Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gwen and the bit

The dentist is scheduled to come by at the end of the month to float the Quarters' teeth. The last time she worked on Gwen she wasn't able to get the speculum in her mouth so she asked me to get Gwen used to a bit. With that in mind, I went out and purchased one of these for her:
full cheek so she couldn't pull it through her mouth, double jointed so it wouldn't stab her palate, and a lozenge in the middle that couldn't be sharp against her tongue in any way. I bought her a headstall, took off the caveson and popped this puppy on it. Then I went in her stall, waited about an hour for her to open her mouth and then put the whole shebang on her head.


She tore around her stall, trying to spit it out and rub it off, pawing in anger. I pulled it off as soon as I figured she wasn't going to calm down about it. I tried again a couple days later with the exact same results, and the added bonus of her starting to become difficult to halter. So I shelved it.

A couple months later I found a different bit through Craiglist and decided to give it a try. It has a solid rubber mouthpiece like this:

only this bit isn't loose ring, it's a weird kind of full cheek. Instead of having little balls at the tips, this one bends out at the tips. She hated this one *slightly* less, but she was still storming around her stall in anger and I was freaking out she'd find a way to hurt herself with those sticky-outy bits on the full cheeks. So I shelved it.

But now it's time for Gwen to revisit the bit. Remembering that she seemed to hate the solid mouth slightly less, this time I bought Happy Mouth's mullen mouth loose ring bit:
BTW- these don't taste like apple, I tried.

and I've completely changed my approach. Knowing how much happier she is when I don't restrain her in any way when introducing new things, I'm just taking the bit and pockets full of treats out to her in the pasture. On the first day I started by holding the bit out and asking her to target it with her nose. Then I touched her on the face and neck with it. She didn't mind that, so I laid it on my hand and clicked her for letting it touch her lips. I left it for the day when she went ahead and picked it up in her lips. She got a click and treat for that plus tons of praise.

The second time I went out, I did just a little bit of targeting with it and then continued where we'd left off before. Very soon into the session she picked the bit up in her teeth. This freaked her out. She raised her head in the air, lips all ascew, mildly panicking because she couldn't figure out how to get it out of her mouth! Finally she tossed her head and sent the bit flying. I admit, I laughed. It was too funny to see how happy she was to figure out how to drop it. I went over, picked it up, and started at the beginning again. She surprised me by quickly progressing back to picking it up in her teeth, where again it took her a moment to figure out how to let go. I decided that doing that twice was good enough for the day, so I gave her a hug and left.

Hindsight being 20/20, I can see that if I hadn't started her with the bit by tying it in her mouth she probably wouldn't have been so upset about it being there, even when she did it herself. But I can't change the past, maybe her being able to gleefully toss the bit across the pasture will help her forgive my mistake.

I hate working on a deadline, but I'm hoping that by the end of the month she'll have decided that it's not so bad to have something in her mouth. Those molars are in need of some attention!


  1. WOW! Gwen was certainly upset indeed!

    My sissy says that when she introduces a bit to a young horse, that she serves it into the mouth amoungst treats and then leaves it on ...they eat dinner with it . The next day, they eat breakfast with on. it becomes something normal, slightly annoying but not uncommon for them.
    Wa reaches down for the bit, as I stand ready to bridle her...cause she remembers the treats-she loves her treats!
    Clicker with bit, now that sounds worthy. Gwen,
    She'll get better and better, good for you!

    Oh and...I have an "apple" broken snaffle with a losenge bit boucher bit...NOPE I too never detected the taste..what's with that!

    I have boith those bits

  2. What about if you coated the bit with molasses? Yummy! :-)

  3. allhorsestuff- I did that with Coriander. The first time I put the bit in his mouth he just commenced eating around it, he really didn't react to it at all.

    Nothing doing with Gwen. If she's ticked off about something food no longer has meaning to her.

    I was really hoping Happy Mouth would come through with that apple scent and flavor too...

    Wolfie- I tend to avoid molasses because Coriander has a genetic condition that doesn't do well with it. I think I did try to put corn syrup on the bit with Gwen and I don't think it changed her reaction at all.

  4. Hey, my post is back. I wonder if blogger will find the comments?

  5. I checked the status yesterday and they are still loading stuff back on. Hopefully later today everything will be back to normal. :-)

  6. Yeah, effin' Blogger!

    I am interested in how you are working your way through bits with Gwen, but sad for your wallet! I've never seen a Happy Mouth mullen mouth. Hope it works for both of you.

  7. I think the clicker training is a great idea for getting Gwen used to the bit. Good thinking. The Mullen mouth is a good idea. I had the same problem with Dusty years ago and that bit seemed to work the best.

  8. Why not try to ride gwen with a hackamore? Then nobody is stressed. I know you are trying to get her used to bits because of the vets speculum, but I have a gelding that loves his bit, and still fights the spec till death, even with tons of sedative. He hates that he can't close his mouth and it makes him anxious. I hope Gwen is different, but I have my doubts.

  9. Hey Wolfie, it seems the old comments have all blown away :(

    Hi Muddy K- yeah, buying a whole passel of bits for her certainly hasn't been cheap. Fortunately the bit in the middle was only $10 since I bought it used and I got the Happy Mouth on sale.

    GHM- I wonder if it's a quarter horse mare thing or just a mare thing in general. Girls definitely are picky about what goes in their mouths.

    Hi Racheal, thanks for visiting. As of right now I have no intention of riding her with a bit especially since I bought a lovely, expensive sidepull with her in mind. I'm looking at this like an experiment- it may help her with getting her teeth done but even if it doesn't it's still a fun activity to do with her. I'll have to see where it goes.