Bit irritation

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Bit irritation

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    12-28-2012, 10:11 PM
Bit irritation

For the short version - My horse is extremely irritated by the bits I've tried on him, and I think it's because they're hitting the roof of his mouth. I got a pretty close look at what was going on in there today with a single-jointed snaffle and a curb with a small/medium port, and I even stuck my fingers in there and got the same reaction when I touched the roof of his mouth as I do with the bit. So now I'm trying to figure out what I should do...

So, now what? I only have single-jointed snaffles and the curb bit, none of which work for him. I wonder if a double-jointed snaffle, like a French Link, would work, or if I'd be better off going with a mullen-mouth. I may be able to borrow a Myler bit sooner or later to see how it works (it's on loan to someone else at the moment), but I'd like to find a cheaper bit if I can.

Any ideas or suggestions here?


Now for the long-version with background information, just because I took so long to write it before I realized I could summarize it all in two nice little paragraphs:

My horse has had bit problems since shortly after I got him. I'm not sure if he had them before February, since that's before I bought him, and since he wasn't ridden regularly, I think it took a little bit of regular riding before I realized he was having issues. In other words, he might have always had these issues, but I just didn't recognize them.

What I did recognize was that about a month after I got him and he was getting ridden regularly, he started foaming up each time I put the bit in his mouth. Not the good "oh I like this bit" foaming up, but rather stressed-out-need-to-protect-my-mouth foaming up. It would literally cover his muzzle and drip off his face. It immediately went away, however, as soon as I switched him into a hackamore. Since then, I've moved him in a sidepull, my preferred type of bridle for various reasons, especially since I do endurance and it allows the horse to eat and drink more freely. However, I need to be able to use a bit for training and in other situations in order to communicate clearly.

During the winter, we've been doing some training, but as soon as I put the bit in his mouth, the problems begin. In a single-link snaffle bit, he immediately opens his mouth and pulls his lips back away from the bit. This is before I put any pressure on it at all. When I do put pressure on it, it becomes a battle and he throws his head, sticks it out, pulls down, etc.

At someone's suggestion, I tried a short shanked curb bit with a medium port to prevent any tongue-pinching to occur. When I put the bit in his mouth and let it sit, he did pull back his lips, but not nearly as badly as he did with the snaffle bit. However, when I put any pressure on the bit, he would try to get away from the pressure, open his mouth, and pull back his lips, as well as grind his teeth, but at least it didn't become a head-throwing battle. He just looked and felt very uncomfortable. Today, he didn't pull back his lips at all unless pressure was applied, but it was still just as bad each time I had to put any pressure on the bit.

After riding, I tried to get a good look at what was going on in his mouth. It seems that even the medium port is hitting the roof of his mouth, so he's opening his mouth to get away from it. I stuck my fingers in where the bit and couldn't avoid contact with the roof of his mouth, so I think the roof of his mouth is very low (but I don't have any comparison at the moment, so I'm not sure if all mouths are this low). Then, I put the snaffle back in his mouth. As soon as I put any pressure on it, the joint hit the roof of his mouth (I was pretty sure, but it's quite slobbery in there) and he opened it and pulled back his lips. Finally, I stuck my fingers in there again and bent my knuckles slightly. As soon as they hit the roof of his mouth, I got the same result. In fact, if I just stuck one finger in there and barely touched the roof of his mouth, I got the same reaction. I think I've found the source of my bit woes.
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    12-28-2012, 10:16 PM
Can you borrow a french-link snaffle from someone? Just as a test, it shouldn't matter whether it's a roller, lozenge, or dogbone in the middle, just make sure it's not a Dr Bristol.
If not, I've gotten some off eBay for under $20 before. Might be worth it just to try it. Let him wear it for a while before actually using it to make sure there's no reaction from just having it his mouth- which there really shouldn't be if it's the roof of his mouth that's the problem.
Are his teeth OK? I know you say he reacts this way if you touch the roof of his mouth, but he may be associating that with other discomfort that he's used to from the bit.
    12-28-2012, 10:18 PM
I don't think I know anyone with one to borrow, but the tack shop has one here for $15. It's loose-ringed, so I may want to get bit guards (is that what you call them?) to keep his lips from pinching. He's a sensitive horse in general.
    12-28-2012, 10:19 PM
Love your photo btw!
    12-28-2012, 10:20 PM
Just a probably useless thought: has a vet seen him? Could be he has some kind of medical reason for this reaction. I don't know what kind of issues are possible but it seems more than a preference thing to me. Could also be his bars and not the roof of his mouth. Does he have a small mouth? When is the last time he was floated? Wolf teeth? Abcess?

Just my thoughts :)
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    12-28-2012, 10:23 PM
His teeth were done in February and checked since. I'm not seeing any other odd issues. Yes, his mouth is tiny. I'll post a picture.

It just seemed interesting that I got the exact same reaction as soon as I pressed slightly on the roof of his mouth, so I'm pretty sure I've figured out the problem spot.
    12-28-2012, 10:29 PM
A vet could check for bruises/contusions to his mouth. Not that it is your fault, just that his mouth is so small he might be a little bruised. Otherwise I would suggest his mouth is just so small he can't tolerate a bit.
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    12-28-2012, 10:31 PM
Very good point. I've mainly ridden him in a sidepull all summer, so I think any bruises would have healed by now, but I'll definitely look into it. I did wonder how a bit would even fit in that mouth of his, since I felt like I was rubbing against the roof of his mouth when I just stuck my fingers in there straight across.
    12-28-2012, 10:32 PM
Has anyone ever heard of a horse's mouth being too small to tolerate bits? And would you recommend a thicker or thinner bit? A nice thick one might prevent any pressure points, but then again, his mouth might just be too tiny!
    12-28-2012, 10:36 PM
Here's a picture where you can see the outside of his mouth. He's an Arab, so he's supposed to have a small mouth, but it seems his mouth is even more delicate than most. His nostrils curve down the front, so he's a very clean eater (he'd drown if he stuck his face in his food!), and he's got that funny little chin. When I was checking out his mouth today, it just seemed like there wasn't much room for anything in there other than what he's already got.
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