Bitting a Horse with EOTRH

9th August 2019

Private Benjamin was bought five years ago, for the grand sum of one English Pound. He was a retired racehorse, sacked from his day job for being too slow! I had always found bitting Benjamin to be rather difficult as he was always very mouthy, with a tendency to hold the bit, refuse to go forward and throw his head in the air.

However, bitting became a real issue in October 2016, when he started rearing and evading any contact. When I would try to remove the bridle, he would hold on to the bit, snatch the bridle out of my hands and throw it on the floor! I knew something wasn’t right, and as he was due his 6 monthly dental check, I called out my Veterinary Dentist, Simon Woods from Lower House Equine Clinic. He noticed that Benjamin had quite sharp teeth and ulcers, which surprised me as his teeth had always been good. What also shocked me was his attitude towards Simon. In the past Benjamin has always been good for the dentist, but this time he was definitely not happy, especially at having the gag on and the teeth rasped. For the first time ever, we had to sedate him for the dentist! I was desperately hoping that from this point on things were going to improve.

They did not. Two months down the line and Benjamin was worse than ever. He absolutely did not want to go forward into the bridle or accept any contact at all. At this point I thought it had to be a bitting issue, and I had tried so many different designs to make him more comfortable in the mouth. We tried various loose ring jointed snaffles, a Happy Mouth Baucher, a Happy Mouth Pelham with Pelham Roundings and a Pelham with two reins. I even tried him in a Flower Hackamore, which he found okay but not ideal. Nothing seemed to improve his way of going, and I knew it was time to call the Vet again. 

Simon came to see poor Benjamin again, and this time noted a redness and inflammation of the gums, which at the time he believed may have been due to infection. X-rays were organised, and it was revealed that the roots of Benjamin’s canines and incisors were rotten, and he was suffering with an incredibly painful condition called Equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis (EOTRH). This is a progressive condition that usually affects older horses, although Benjamin was only 13 when he was diagnosed. This disease affects multiple teeth, including the incisors and the canines, causing the roots of the teeth to dissolve. It isn’t yet understood what causes EOTRH, and there is no cure or way of slowing down it’s progress. Removing Benjamin’s affected teeth was our only option, and so in November 2016 the vet removed 2 teeth, and removed the rest of his incisors and canines in January 2017. 

Benjamin improved almost instantly, and it was clear that he was so much more comfortable in the mouth. One of the first things I noticed after the removal of his teeth was his tongue- now he had no incisors his tongue poked out! I was soon given the all-clear to ride, and it became obvious very quickly that his old bits did not suit him because of how they laid across his now-protruding tongue. In order to provide some tongue relief, I tried various types of Happy Tongue, but he did not respond well to these mouthpieces at all. By chance I stumbled across an article about the Neue Schule Verbindend, and how it is often used for horses with tongue evasions. I decided to give it a go, and the results were incredible! Benjamin accepted the bit and was much happier in the contact, making our time together much more harmonious. Since then, Benjamin ‘s flatwork and jumping have seen incredible improvements, and now he is happier in the contact he is able to lift and open up through the shoulder. 

When I took Benjamin on, I was looking for an all-rounder that I could compete low-level for fun, with no great expectations. Given the difficulties that we faced there were times that I truly believed that I would not be able to ride Benjamin anymore for my own and his safety. With the help of my Vet and Neue Schule I am now competing with Benjamin at Prelim and Novice dressage, show-jumping 80 and 90cm and take part in ROR and Working Hunter classes and enjoy the sunshine whilst out hacking. Despite our difficulties, our bond is better than ever. 

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