bit is your horse in now? (unless i missed it in your first post)


            • Original Poster

              Petstore, thanks, I will check into that! I do try to be very soft and following with my hands but will keep that in mind for future rides.

              Alter, he's a bit exactly like I posted. He did the same thing in a full cheek snaffle. He can get strong, so I'm not sure I want to try a rubber D on him. I did ride him in a Myler D ring when I had him in PA, same sort of behavior.

              I'm interested to see how he goes with more consistent work.
              "And my good dreams? They all come with a velvet muzzle and four legs. All my good dreams are about horses."--In Colt Blood

              COTH Barn Rats Clique!


              • #8
                My OTTB goes in an egg ubtt 3 pieice. When he starts chewing and leaning, its a clue to me that I am being wayyyyyy too handsy for him and to cut it out!
                And nothing bad happened!


                • #9
                  LOL i know about being strong.. .my OTTB was practically unrideable and had the worst mouth for almost a year. The reason i suggest the fat rubber is this (based on my horse of course...) Every bit i put my OTTB didnt' work. I was frustrated. Then i realized that he had no idea how to accept my hand. With the fat rubber, he had something to hold onto (in a good way - not a leaning and running way) and it was so soft that i was able to really teach that I will soften when he gives. He never accepted my hand until the rubber bit. Does your horse actually accept your hand, or does he do the sort of typical OTTB false frame behind the bit softness. You say he gets strong and you dont feel like you could do a rubber bit. Does he have brakes? i did ride my OTTB in a figure 8 for a little while,as he had a tendency to brace a bit.. that's all but gone now, and he just goes in the myler with the regular noseband. He's pretty broke on the flat, but still green at the jumps...


                  • #10
                    HEy OP tried to send you a PM but your inbox is full...


                    • #11
                      My last OTTB mare did something similar. She didn't start it until she had been undersaddle for about a year. I tried just about everything. I tried ever bit I could, tried different saddles, had her teeth done, body work, you name it. I could get a couple good weeks with certain bits but then she would start up again. At one point she was grinding as well. That stopped and she just went back to clacking. Drove me up a wall! She did it mostly when you picked up contact. However I could do whatever I wanted in a hackamore or halter. Even moving the bit up and down in her mouth didn't help. She would do it sometimes also after I got off and was untacking her. She didn't really do it before we rode though. My new gelding starts to chew the bit when I pick up contact also. I don't remember him doing it when I was trying him so I will be playing with bits. He is also still pretty body sore (OTTB also) so right now he isn't doing much of anything other than just hanging out and being a horse.


                      • #12
                        I'm restarting an OTTB right now and he is chomping the bit and grinding his teeth like crazy. He was so focused on his mouth all the time that I was surprised he could remember how to walk! He was also very girthy when I first got him. I tried three or four different bits and none worked so i started riding him bitless. He didn't like the Dr. Cook's so I've put him in an LG bridle (a sidepull with a tiny bit of leverage). So far it's worked really well. He's finally relaxing enough to use his body and his mouth is blissfully quiet.

                        Eventually I'll try re-introducing the bit and will probably go with a nathe mullen mouth or something else very soft and mild.
                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                        • #13
                          My TB mare(not of track) would also grind her teeth, pull her head down, and sometimes turn her head sideways. After some playing around with bits(she was started in a rubber D snaffle, then as she advanced trainer rode her in a Mylar double jointed snaffle D ring. She also went for a short period in a plain full cheek, and a rubber pelham. When I started riding her more, I realized some of her grinding and other behaviors were from me being too "handsy". I started riding her in a Happy Mouth Mullen mouth. She still pulled down some, but not as much grinding. For about the last 6 plus years I have ridden her primarily in a hackamore. She goes awesome in that. The only time I use a bit is when I compete in dressage(mind you very low level). I pull out the Happy Mouth mullen and only use it the day of the show. I found if I tried to school in it, I would get the pulling down behavior. I still have her rubber D that she started in and you can see where she chewed thru the rubber in several places from grinding her teeth.


                          • Original Poster

                            Thank you for all the help and suggestions!

                            I grabbed a used loose ring Myler(level 1 with a very mild curve) and he LOVES it. Such a change from the anxious, irritated, chomping, chewing, pulling horse I had. With the new bit he was soft, stretchy and willing to accept contact. He barely chomped at all and seemed to be quite the happy camper. Keeping my fingers crossed that I have the same horse tomorrow.
                            "And my good dreams? They all come with a velvet muzzle and four legs. All my good dreams are about horses."--In Colt Blood

                            COTH Barn Rats Clique!


                            • #15
                              How does he carry himself? Head too high, tossing of the head, on the forehand, etc?