How to tell if your horse is unhappy in their bit?

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by ALHarabians, Jan 8, 2015.

  1. ALHarabians

    ALHarabians Full Member

    Jan 23, 2009
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    I'd love some suggestions, here!

    I bought a 4 year old Arabian/Trakehner mare in November. She has been lightly under saddle since June. Very willing, easy-going, great mare. I just had her teeth floated in the beginning of December because I thought she may be having mouth pain with the bit. She's all good in that respect now, but the issues continue. I have her in a loose-ring snaffle, and when I make contact to ask her to flex/bend to the side, she will kind of lean her head weirdly and gape/chew the air. To me, this says there is some feeling she doesn't like. She also mouths the bit a lot just while we are riding in general, which I'm not too sure is a bad thing or not? Anyway, it is just usually whenever I put contact on her mouth asking for anything other than putting her head on the vertical, she will start gaping at the mouth.
    Any ideas how to fix this, or any ideas on what kind of bit may work better?

    I have a ton of varieties of Snaffles which I think I'm going to switch out on her to see if any of them seem to help. One kind I don't have that I've been looking at is the "happy mouth" snaffles, that are rubber/plastic? Anyone have any opinions/experience on those?

    Thanks in advance :)

  2. Erik

    Erik Full Member

    May 3, 2012
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    You could try switching to a double jointed snaffle if you are riding her in a single jointed snaffle. I was having the same problems you mentioned with my gelding, and I switched my gelding from a single to a double jointed snaffle and it solved all of them. :) I'm sure the more knowledgeable/experienced people on here can offer more sophisticated bit solutions, but that was what worked for me.
    2 people like this.
  3. prairiesongks

    prairiesongks Senior Member

    Jan 18, 2011
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    She may be anticipating pain if that bit was causing an issue before her teeth were done. However, it won't hurt to try other bits to see if this continues. I will second Erik on trying a double jointed snaffle since IME, many horses do find it more comfortable.
    3 people like this.
  4. MzCarol

    MzCarol Senior Member

    Oct 14, 2010
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    If she's only 4 and only under saddle since June you shouldn't be asking for 'the vertical' right now anyway. She's not built up, strong enough, for that kind of body carriage yet.

    Young ones will often play with a bit just because they are babies and getting used to it. Over time they tend to give that up. Some horses will always play with it because they simply like to.

    I don't like loose ring snaffles because they can tend to pinch the corners of the mouth. Get something more in an eggbutt style.

    The bit they favor has a great deal to do with the inside structure of the roof of their mouth. Some horses are high in there and some are low - others are 'normal'. I would try a french link eggbutt snaffle and see how that goes. I find it to be one of the all around most accepted bits.

    Keep in mind that while it may seem like a mouth only problem, it may not be that simple. You are working with a youngster who is learning everything about everything. Be sure you aren't asking for too much too soon and that what you are asking for is something the horse is conditioned and prepared for.

    My 'baby' will be 5 in June. I've had her since she was a weanling. I haven't begun to ask her for any kind of collection and contact is very, very light. She, too, is an Arab and very, very sensitive in the mouth. It only takes a move of the hips to get her to stop/go. I would suggest laying off the mouth right now and just work the horse up for strength and installation of riding buttons. Contact and collection will come more easily when the horse is strong enough to do what you are asking.
    7 people like this.
  5. MuckMuck

    MuckMuck Senior Member

    Dec 22, 2008
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    1. Horse is pulling on the bit and is unresponsive.

    2. Horses head carriage is overly high or low seeking relief (evasion)from the bit.

    3. Horse spends too much time bracing on the bit,gapes with their mouth and has an overly active tongue.

    4. Horses mood is resistant to being bitted up and fights the process.

    5. Horse seems dull to very light bit pressure applications.

    6.Head shaking,mouthing,clenching and rubbing can also give indications of discomfort or outright pain.

    These can also be indications that the horse was just introduced to the bit too quickly and being asked to perform a task that they do not fully understand yet.
    6 people like this.
  6. Charliemyheart

    Charliemyheart Senior Member

    May 30, 2014
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    Others have given you answers best bet would be a double jointed eggbutt snaffle. I am not a fan of happy mouths.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Binca

    Binca Senior Member

    Mar 18, 2014
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    I am not a fan of happy mouth bits. From what I have seen, they tend to be on the thicker side, and not all horse like a thick bit. Both of mine are far happier if I select a thinner bit for them, especially my arab X, who has the thinnest french link baucher bit I could find. It does depend on the horse though.

    Also double check your bit for size. I see a lot of people riding in bits that are actually a size too big. I think the problem is so many companies advertise their bits as "pony" or "horse" or "cob" sized, and so some people seem to think that if they own a horse, they need a horse sized bit. My 3yo is 16.1hh, full-WB sized bridle, "pony" sized (4.5inch) bit.
    2 people like this.
  8. AngelOfFire

    AngelOfFire Senior Member

    Dec 9, 2013
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    I kept changing bits with my Arab cause he was constantly opening his mouth and chewing the bit. He is in a hackamore now and still opens his mouth and acts like he is chomping a bit. :rolleyez:

    Horses will be horses I suppose.

    Hope you are more successful than I have been. lol
  9. JBandRio

    JBandRio Senior Member

    Oct 18, 2005
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    Pretty much all my points have been hit:

    - 4yo who hasn't been taught to accept the bit so any request for anything related to contact is going to result in odd guesses as to what you want her to do
    - loose ring allows too much movement in the mouth so any contact bothers her
    - there should never, ever be any asking to put the head on the vertical at her level of training. She should be learning to move freely forward with a relaxed head and neck, with passive contact so she learns it's something that's going to be there and doesn't hurt.

    Horses who are more investigative as to what is allowed with their head when they feel the bit require a more in-tune rider who will always go with their mouth and never teach them that flipping their head gets them any sort of dropped contact.

    If every single other thing has been ruled out, make sure you rule out any jaw or neck issues that may be arising from being asked to flex and put her head on the vertical.
    3 people like this.
  10. venomvalleyequi

    venomvalleyequi Senior Member

    Nov 15, 2012
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    Arabs tend to have a low pallet (atleast my mom's did.)

    So the three piece was best for them. And I'm not a fan of loose rings, sometimes they will pinch... dee's are ok... Im an eggbutt kindof gal.
    1 person likes this.

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