I bought a new Tennessee Walker last weekend - a 7-year-old gelding, very laid-back - my kind of horse! The problem I'm having is that he goes along for a time (maybe 15 minutes) then starts to grab the shank of his bit with his teeth. I've tried a few types of bits (walking horse, curb, and now mechanical hackemore), and it doesn't seem to matter. He grabs the shank and begins to shake his head back and forth (not up and down). I need help figuring out how to break him of this most annoying habit! Thanks!!
It sounds like he doesn't like the bit. May try riding him in just a plain old Snaffle, not to be confused with the Tom Thumb bit, which is cruel and should be outlawed.
OP, have you had his teeth checked to make sure that they aren't making him dislike the bit?
As for correcting the issue, I can't really help with that. I've honestly never had a horse that would try that and I can't seem to figure out how a horse can manage it on a well-designed bit if he's being ridden correctly:think:.
Get a bit with more curve to the shank so that he can't reach it.
I get tired of defending the tom thumb. Sure, there are probably better bits on the market, and I don't even use it myself anymore, but I still own a slew of them. There are a TON of bits out there stronger than the tom thumb.
Instead of defending the tom thumb, I need a less wordy line. Something like "if your horse hates the tom thumb your hands are too strong." I can ride my horses in almost anything, including a tom thumb. It doesn't mean it is the best bit for them, but if it were the only bit I owned, I could ride any horse I owned in a tom thumb.
As for the OP's horse, I don't know. Maybe try a regular snaffle or if you ride in a curb, a grazing bit with really swept back shanks. Thankfully it's not something I've had much personal experience with.
^^^ cruel may not be the best way to decribe the TT, flawed, would be better. Someone with fast hard hands can make it cruel because their is no presignal.
To the OP, like mentioned above a bit with a "S" shank. An example would be the reproduction of US cavalry bit. Maybe try getting him a bit with a cricket/roller in it, that possibly might pacify him.
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I agree with smrobs, get the teeth checked. Then you could try a different bit.
I too get sick of the bad rap that a tom thumb bit gets. I switch my bits from time to time so I have and use it sometimes. I have quiet hands so it isn't a problem. My horse does well with that bit like the other ones I use because she knows I'm not going to get rough with her. Don't blame the bit, hold the hands accountable.
If this were my horse, and changing the bit didn't help, I would go back to a long shank walking horse bit. A young walker really needs it to get set in thier gait. And 7 is a walker that has just finished growing. The problem my be that the horse is bored or just testing you. I have had this problem and delt with it two ways.
1) having a bag of water ballons that I hit the horse in the head with everytime he started that... took about five ballons but much nicer that many other methods and this method also works well for a horse with a light front end (aka likes to rear up)
2) Not as fool proof but a lot of fun is to put one or two good sized jingle bells on the bridle. This is a TWH trick and alot of the horses really love to keep their own rythym and this my help.
It is important to keep off of the horses mouth too. Constant pressure on the bit can also make them do this. Get the horse set into his gait then back the pressure off by about 15%. This should hold the gait while making the horse more comfortable.
The horse has probably always done this to some extent. I'd try bit burrs if everything else appeared OK.
I do not agree that a Walker needs a long shanked walking horse bit. IMO too many gaited horses are shoved into long shanked or gag bits when they're completely unnecessary because people don't want to take the time needed to teach them proper collection. Part of the reason people think gaited horses need to be "set" in their gait is because they want to start them way too early and push them too fast. One does come across the odd gaited horse that isn't strongly gaited and needs a little work, but most are born gaiting and all they need is a knowledgable rider that can develop the natural gait through consistency and communication with the horse, and most of all TRAINING. Using a strong bit to crank their head up doesn't teach the horse anything, except to dislike it and maybe chew on the shanks?
Ok rant over, lol
OP, as mentioned above have the teeth checked, at that age if they haven't been tended to there could definitely be some impacted caps or hooks that need filed. I don't know how many bits you have access to, but MPO is that you should start with the mildest bit you can find and see how they go in it. Yes, it may take a little bit of adjustment on the horses part, especially if they've only been ridden in "walker bits" but I have found that the MOST needed is a very short shanked bit, but if that's the route you go please try to find one that has the shanks curved backward, this reduces the amount of pressure applied.
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