If your horse is putting their tongue over the bit, there’s normally for a reason. Not only can it be frustrating when riding, but it also poses a risk to yours and your horse’s safety. Heather Hyde, founder of Neue Schule Bits, shares how to find out why your horse is putting their tongue over the bit, and what you can do about it.

The first thing to do is to work out why this is happening, and then address the problem from there.

1. Stress

Stressful situations are often difficult to solve. You’ll need to talk to your trainer and figure out how you can keep your horse calm. Once he is confident and fully understands what you’re asking this tongue evasion should disappear.

There is no substitute for basic training. If the rider doesn’t apply the aids correctly or the horse doesn’t fully understand them, then that needs to be worked on first.

2. Random habit

A more comfortable mouthpiece that is situated further back in the mouth may help with this.

3. Feeling uncomfortable

There are many clever mouthpieces that are designed for tongue relief. Consult an expert and try some of the newer designs that are specifically intended for a sensitive tongue. Bear in mind the tongue is a muscle and usually capable of sustained pressure.

No matter how mild the bit is, if we use the same contact areas over a period of time the tongue may become desensitised, so swapping mouthpieces and pressure points may be the solution.

4. Mouthpiece difficulties

If the mouthpiece sits too far forward on the tongue, it will irritate your horse. This is exacerbated if the horse has a short smile; that is, he is short from the commissures (corner of the lip) to his muzzle. Do check that your cheek pieces are adjusted correctly, but make sure you don’t over-tighten them as this will only cause discomfort and create additional pressure in the corners of the mouth and at the poll. This sort of excessive tension will also mask your rein aids.

5. Evasion

If you know for sure that your horse is putting his tongue over the bit to ignore your aids then consider a double-jointed bit such as a universal. The universal has a level/ pulley action and a combination noseband generally works as it fastens above and below the mouthpiece.

A tongue grid can be useful. You will need a slip headpiece to attach this. This is independent of the rein aids and lies much further back in the mouth. It stops the horse drawing his tongue far enough back to pop it over the top. Bear in mind that horses do not have a gag reflex, so they usually accept this quite readily.

Meet the expert: Heather Hyde is the founder of Neue Schule Bits and has been involved in assessing the needs of horses and their riders for many years. For more information, visit nsbits.com

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