OTTB bit problem (pulling, chomping, fussing) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 2 Old 03-20-2012, 11:31 AM Thread Starter
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OTTB bit problem (pulling, chomping, fussing)

Iíve been working with this gorgeous OTTB for the past few months or so and recently weíve been running into a problem. Iíve had him in a french link hunter dee snaffle bit and lately heís been constantly tugging at the bit. I was able to avoid it for some time while trotting and cantering allowing him to pull through until he finally realized that there was nothing resisting against him, (instead of playing tug-0-war) and he would stretch down and I would be able to ask him to move onto the bit.

But now heís constantly doing it. Whether it be walk trot or canter, heís constantly pulling and toying with the bit and its very fussy when I ask him for a downward transition and seems to fling his head when asking for an upwards transition. Today I found when asking him for a halt or a down transition that if i take my leg off, close my thigh and sit deeper in the saddle he slowly comes to a halt, but still yet fussing and flinging with his head. And I'm assuming he's being fussy on the transitions because he wants me to take hold of the reins and ask him to go, lol.

He just recently had his teeth done, and we were hoping that would help a bit but it really didnít really seem to address any issues. (weíre also having the chiropractor come out and take a look at him) Iíve tried switching up the bits to introduce some new things to him, like a waterford hunter dee bit and he still seemed very agitated by it. We also tried a gag (the ones where the reins go through the center of the bit to go over the head) for more leverage. We seemed to get a little bit better of a result with his transitions. He also has a flash on right now because he is very chompy with any bit we put on him.

Just for some more background, I'm not harsh on his mouth by any means. He has a very soft mouth and can be very easily pushed onto the bit, and by God has a beautiful headset. He also raced for probably about 3 years and did very well on the track, so much of his life was dominated by racing.

What I wanted to know from the description I gave you, what do you think the problem may be? Should we continue working with the gag, and itíll just take constant work for him to understand what weíre asking of him? Maybe try a full-cheek snaffle or a loose ring (with guards) so he won't lean? I'm open to all opinions but I don't know all to much about how the different bits will work in some ways, so if you could just explain how they would help that would be GREATLY appreciated!

jaimkelly93 is offline  
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post #2 of 2 Old 03-20-2012, 12:27 PM
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Who did his teeth and what tool did they use? There's a big range of expertise and effectiveness in teeth floating. Used to be that you really wanted an equine dentist; now, I think my recommendation would be for an experienced vet that uses the new power equipment. I also now prefer sedation because I don’t want the vet or dentist to stop floating or avoid an area because the horse is acting up.

You can experiment with a variety of different bits to see if there's something that makes him happier. Since he's going in a french link snaffle now, try a single joint snaffle or a mullen mouth. I might be tempted to try a hackamore, bitless bridle or sidepull to see the difference. Really, it just depends how patient you are and how much tack you have available to experiment with. I'd also consider trying a Myler or happy mouth bit. I would not ride him in a gag, (side note: I would never recommend riding a gag with a single rein - if you're going to use one, have a rein attached directly to the bit ring, and carry the gag rein like a curb rein. That way you can control how much leverage you apply) and if you use the flash, I would keep it buckled fairly loosely - if you crank it down tight to inhibit the behavior, you might also have it so tight you inhibit his mouthing and chewing the bit as you want him to. Coercion, or coercive tack, is not going to solve the problem and may make it worse.

From your description of it being worse in transitions, the fact that he had been working quietly with the bit previously, and the that you've had his teeth done recently, my suspicions are that it's either a symptom of pain/discomfort in his back or hind end or that it's behavioral and needs to be worked through in training.

If changes in bitting don't change the behavior, have a vet or chiropractor look at his back and hind end very carefully. Also check saddle fit. If you can't find a physical cause and you can't find a bitting solution, then you have to treat it as a training problem. A good diagnostic would be to lunge him in side reins and she if the behavior stays the same. You could also give him a couple of grams of bute, 1 the evening before and on the morning of your ride and see if that effects the behavior. If it does, that's a pretty clear indicator that it's pain related.

If you've eliminated pain and discomfort and none of your bit experiments work, you're left with riding him through it.

If he roots or tugs, do not let him root rein out of your fingers. I understand your trying not to play tug of war (always wise with on OTTB) but a better technique is to drop your knuckles on his neck while he roots and tugs so he's not pulling directly on you; pick your hands back when he stops fussing.

I would also not take my leg off in downward transitions - that's allowing the horse to train you. I would just continue to ride a lot of transitions and make sure I was riding assertively *forward* in all of them - being tentative with your aids will give him time to fuss. I would ignore, or pretend to ignore, the behavior and concentrate on forward and straight. You can also experiment with asking for the transitions inside a circle or other figure; seeing if either the distraction or having to maintain the bend through the transition helps.

Sorry - I feel like I wrote a book. Frustrating problem! Good luck and post back and let us known how it goes.
maura is offline  

bits , gag , ottb , racehorse , track

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