Chomping on the bit
I've had Sandie now for almost 6 months, and when I first got her, she chomped on the bit a lot...she wasn't used to the contact because she had previously been with an English bridle but on a VERY loose rein. She's taken awhile to get used to the contact but she's WAY better now. HOWEVER, sometimes when we're really working hard, and especially when we're jumping, she can be very strong and she starts really chomping away again, which seems to distract her from what she's doing. If you shorten the reins more (because when she chomps she also collects (almost OVER collects) her head and makes them loose), she chomps, and if you let her have some more rein, she throws her head all the way to the ground and takes them all from you! She also does the chomping thing every time I take her on trail as well. It almost seems like a stress-induced or nervous habit of hers.
She's worse about this when she's in heat, but she still does it in between sometimes as well, depending on the situation and what we're working on. I've been using a thick eggbutt snaffle bit on her since I got her, a very mild bit compared to most. I thought about switching to one of those "happy mouth" rubber bits, but I've heard from others that those aren't very effective with horses like Sandie who can become VERY strong. My trainer says she'll stop the chomping eventually with more experience and training (she was somewhat green broke when I got her), but we have a show coming up in June and if she keeps it up, she's really going to distract herself in an already stressful situation like a show!
Anyone have experience with this situation and what did you do about it? Thanks!!
First off, if she tucks her chin in, it's better to push her forward than to shorten your reins. Most horses tuck like that to avoid the bit, and it's easier to get them back "on the bit" by pushing her forward.
My horse clicks her teeth. I know she isn't chomping on the bit itself because it's a solid rubber bit, and I always thought she was either bored or frustrated because when I changed the task and did something different she stopped. Maybe that's what your horse is doing? Are you sure you are stimulating her mind enough? But like you said, it could be a nervous habit. Maybe you could try riding her in a ridiculously calm manner and not giving her anything to stress about and see what she does.
I agree about not shortening your reins. If she is almost going behind the vertical she is trying to avoid the contact.
Is your bit a single jointed bit? If it is you might want to experiment with a snaffle that has a link in the middle or try a Myler snaffle with more tongue relief. Chomping on the bit can be out of frustration, pain, nervousness, or a horse telling you he doesn't like a lot of tongue contact.
The fact that she throws her head down when you give rein to her might tell you that you are using too much rein with her. You might not be hauling on her mouth, but it might be too much for her....understand? Soft to one horse might be too much for another horse. You also might be "holding her up" with your reins, which shouldn't be the case b/c it's the horse's job to do that.
Make sure you aren't pushing her too hard too soon in her training. You don't want her getting frustrated. If she does it out on the trail that makes me think it's out of nervousness, in which case you would want to do calming exercises, asking her to bend and relax her rib cage, stretch her topline, do transitions, etc. Lots of calming things.....in a nervous case chomping on the bit is a displaced behavior...the horse's emotions are up and it comes out in their mouth.
Thick is only mild if her mouth has enough room for it. I'd try a french link or bean mouth d-ring or egg butt on her and see how she likes that.
I'd also have her teeth checked and have any wolf teeth removed.
When she chomps, I would not shorten the reins. Instead, drive her with your leg forward more, giving her half halts with your inside rein only. If she doesn't respond, send her on a medium sized circle, with your inside rein lifted a bit. Once she quits chomping and relaxes, lighten your grip on the reins and give her a pet on the withers with a "good girl."
Thanks everyone! I guess I should have clarified too about her dental history, since that's normally the first thing people ask about in a situation like this. I just had her teeth floated in December, and she did still have wolf teeth, so they removed them back then. So I'm not thinking it's a dental thing, but the more I read about it and from what everyone is saying above, it does sound like a "clicking of teeth" rather than chomping of her bit, and perhaps it is a nervous habit or something she does when she's tired and just doesn't want to work (or a combination of both).
The snaffle I use has only 1 joint, so maybe I'll try something different with a link and see how she likes that. I agree about the shortening the reins - it seems like she only tucks her head more and even sideways when I do that and it doesn't help -- my trainer tells me to shorten them and push her forward at the same time, but it's kind of a balance, you know? She just becomes very difficult to deal with when she gets like that; it's like she becomes really preoccupied with the bit in her mouth and doesn't pay much attention to anything else. She also seems to rush forward instead of her nice slow, controlled trot when she gets into one of these grooves.
She's still just learning, so I have to remember that she's not going to be anywhere near perfect yet. But I just want to make sure I'm not doing anything to cause her any pain or discomfort, physically OR emotionally. I think I'll give her the day off today for a break since she was doing the chomping/clicking a lot yesterday, and see how she does with some light ground work on Monday.
Thanks for the advice everyone!
Well everyone I just placed an order for this bit - I'll let you all know how it goes but in doing some online research, it does seem that many owners who have switched to these found that their horses stopped the chomping and head throwing, so here's hoping!! I'll let you all know how it turns out :-) Thanks again!
Korsteel French Link Eggbutt Egg Butt Bits English HorseLoverZ.com
Well, I got the new bit yesterday and I've tried it with Sandie 2 days now...with no luck :-( She still clicks her teeth just like she did before...I'm not completely giving up on this new bit though, because she doesn't seem to throw her head around the way she used to, so maybe we have 2 separate problems here and we've at least identified and corrected for one of them! :-)
But does anyone else have a horse that chomps/clicks their teeth all the time and what did you do about it/were you ever able to stop it? Sandie only does it when we're really working hard...if we're just trotting around not doing much she doesn't do it. But when we go out on the trail she does it the entire time, even if all we're doing is walking!
It might be because her adrenaline gets up and she gets anxious. If that is the case it sounds very mild, but it's a displaced behavior. Her emotions are up and it comes out in her mouth. Maybe try some relaxing exercises, even on the trail. Ask her to bend through her rib cage, push her sideways until you feel her soften, transitions, things to relax her.
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