How To Tell If Your Horse Has A Mouth Problem
You know your own horse better than anybody and if you suspect discomfort is stemming from the mouth a process of elimination will usually determine this. Firstly an MOT is necessary.
Have the teeth and mouth checked by a qualified equine dentist. Bear in mind no matter how experienced your dentist is some conditions can only be diagnosed with X-rays or scans etc.
Have the back, neck, poll etc checked by a qualified physiotherapist who may wish to see your saddle fitted. Have a master saddler check your saddle; some of whom will want to see you sit on the saddle in situ and ride your horse. Farriers play a vital part, are the feet OK and balanced. Seek veterinary advice, your vet may wish to see the horse lunged and perform a flexion test. Evasions can come from behind and manifest themselves in what seems like a mouth problem.
Seek advice from a reputable bitting company like Neue Schule, who in turn may refer you to a bit bank so as you may trial bits cost effectively.
A check for saddle discomfort is to ride bareback, however this is not always an option, especially with our high withered thoroughbreds and gentleman riders! If your horse is safe to ride bareback a neck strap is always recommended. Again you need to be able to achieve the same way of going in order to evaluate this.
Is your horse good to lunge? If appropriate side reins may be attached to the lunge cavesson using a roller or surcingle in order to achieve an outline on both reins. Make sure the horse has achieved a decent shape and is coming through. Then repeat this process with the side reins attached to the bit. Alternatively, you may use a Pessoa lunging aid if your horse is familiar with this as it allows a more natural movement of the ‘reins’ attached to the bit, as opposed to being fixed with the side reins.
The horse may also be lunged fully tacked up, have the reins knotted on the neck but not acting, and lunge on both reins. Then put a rider on board with the reins in the same position. As a safety measure slip a flash through the D rings on the saddle for emergencies so the rider can remain upright instead reaching forwards for a neck strap. The rider must resist the temptation to pick the reins up. The horse may initially react; anticipating the rein pressure, but then slowly relax. However, if this does not happen it may indicate a back problem as the rider’s weight is the only thing that has changed.
Should your horse however not show the discomfort which is displayed during work then it is reasonably likely that there is a mouth problem which may be helped by bitting, trailing different styles through a retailer offering a Bit Hire service may be of benefit.