Mouth gaping, what would you do?

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Mouth gaping, what would you do?

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    04-13-2010, 12:48 AM
Mouth gaping, what would you do?

My horse opens her mouth when I ride her. It does not seem to have a pattern, but then again I don't have video footage of me riding that I can watch. I assumed that she gaped when I got too handsy, but I had my trainer watch for it as we rode and my horse opened her mouth when I had fairly light contact and wasn't really messing with her mouth at all. She doesn't open her mouth for long or very wide.

The first thing I ruled out was myself. I try to be more aware of my hands when I am riding so that I do not fall into the bad habit of pulling on her without releasing. Of course this is a work in progress, but I like to think that I am slowly improving in that aspect.

The second thing I checked was her teeth. The vet came out to float her, but after he took a look, he said that they don't need to be done yet.

My horse will often try to weasel her way out of doing hard work and only do it half-way and thus do the work incorrectly. I have to correct her and get her going properly. I think that she gapes to avoid the contact and thus "escapes" from working correctly.

Under the reccomendation of my trainer, I ride her in a flash. I experimented with it and found that if I had to too loose, my horse would use the flash as leverage to pull on me and go around very heavy in my hands. When I adjusted the flash snugly, she worked better. When I rode without it, she was almost as good as that, but I could tell that she somtimes was evading the bit and fighting it a little.

I ride her in a double jointed loose ring snaffle. I'm pretty sure it's stainless steel. It's like a knockoff of the KK Ultra Sprenger bits, so it has that same rotated middle piece. It's more on the thick side. The only other bits I've ridden her in is the actual KK Ultra Sprenger bit and a french link. They're all similar bits and she was the same in each of them.

Let me know if you need to know anything more. Oh my horse and I mostly do dressage.

Although I seem to have found my solution, I'd like to know if there are other options that I have not considered yet. I also know that a lot of people really dislike the use flash nosebands, so I wanted to know what they would do in this situation as I am stumped. I want to do the right thing for my horse's comfort and training. Thank you!
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    04-13-2010, 01:45 AM
I think it is fantastic that you've already done a lot to rule things out. One thing I did notice that you didn't mention was saddle fit - my friend's horse recently started gaping and avoiding the bit. She had a saddle fitter out this weekend and the mare has bruised muscles from a too-narrow saddle.
    04-13-2010, 02:08 AM
I'd have to see a video of her doing it to give an accurate guess, but it could be jaw/neck tension that she is working out. If she's a little stiff and then gets ridden, her muscles warm up and she might be stretching. I know that my horse often chews on the bit when he's working through tension somewhere, I'd assume it's similar with mouth gaping. She could also be wary of what she's being asked to do, etc.
    04-13-2010, 02:26 AM
Have you ever used just a bit with a straight mouthpiece on her? My mare HATES certain bits, she'll put her head to the sky with her mouth open - basically, she'll be sure to let you know she doesn't like what you're using! I got her to cooperate the best riding in a straight mouthpiece Pelham bit or a Kimberwicke, just anything without a funky mouthpiece! We were pretty sure (I read it somewhere, can't remember where though) that the jointed mouthpiece was pinching her tongue. If you haven't already tried a straight mouthpiece on your mare, I'd be curious to see how she'd go in one! Something like this, maybe?
    04-13-2010, 02:28 AM
Oh and sorry for my 'descriptions', I'm really bad with bits LOL
    04-13-2010, 09:08 AM
It's her mouth, why can't she open it? Does it cause any problems or just bother you? As long as I get my horses feet to do what I need them to do I could care less what thier mouth is doing. Usually when the feet are freed up and moving where you want them consistently the head comes into the correct position and the mouth and tail all quiet down without any "help" from the rider.
    04-13-2010, 01:46 PM
Originally Posted by kevinshorses    
It's her mouth, why can't she open it? Does it cause any problems or just bother you? As long as I get my horses feet to do what I need them to do I could care less what thier mouth is doing. Usually when the feet are freed up and moving where you want them consistently the head comes into the correct position and the mouth and tail all quiet down without any "help" from the rider.
Sometimes the mouth/head tries to tell us that there's something wrong, that there's something that needs to be fixed.
My friend's mare started gaping and resisting ever so slightly (small cues that someone might ignore or dismiss), so she had the saddle fitter out to check her back and the saddle. It turns out that she has a deep muscle bruise from a too-narrow saddle. Very subtle signs, but signs nonetheless that something was hurting her.
Sometimes a horse just gapes.... but I'd rather rule pain out before dismissing it as just a behavior.
    04-14-2010, 04:15 AM
JDI - Thank you for the input! I never thought about saddle fit at all. We don't have saddle fitters here though... I could either get input from my trainers, ride bareback for comparison, or try out some of the other saddle at our barn that I used to use on her.

Roro - Stiffness could be part of it. I know that some days she does start off a little stiff. You also mentioned that she could be wary, which I can see her doing. I know that she is more tense when we work on new things up until she fully understands what we are doing.

Kmdstar - I haven't actually messed with changing bits at all on my horse, since I figured that she went so well in her current one. If I can get my hands on a a bit with a straight mouth piece, I'll try it on her. I'll just need to educate myself more on the action of that in her mouth first.

Kevin - JDI pretty much summed it up for me. The mouth gaping doesn't bother me as much as the fact that it may be stemming from a pain related issue. Also, I believe you get points deducted if your horse gapes during your dressage test, so that would kinda suck for us.

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