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Is it the teeth or the bit?

I need some advice on my mare, Genfire. She is having a very difficult time with her bit. She takes the bit okay (no real fussing), but when I try to collect her, she throws her head something fierce. She actually lowers her head almost to her knees, as if she was trying to pull it out of my hands. I worked with her in the round pen with the bridle on and the reins wrapped around the saddle (giving her a little tension but not a lot) and she does the same thing. I took the reins off the bridle and worked her in the round pen and she still did the same thing. I then took the bridle off her all together and she stopped pulling her head down and stopped shaking her head. From that little exercise, I concluded her head shaking and pulling had to do with the bit. She's also grinding her teeth - both when the bit is in and when she is in a halter. When we tie her to the hitching post, she loves to lick the cold metal bar on the post. Also, she's been eating snow and drools/slobbers when she eats the snow. She doesn't seem to drool or slobber when she eats hay. We took her to the vet and they said she was (1) cutting her teeth and (2) has little upper wolf teeth. (He asked if she slobbered when she ate and at that time I hadn't noticed that she did - that's why I started watching her when she ate snow.)

Anyway, riding her is a pain (except at a slow walk). We haven't had much luck getting her into her flat walk because I can't get her collected. Once in awhile she'll get into it, but she still paces quite a bit. When I try to move her out, she has a tendency to "hop" out and try to move into a canter right away. While that little move will be good at some point, it doesn't help to get her into a flat walk.

So, here's my question. Given that her mouth appears to be very sore, should I back off on riding her with a bit for awhile (perhaps ride in the round pen with reins attached to the side of her halter), just ride her at a walk with the bit so I don't need to collect her, not ride her and just work on ground manners, try a new bit, pull all of her teeth (just kidding)?

The vet didn't think the wolf teeth were in (or is it out?) far enough to hurt her, but I'm not sure how much that vet knew (our regular vet was out that day). Any advice would be helpful,

Take care, Nancy

Hi Nancy,

It sounds to me like the mare really needs some dental work by a vet who is trained in Equine Dentistry. She has all the symptoms of problems with her teeth. Until this is handled, she will have a real challenge collecting or being able to move properly for you. Yes, you can ride her with a halter and lead rope tied like reins. I would do this in a confined space so you can really work on your seat and soft stops and backing, etc.. In fact that may help you with your riding a lot; developing softer hands and riding more appropriately from your "seat". Riding in a smaller enclosure for a while with just a halter and lead rope, will build your confidence and skills. Remember it is not about control, but rather dancing with the horse. Doing games and exercises on the ground is always a wonderful way to deepen your bond and relationship with your horse. I highly advise it all the time and especially each time before you ride the mare.

Get a vet who really knows the Equine mouth and how to treat problems with their teeth, a specialist would be great. After that is handled we can take a look at bits and what might be best for the mare. I do not remember what kind of bit you are currently using on her. Can you remind me please? Keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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