Do you have a horse that chews on the bit constantly? There is a difference between a horse chewing excessively on the bit and mouthing and/or working the bit. Yes, we all want our horses to have a relaxed mouth (or lower jaw) which enables the horse to work the bit and salivate. A horse that is tight in the lower jaw, for whatever reason, will have a dry mouth making the bit somewhat uncomfortable. We have all experienced dry mouth and know that it is not the most comfortable feeling.
I hope this horse blog will give you some food for thought if you have a horse that is chewing on the bit. Of course, you always want to check your bit and the fit. Checking equipment is always the first place to start. Checking any physical conditions (such as teeth) would be the second place to check. I have been in the horse industry for around 30 years and I have never had a horse with ulcers in their mouth. Last month I had two new horses come in for training and one horse had one ulcer and the other horse had two ulcers. The ulcers were caused by points on their teeth rubbing on the inside of their cheeks. Needless to say, they both were not happy campers with the bit and chewed constantly with a little head tossing.
So, if it is not poor fitting equipment or anything caused by a physical condition…then the excessive chewing could be the result of anxiety. The anxiety could be caused by a number of issues. The most common would be improper past training and/or improper current training.
I have often said that people might want to look at riding their horse’s mind. For example: I have been working with a very sensitive little mare who chews constantly on the bit. She appears to know what she is doing but she gives me the feeling that she is not feeling good about what she is doing. She even salivates on the bit…more than I thought she would…so I asked myself…what could be the issue? I started to break things down in my mind. Her gaits have been a little tense along with her transitions. She softens at the poll and lower jaw…but she is not feeling good. One day last week I worked only on her walk and halt transitions. When I asked her to halt from the walk…I picked up by reins and waited for her feet to stop and then I released. My next time I picked up my reins I waited for her to stop her feet and waited for her to soften at the poll and then I released. The next time I picked up my reins I waited for her feet to stop, soften at the poll and the lower jaw and waited til she stopped chewing excessively on the bit before I gave her a release. The last part of the process made the biggest improvement in her anxiety. She had finally learned to not only stop her feet but to shut her mind off. People often think only of their horse’s feet…she needed help mentally understanding what she needed to do in order to receive a release from me. She needed, not only stop her feet but to stop her mind. The process took around 90 minutes but the time was worth it. Her resistance had improved a great deal and the chewing went away. She now had a complete understanding of what a true STOP was! I could ask her to stop and then throw the reins away and she wouldn’t walk off. Walking off from the halt is something she was doing with her owner all the time.
She taught me that she might have been stopping her feet but her mind was still going. She confirmed to me, once again, that 100% clarity is what’s important to your horse. Horses will certainly tell you if they are not feeling good about what they are doing….it is our job to listen and take the time to clarify any piece of their education that is causing anxiety. I hope this horse blog has given you some food for thought if you have a horse that chews the bit excessively! It is a wonderful feeling when you can resolve an issue that could be causing your horse anxiety.