Tongue over the bit

Any tips for this? It has been my young horse’s occasional habit since I got him. I’ve had his teeth done and rechecked…I got a special bit designed to stop it. But it still happens sometimes. He does it when he gets tense…the more he does it, the more he wants to do it. It seems like an addiction. I don’t think it’s my riding, since when I had a trainer while I was away he did it with her too. I ride him as softly with my hands as possible - I never even wear gloves with him.

The only thing that stops it is keeping his flash and noseband tight. This is the advice I’ve gotten from clinicians and trainers. Not too tight for show rules but tight enough it bothers me. The woman I take occasional lessons with now wants me to move him to a double but I’m worried this will exacerbate the issue.

Any advice? Other bits? When he does it, I’ve tried stopping him to get him to fix it, or riding through so he fixes it while moving and doesn’t get a reward…but other than the tighter nose gear, it just keeps happening once in a while.

my newbie 4yr old started out putting his tongue over too. I raised the bit up a notch on each side and began trying different bridles and bits. Finally settled on a western (no noseband) headstall with a Happy Mouth Double Jointed With Roller Loose Ring bit which works great so far


If your teacher wants you to use the double bridle, I recommend at least trying one.

The horse I rode with the most resistant mouth, along with gaping, scowls, and total refusal to soften up, became a really nice riding horse with a double bridle. This horse did not put his tongue over the bit, but both me and my riding teacher were afraid that would be his next step to resist the snaffle bits. I started off with stainless steel double bridle bits and he improved. I switched to titanium double bridle bits and he became even better.

I also use light hands with momentary stiff hands when needed. ALL the horses I put in a double bridle improved, relaxing their jaws, tongue, lower jaws and poll. It was like with two bits in their mouth that the horse FINALLY understood what bits were all about.

I always ride with a sagging curb rein, tweaking it when I need to with immediate release. Most of the horses I have ridden in the double bridle take maybe 5 minutes, and then they understand the tweaking curb rein perfectly well.

In my experience using a double bridle can be the simplest answer for many mouth problems which arise with using just a snaffle bit.


May be the bridle itself, they all fit slightly differently, especially the anatomical ones! I would definitely try either dropping the bit a hole and/or raising it to see if he has a preference.


I am wondering if your trainer’s suggestion of the double bridle is along the same lines as what I was thinking: Mullenmouth snaffle. (No joint in the middle). I had a super sensitive mare years ago and that fixed her fussing around with the bit. She loved it. Also, unless your horse is going well in the collected work, I think using a double prematurely can cause more problems than it fixes. Try the Mullenmouth first before resorting to two bits. Just MHO. YMMV


How old is this horse?

Have you tried removing the noseband or going in a racing or western bridle?

Or have you tried dropping the bit a hole…or two…that way the horse carries the bit.

When a horse retracts the tongue and puts it over the bit, the horse is talking to you. Is the bit made out of stainless or the “aurigian” (eg. yellow brass)? Try putting brass in your mouth. It has a funny taste as the metal reacts with saliva. Stainless is inert and does not react with saliva.

Some horses go better in the simple single jointed bits…others seem to prefer the double jointed. I like egg-butt ends as the sliding rings can sometimes pinch the sides of the lips.

Keep trying different things. I would NOT put a horse into a double bridle. The double is a tradition from the old cavalry that needed “power brakes” during combat.

A well-trained dressage horse should be able to do GP in a snaffle…Reiner Klimke would warm up in a snaffle, then put the double in for the test.


maybe in the 16th century, but even then equitation was more refined.

The double was never meant to be power brakes, and some horses don’t read the book.
It is a levered support, and refines aids when one has to ride onehanded. Werth makes it a gimmicky signature move but it used to be a given that riders would train riding 3-in1 and 4-in-1…

One lady told me years ago, she would put her youngster in a double (4 y/o) because he was behaving badly in a snaffle. Instead, he became a solid customer with a double.

as to the problem
some horses are picky about their bits, some need them adjusted a little tighter, and some are just busy in the mouth.

I have heard advice given, to attach something to the bit, be it a rubber ring cut down to a tiny ringlet, or a bundle of hair. I have also seen a fat rubber attachment, like a big fat tongue supposed to keep the tongue in place.

I think though the secret lies in the rider’s hands.


Have you tried a Mullen mouth with a tongue port? Like the happy mouth snaffle but. You could try a Mylar, but make sure it’s the show legal one. Some have quite high tongue ports.

Since you say it is happening only occasionally, and it’s not an every ride thing, I’m leaning towards a mental/emotional trigger - tension or excitement. This is your Lusitano guy, yes? Iberians can get a little wrapped around the axel under pressure (even if you think it’s not that much pressure, he may have other ideas), and flipping his tongue over the bit might be his way of getting a release.


Re what I bolded: I feel this. I really feel this :rofl: really accurate description.

Would he prefer some tongue relief? Such as the Bomber Happy Tongue? My Warmblood had this tongue issue but a Neue Schule Verbindend solved the problem for him. He was much better.

My PRE quite likes his Fager titanium bits, so part of me wonders if it’s the taste/sensation from certain metals sometimes. I played around with tongue vs bar relief with him too. He wasn’t crazy about a Mullen but I know he does like stability and fixes rings, (not loose rings) and tends to prefer a single joint over double, so a Fager Lilly works for him because it locks upwards and forwards, but isn’t totally solid, and has a single joint.

I will say he’s always been confident and comfortable in the contact in the double, when I didn’t think he would be initially, so it might not make the issue worse and might be worth a try. I’d still work to figure out the tongue issue, but perhaps wouldn’t shy away from the double completely.


We agree and we disagree…

We agree that the secret is in the rider’s hands…and by extension, in the rider’s seat.

As far as “power brakes”…that phrase was given to me by an old Hungarian who rode for the royal court during the Hapsburg monarchy, rode in combat in the mounted calvalry between the World Wars after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and surrendered his platoon to the West when he saw that the Russians were advancing on his position.

Putting a young horse in a double bridle is not a new thing. Back “in the day” even children riding Shetland ponies rode in double bridles.

Using a double bridle in training to avoid a behavior or to get past some bad habit is a perfectly acceptable use of tack.

However… there is no reason that a highly trained finished dressage horse would need a double bridle and a crank noseband.

Article 401 “Object and General Principles of Dressage” of the FEI rules says
The object of Dressage…… makes the Horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with the Athlete. ……The Horse thus gives the impression of doing, of its own accord, what is required.…”


well, I don’t recall mentioning crank nosebands.


Sorry I couldn’t get past this bit. I honestly did try.

I don’t know if we are on the same page.

Riding softly with reins does not mean holding the reins softly.

Every one should ride with gloves. Nope I can’t get hubby to do it!

You should have the weight of a bridle in you hands. Riding softly means never pulling and giving at the correct time from where you are holding. You don’t throw your reins away and the horse should never take them except in long and low. This only works when the horse and rider both understand.

It sounds to me like the horse is uncomfortable with the reins and is seeking comfort. When you stop him putting the tongue over with the noseband, if he leans his head down or hollows and puts his head up, then he is telling you the same thing.

Here is an exercise for you.

Give someone you trust 2 sewing needles.

Close your eyes.

The person gently puts either one or two needles on the tip of your middle finger. When they say now you should say 1 or 2. You will find you can distinguish there are 2 needles even when they are a MM apart.

Now do the same thing on your under forearm an inch or two back from your wrist.

This time you will find that you cannot distinguish that 2 needles are on you forearm, unless the needles are quite a bit apart.

This is because the nerve endings in your fingers are very close together. They are further apart on the rest of your body.

This means if you are not wearing gloves you are feeling the reins in your hands. Your brain can not get past this.

When you are riding with gloves this dulls the feeling of the reins and instead you feel the communication with the horse’s mouth.

I don’t know your level of riding obviously, however, just the fact that your instructor has suggested a double instead of anything else, I suggest asking on here for a great instructor in your neck of the woods and see what they say about it. JMHO.


I come from the ASB world, where the show horses wear full bridles, and have their tongues tied. So, when I get a horse in who started in that world, they kind of can’t figure out how their tongue got loose. Sometimes, they will draw their tongue up over the bit. So, here are the things that I have done…

I go to a headstall without a caveson of any kind. I love KK french snaffles, preferably with a dohicky in the middle. I have one with a cool dohicky on the lozenge in the center that has been in many mouths, because they like having something interesting in there. Also, I consider it essential to use as little bit as possible. Here’s why- horses tend to draw their tongue up because they are backing up out of contact. I want something that encourages them to wrap their mouth around it, and move forward into it.

I do ALL of my re-schooling on the ground. First, I longe, then I long line. Take the whole idea of trying to fix this from their back out of the equation. Break it up into simple pieces. Make each piece correct, and then put them back together.

I wouldn’t put a full bridle on a horse with a tongue issue for any reason. Why? Because they’ll back out at first, and encourage the issue. As I said, nice bit, and encourage contact. And, there is just nothing fun about riding a horse around with their tongue flipped over their bit(s). The curb may make the problem look better, but it will exacerbate the issue.

Simple is ALWAYS better. Due respect to the other opinions- but this has worked for me a couple dozen times or more.

Good luck!


ASB that is very familiar sounding - he was started to be a bullfighting horse. He didn’t have much time in that world but they gear them up heavily and I had the sense going to a snaffle confused him - this is exactly what he does sometimes. I will try this approach. This is 100% why I’m wary of putting the double on him before resolving this issue.

I appreciate the responses! Some good suggestions - he’s in a bomber designed for comfort currently but doesn’t always work. I do think I should move him to a cob so I can raise the bit a little - it looks on the low side on the highest hole in his full size bridle. He is a Lusitano and working to reduce tension is our main focus always!

The horse is coming 6. The double suggestion came from my lesson friend but experience wise we are similar. Re my experience - I’m not a beginner. I’ve trained both my current horses from green babies to Third on my own and have been competing for decades (up to psg). Of course I’m always working to improve my riding and I’m not perfect, but I do understand the basics of contact and have independent hands and seat. Of the dozens of horses I’ve ridden, this is the only one with this issue I’ve met, and he did it for the guest trainer I had (who was long listed for the US team and is one of the best riders I’ve ever seen - since he doesn’t just do it for just me, I don’t think I’m necessarily the variable, but yes it is a contact issue.) I’ve cliniced with some excellent coaches/ judges, and the main advice they have is to tighten the flash or try another bit.


True - but the OP did… perhaps did not use the term “crank” but “tighten the noseband” equates to cranking down their mouths.

OP - have you ridden many TB’s? Any Arabs? Eg. any of the “hot blooded” breeds?

Lusitanos, especially the ones bred for the bullring are exquisitely sensitive animals as the rider’s safety or even his life can be dependent on his horse’s abilities. The very best bullfighting horses are said to read their rider’s minds.

Since you have clarified that you own a Lusitano bred for the bullring, my suggestion is to look at “mouth issues” as a reflection of mental tension or a manifestation of stress. It is then incumbent on the rider to diagnose why the horse is stressing and what it is stressing about.

Keep us posted.


tighten does not necessarily mean cranking…
But I do have to conceed, it can’t be dismissed as out of the question, not when crank nosebands where the only thing available on dressage bridles for a long time.

OP - This is the sort of bridle that I would recommend using to start with


Oh he’s sensitive alright. I let a friend sit on him and he wouldn’t even walk. Not one step. Just stood and pawed - he could feel tension in her body and she had to get off. I got on and let him walk and he literally sighed. If I rode him with the legs I sometimes need on my warmblood I’d be in the rafters.

I don’t think you can progress in training without ever putting some pressure on the horse - any new ask is a challenge to some degree, but agreed I need to be mindful of when he gets worried. I’ve started going all the way back to just walk/halt and walk/trots on a 20 m when he starts to stress and then building back up to what I was asking. Takes so much confidence building. I just want to completely remove the tongue raise from his repertoire.

His cute face thanking you all for the advice.


To me that seems like a logical first choice. Next, I’d be curious about taking off the noseband. I think that the ones who are very cerebral will get flustered very quickly. I’d give him every opportunity to gape, grind, tongue loll, and anything else that could be lurking. Understand the depths of his anxiety and then give him the space to figure out that he can trust your hand. Locking down his face with a tight noseband and flash is only creating that internalized loop of stress and eventually it will create roadblocks in his training. I inadvertently bought one of the worst grinders and stress chewers I’ve ever met. She’s going without a noseband until it is truly resolved. Things were ugly (ugly ugly) for a few months with her evasion but I took the mindset of “thank you for telling me your stressed” and tried to create a safer emotional space for her. She is getting so beautifully quiet in the contact and I really do not think we could have gotten there with holding her mouth shut and ignoring it.