Hi guys, my sister has a question but no account on here, so she's using mine...
My 7 year old quater horse gelding grinds his teeth when I ride him and I don't know why he does it? He will be going up to a jump and when I half halt he will grind away, or trying to get his head down on the flat. When he grinds his teeth it's not always the same time and is sometimes completely random like when were walking. He's not uncomfortable or nervous, I think he's just bored. Is there anything I can do to stop this?
My Thoroughbred Maestro grinded his teeth alot when I first got him. But there were several reasons and I understood why. The lady who was riding him was a beginner who tried to act and ride like an advanced rider. She also had tight hands that didn't give the horse any room to relax. She didn't know about getting a horse moving under himself and collected, with the neck arched with a bend at the poll, instead he kept his neck way up like a giraffe all the time, and she rode him with a pelham, and keeping him really tight on it. He hated the tight hands as well as the bit so he grit his teeth often, he was also frustrated because she wouldnt let him extend himself in the canter, but instead made him canter practically at a standstill everywhere so he couldn't have any freedom. Now I own him, and I now ride him in a snaffle and he rarely ever grinds his teeth. I also encourage him to collect but also have a little freedom of gait. Here's a picture of him the first time I ever rode him. (see his headset? This is what she must have thought was collected). I know here that my reins are loose and this is not how I normally ride, but he was grinding his teeth and mad because he thought I was going to ask him to do something rediculous or that he would be ridden in the pelham. Nowadays he's alot more collected and happy.
Anyway, I didn't need to go through all this, lol. Just make sure that your horse's teeth are floated and there aren't sharp points causing pain while you're riding, that the bit isn't too harsh and fits well, and that your cues are direct and understandable. I'm sure you are but it's just good to make sure. ;)
One of my mares grinds her teeth when she's nervous or unhappy. Whenever she thinks there are too many horses in the arena is one of the most predictable times, but there are others, such as sometimes when I tighten the cinch, or when she sees horses running in their pasture, or when a car passes us on the road.
I second getting the teeth checked, but my girl has done it since we got her, and her teeth have been floated within the last year. It didn't change it.
She usually only does it for a second or two. I try to distract her when she does it.
You've come to the right place. My horse Cinny is an avid teeth grinder. I know a lot of people will say "pain, agression, etc etc." And I'm not saying that they aren't reasons, and most cases would be the case. However, I understand that there is a rare few who don't follow these textbook reasons. Cinny is one of them.
After a year and a half of vet assessments, chiro assessments, trainers and people sharing the arena with me saying "what the heck is THAT?" while they roll their eyes at me, I have come to this conclusion, Cinny does it as a form of expression. Nobody can find an iota wrong with him that would cause the grinding. Sigh, which sickens me because it's not very welcome in the show arena and especially NOT in the dressage ring. It is pegged by most (including judges) as a sign of bit avoidance, disobedience, yadda yadda yadda.
When Cinny is in his stall and he grinds he is saying "feed me my grain now, you incompetent human!" When he grinds while riding it usually means either "what you are asking of me is impossible for a horse to do, you dumb idiot" or "there is someone coming up behind me." or even "I am really really bored with this, can you please give me something more challenging to do?" When he is in the turn out, he is telling other horses to back off of his elderly friend or he will kick their big butt! He does it just about any time he thinks to do it, in any situation and with any handler/rider. He can have an excellent rider on him, and he will still grit and grind.
I have spoken shortly with his breeder while working out some registration issues and she told me that he was pretty much BORN grinding his teeth and never stopped while she had him. She wouldn't be surprised if he even did it before he was born.
What can you do about it. Well, I would first and formost rule out a pain reason. Yes, this may include calling a vet. You will want to do this anyway because unfortunately teeth grinders usually need their teeth floated once or twice a year as they wear them into jagged edges far faster than most horses. Check all of your tack, make sure NOTHING is causing even the slightest bit of pain.
Second, teach your horse to relax his jaw. There are a lot of threads on here about relaxing the jaw and teaching a horse to relax it when you want it to. Cinny doesn't grind so badly when he is relaxed and/or his brain is elsewhere. Try to take mental note of when the grinding happens, what was going on. Was your horse behaving as if it were bored, hungry, agitated, etc? The more you take mental note and try to find the cause, the more you can work on stopping it.
Cinny STILL does it, but not as often or as bad. Surprisingly, he doesn't do it in the show ring, but I just know one day it will happen right in front of a judge! At home while riding I make sure to switch up our work, keeping his brain on what he is doing so he doesn't get bored and resort to grinding. I had a trainer once tell me to try a roller bit with him, but that didn't work at all. He doesn't really do it at all on trail or outside but in arenas he still does until I really get him thinking.
Just try to relax and go with it for a bit until you understand why your horse is doing it. If you stress about it your horse will sense your stress and it could make it even worse. If you relax and settle in, your horse will start to as well. Be careful trying to punish or correct him for it as this can make him more nervous which could lead to more grinding. Concentrate more on being a relaxing yet challenging influence on your horse. I'm sure it will all work out after a year or so.