My Horse is Constantly Chewing the Bit. Should I change it?

Posted by in Q & A on Mar 20, 2016

“My horse is constantly chewing the bit and I think she might be unhappy with it. I ride her in a stainless steel snaffle so should I change it to a rubber one?”

If your horse is chewing the bit there could be several reasons.

It might be that her teeth are bothering her – it’s always worth getting the vet/dentist to look at them but you’ll get a rough idea by pressing against her jaw line to see if she reacts to the pressure; also if she’s young she might have a wolf tooth coming that is upsetting the way the bit sits in her mouth (they come up just in front of the molars so can just catch the bit.  There are alot of other problems that might be going on in her mouth though so it’s always good to get an expert to check for you – if only to put your mind at rest!

Another reason might be that the bit is too low in her mouth – check the fitting by looking at the corners of her mouth – there should be a couple of small wrinkles on either side above the mouthpiece. If the bit is too loose there may be no wrinkles and you might get a finger into her mouth above the mouthpiece. If she’s always chomping on the bit while she’s waiting for you to get on – or shaking her head – it could well be the reason.

If she’s chewing at specific moments – such as when you turn or ask her to slow up make sure it’s not the way you’re asking – she might be trying to tell you to lighten up on the rein a bit. If you’re too tense in your arm it might just be that she feels restricted – or you may be stronger on the side that you write with. If you’re not sure then ride with your reins through your hands the wrong way round – it’s amazing how much it reduces the tension between you even if it
feels completely wrong and a bit daft! Check out this post to make sure it’s not you that’s causing the problem.

As far as a change of bit goes, if a horse is chewing because they’re unhappy with a bit I usually opt for a thinner mouthpiece so wouldn’t go straight to rubber as they tend to be thicker. Try a thinner single jointed snaffle or a ‘happy mouth’ (plastic) straight bar which are fairly thin. Some horses have a very low roof to their mouth so a thinner mouthpiece sits better in their mouth and is a lot more comfortable. There’s more on bits and nosebands here that might help you make a decision on what might suit you.

There’s also the thought that she’s just starting to evade you – so try (if you haven’t already) using a flash noseband. If you already are make sure the top cavesson noseband part sits just under her cheek bone and is done up well so it doesn’t drop down her face at the front. That way the flash part sits correctly under the bit and it will stop her opening her mouth to chew or evade your rein aids. BUT! Remember, if she’s trying to evade you there’s usually a cause – and that’s usually the rider! Check out this post  or this post to make sure your contact isn’t the reason.

I hope something here helps. Best of luck!

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