Bit Chomping

I bought a green-ish six almost seven year old Appendix mare last summer who turned out to be more green than advertised. She also turned out to be more anxious than advertised as well. She is particularly anxious over fences- however small. (I’m talking 18 inches to 2’!) We have tried a variety of bits (many) and added a martingale. I normally ride her in a simple D ring snaffle (she’s anxious in that too) and she chomps continually at the bit even doing simple changes - trot to canter to walk etc. My trainer and I hope she will outgrow this (I think she was overfaced while young) but I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced- and overcome something similar. Thanks so much for any insight!

Well it’s hard to reply with the info you have provided. You keep trying bits until you find one that the horse finds to be comfortable, and the horse’s mouth is quiet. It may not be a D bit. You get the horse’s mouth inspected by a reputable veterinarian, looking for problems there. You follow the Classical training scale, no matter what the previous owner “told” you about what the horse has or has not done. Step one is “Free forward relaxed motion”. If the horse is anxious, she is not relaxed, so step one is not successfully in place. So why is someone trying to jump this horse? When the first step of training is not in place? It is not necessary for ALL the steps of the training scale to be in place before beginning to jump, but at least some acquisition of the first step is crutial, and some parts of the later two steps sure make it easier and more likely to be successful.

Find the root of the problem with the bit. And rebreak the horse from the beginning, filling the holes that are in there. No matter what the previous owner told you.


Maybe a bit with a cricket or roller might give her something to play with that would pacify her??

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Thanks Nancy M and Grand Prix for your insights! She actually chomps very little on the flat- it’s really more commonplace when she’s jumping (small) courses when she becomes anxious. She’s rarely anxious about jumping a single fence at a time.

Is she back sore? My old vet told me she usually saw bit chomping in horses dealing with pain.

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Agreed. I’d be looking for underlying pain. I’d recommend a super thorough veterinary evaluation.

Thanks- we did check her back and had a vet who is a chiro do some adjustments and she’s much happier. The chomping is now really just when she’s jumping a course of (still-small) jumps.

Are you saying she used to chomp more in all scenarios (such as flatting)… and the adjustments helped relegate it to jumping only? Or has she never done it much while flatting? If the chiro/vet helped it with flatting but not jumping, I would strongly suspect there is still pain there (actually I’d still suspect pain in any case, but especially in the former case). For one, a single adjustment may not be enough, and/or that could only be one part of the issue at hand. Secondly, jumping (even tiny) puts a whole bunch of different physical stresses on the body. An issue may be tolerable or not even noticeable to her while flatting, but terrible when jumping (for comparison, think of a person with a bum knee who actually walks around pretty easily, until you throw stairs in the mix). Add to that if she’s pretty much always had pain in her short jumping career, the memory and anticipation of it could be part of the problem.

Beyond the consideration of pain, consider what else changes when jumping. Do you carry a bit more pace? Shorten up your reins a bit? Does she tend to go with her head a bit higher? Are you a bit nervous? Thinking about every little factor may help you figure out why she becomes uncomfortable… and then figure out how to get her more comfortable.

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I do find that readjusting the saddle helps if chomping is worse than usual- Also maybe give some Robaxin ? Or Estrone, esp if it is a gelding - helps one of mine - not the other tho- also a free longe or on the line with the tack and reins under the leathers can get rid of some of the angst IMO- Also the Berris rubber bits with nothing in the core - those always work tho may not have as much breaking power- but they do make a pelham as well - My big horse doesnt chomp at all when he wears his Berris, but sometimes it isn’t enuf bit at shows - tho we have been showing in the pelham version lately with success- no head tossing in the corners between jumps etc

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I have this exact horse (except he’s a gelding). 6 yo appendix (reg AQHA), bought him last summer. A littler greener and a little more horse than advertised. A sweet boy, fancy mover and talented jumper, but anxious - my trainer described him as always holding his breath. He chomped on every bit we tried him in (plain snaffle, french link, mullen mouth etc etc). We worked a lot on me being confident and calm, giving him positive rides all fall until he started switching out behind (unlike him). Had a vet focused on sport horse soundness come out and watch him under saddle and she immediately targeted back pain due to his chomping and anxiousness. She x rayed him and found kissing spines, so we did mesotherapy and injections (Nov). So far, we’ve been focused on working him long and low, giving him a lunge to warm up, BoT blanket, etc. and he’s been feeling great! The chomping got a lot better too and he’s now quiet in his mouth (he likes a french link or a L1 myler now), breathes and stretches down. The vet feels confident that he’ll be easy to maintain with how well the treatment worked (knock wood). Hope that it’s not the same diagnosis for yours, but I wanted to share my situation since it looks similar at surface level.

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Haven’t read all the replies but I think maybe someone has already recommended a roller or something similar to keep her mouth busy. Had a pony i used to ride for my trainer that was great on flat but the second we started jumping all you could hear and FEEL was how he chomped on the bit.

We tried bitless thinking maybe he’d go better in it, ended up biting his tongue once and his cheek, so we tried a copper roller and he immediately stopped and even seemed calmer while jumping. But if anyone else has also recommended a vet then I would also second that. Can never be too careful

Thanks so much. She’s on a supplement now and that seems to have calmed her a bit. And I will ask my trainer about the Berris rubber bit!

Thanks so much- that sounds so much like my mare! And as a matter of fact we did identify that she had some back issues- had the chiro (who is also a vet) adjust her a few months ago when she seemed at her most unhappy and she was much happier. And she is scheduled to have an exam and possible adjustments next week so I think you are onto something! I bought her six months ago and had a full PPE so I know she doesn’t have kissing spine (something I was concerned about because I almost bought a horse that did- which was uncovered in that horse’s PPE!)

Best of luck with your appointment this week!

Thank you!

I had an eventer friend with a sensitive backed horse and she used to place an electric blanket on him on the cross ties before tacking up. Helped

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