Odd behavior with mouth

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Odd behavior with mouth

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  • Odd behavoirs of horses
  • Horse twisting jaw side to side standing

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    09-23-2011, 09:20 AM
Odd behavior with mouth

Hello all! I'm a newbie horse owner, late in life dream come true. Well I have purchased a horse that is a 13 year old Qh mare. Easy to handle on the ground a real sweetie but she does something odd and I can't for the life of me figure out what's going on. When I go to put her bridle or halter on she puts her head down and opens her mouth and twists her jaw from side to side. She even does this other times when I'm not doing anything with her. It's as though she has a kernal of corn stuck in the back of her mouth and is trying to get it out. This is daily. Had her teeth floated by an equine dentist and besides a wave and a few sharp edges she's fine. Had a chiro out and she worked on her and did some adjustments, said her left tmj is tight but didn't think that would cause her to do this. She seems to be doing this more often and she's big on tucking her chin and getting behind the bit and almost gets her nose on the ground. Anyone have any ideas? I don't know where else to turn. Thanks.
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    09-23-2011, 10:12 AM
Sounds like she is "rejecting" the bit. Since you have had her teeth done and the works, it makes me think she's just fighting it. Is it more pronounced when you're bridling her? My horse used to and from time to time does the same thing.
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    09-23-2011, 10:27 AM
You know I've thought the same thing and have tried different bits-fullcheek single-jointed copper snaffle, fullcheek french link with the fat toggle in the middle, loose ring french link with flat toggle and a hackamore. Fusses alot with all but mostly the french links and did not like the hack at all. It was suggested to try a low port kimberwick because she may not like the pinching on the tongue. But in all seriousness she does this when I go in to feed her in the morning and I don't keep a halter on her in the stall or field so she goes through this anytime I'm putting it on. The first night I brought her home and stalled her which she was used too she flung her head violently many many times and then would do this odd movement with her mouth and then stand quiet with foot cocked for a few minutes and then repeat the whole thing again over and over until she wore herself out. Haven't seen this happen again. She did try to literally climb out of the stall several days later when she was put in the stall and everyone else was left out. But it is not a battle to pit the bit on her she's very good about that she's just messes with it constantly and you can tell she's not focused on me.
    09-23-2011, 10:42 AM
Green Broke
Have you had a vet look at her?

My first thought was teeth. And I know you had her teeth done, but it sounds to me like it is something physically going on if she does it without a bit in her mouth (and at at liberty?). Maybe she has some other problem brewing (like an abscess or cracked tooth) that the dentist couldn't see.

I guess it could be behavioral. But because she does it even without anything in her mouth makes me thing it is something physical. It reminds me of my weanling. He used to open his mouth and run his tongue around his teeth a lot and it has gotten much better/almost non existent but because of his age I knew it was his teeth coming in.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but if you haven't tried a vet, that is who I would try next if it were me personally.
    09-23-2011, 10:59 AM
Trailhorserider, the first person I had out was a vet when I first got her because she had not had her teeth done in years. When I rode her first time to see about buying her she messed with the bit alot and carried head way low and I just thought she's wp so she's used to carrying it low and her teeth probably need floating since it had been sooooo long plus they bitted her in a twisted snaffle that left sores on the side of her mouth!. So I had the vet out mentioned the problem to her and she said she didn't see anything and that her teeth weren't that bad for it being so long. So this has continued and my conscience wouldn't let me ride if I'm causing pain and I read about TMJ issues and it sounded like her so I had an Equine dentist out and a chiro and nothing. The eqine dentist did say she a small ulcer on her tongue but that it was no big deal. She loves her salt rock so that's probably where she got that from constantly licking it! I do appreciate your help. Thanks.
    09-23-2011, 11:36 AM
Green Broke
Okay, I didn't know you had the vet out, or the tongue/mouth sores. Poor girl!

Have you tried riding her in a halter or mild hackamore? If it is caused by the bit or her remembering the pain of the bit, maybe it would give her time to heal and forget.

Was she shown/trained for WP? Who knows what could have been done to get her to have the right headset. She might very well be afraid of any bit contact at all. They want them to travel on a totally loose rein.

Just out of curiosity, are you riding on a loose rein or with contact? Have you tried riding on a VERY loose rein? Like super droopy reins? Does she get behind the bit then?

I am not a trainer at all. (I only trail ride western.) But I have a feeling it would be very hard for a horse that is not used to bit contact to get comfortable riding with contact. She may be nervous about the bit and is afraid/not knowing what to expect with a new owner and expecting to get pulled on or something. How long have you had her?

When I bought my Fox Trotter she was really nervous of bit contact (the guy told me to ride her in a halter) but I wasn't about to trail ride a high strung horse out on the trail by myself in just a halter so I put her in the gentlest curb bit I could find (she hated the snaffle) and just rode, rode, rode and eventually she settled in with the bit nicely. I think she finally learned my body language and I learned hers and she realized I was gentle with her.

I hope you are able to figure out what is going on with your girl.
    09-23-2011, 11:56 AM
Trailrider, you have hit on so many things I have thought and tried. Honestly I'm fairly new again to riding and have been working with a trainer and a friend to get my seat and work with my horse to figure out the issue. I try to stay out of her mouth with the least amount of contact possible, fingertips droopy reins. She's veery responsive to turns with leg pressure and little reins and she stops well most of the time but she does get amped up easy which is why I won't trail ride her in a hackamore. I did try a hack and she really did not like it-asking for a trot was an absolute no from her. But I believe you are right, there is no telling what was done to her before I got her I do know they did reining stuff with her and it could be pyshcological with her and like you said I need to just ride, ride ride her. What kind of curb bit worked for you? I just want her to enjoy it too not just put up with me.
    09-23-2011, 01:51 PM
My horse does this too. Like clockwork he does it when I ask him to flex laterally either standing or at a walk. He'll also do it while standing still, occasionally. I ride in a bosal too so no bit issues. I really think it's a low level show of dislike of what he's being asked to do. Therefore, I ignore it and continue. The fact he occasionaly does it while standing is he's saying he either wants to do something or he's done. Again, I ignore it as long as he's doing what I ask with the flexing or he's standing still.

I've had him almost a year and he was a rescue so that could have something to do with this behavior. This is a work in progress so I'm taking it slow while I get to know him. I may need to get on him a little more to focus - we'll see.

I know you mentioned your mare also does this when you feed in the morning. Is it the exact same thing? When my horse (and a lot of horses do this) anticipates food he opens his mouth but it's more of a yawn. He always does when he's being untacked since he knows food is coming.

I just wanted to share my experience with this since your description (which is perfect btw) fits what my horse does. I don't have a definite answer but the timing and circumstance seems to fit a result of behavior. I think the trick is to find out what he needs. Is it stimulation? Is it a minor tantrum and he needs me to just communicate better? It may be something that doesn't go away and as long as it doesn't escalate I'll continue to ignore it. Again, work in progress for me.
    09-23-2011, 06:29 PM
Ideahamster, I have thrown around the idea that it's a learned behavior as a way to hopefully get out of work. I have tried to ignore and push her through it with leg pressure and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When I go to cinch her up just to lace the strap through she extends her head to grab on to anything that is in front of her. I cinch really slow and ignore the behavior. It's actually really sad to see her do it and apparently she has been doing it along time because the previuos owners said they would just tie her head tight so she wouldn't bite them or the kids would just knee her to make her stop. She too is a work in progress and I have plenty of time. Thanks for your help. Oh and in the morning it's not a yawn it's definitley the jaw twisting thing.
    09-23-2011, 06:46 PM
So her mouth must really open if they thought she was going to bite. Does she pin her ears or seem outwardly aggressive? Mine is more like he's in his own head when he does it. I'd really like to get a video but the timing is bad. Do you think you could get a video of it?

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