What is a busy mouth??
A horse that has a “busy mouth” is pretty easy to spot, because they’re always doing SOMETHING with their mouth, often even when you don’t have contact just standing around talking to your friends.
They flick at the mouthpiece with their tongue. The chomp at the bit. They throw their head up and down. These traits can be seen most often in green horses, but occasionally in more established horses that have never been put in the right bit for them either.
The trick with Busy Mouths is to quieten the bit. “Playing” with the bit to excess is often established early on the breaking process, and whilst gentle appropriate mouthing of the bit is encouraged, sometimes this can develop in to a habit. It may well be there is nothing PHYSICALLY wrong with the horse, its mouth, poll or neck to explain the busyness, but rather it is an established habit.
So… what makes a bit “quiet”??
Lets start with what you can see - the sides.
Eggbutt / D Ring: Eggbutt and D Ring sides offer less movement, movement created by the riders hands (we don’t all have Charlotte D’s hands)! And also movement created by the horse from the constant mouthing of the bit. It doesn’t rattle, jingle or react as intensely as a loose ring. If you’re currently using a loose ring then moving to an Eggbutt or D Ring in a similar mouthpiece to your Loose Ring is always a good first easy step to take to solving the problem.
Full Cheek: Full Cheek’s are the choice for many breakers and for a good reason - when used (as they are intended to be) with “keepers” that attach the upper arm of the side to the cheek piece of the bridle, it creates a very still, consistent contact for the horse to work into. Full Cheek bits (sometimes also called Fulmers or FM) are available in both loose ring and fixed rings. Loose ring Full Cheeks can be helpful for a horse who are both busy in the mouth and who tend to also go on the forehand. Fixed side full cheeks are great for horses that are both busy and tend to go behind the bit.
Also known as Hanging Cheeks, these bits attach to the bridle cheek piece via a fixed ring with the rein attaching to the mouthpiece below the fixed cheekpiece ring. Despite old school beliefs, these do not exhibit any curb action - the fixed cheek piece ring serves to stabilise the bit in the mouth and to keep it slightly up and off the tongue, which some horses really appreciate. There are some horses who just really dislike the feeling of the bit constantly weighting down their tongue - bauchers are perfect for these types of ponies (And the double jointed versions are now EA Dressage legal again!).
Another option to try when working with a horse with a Busy Mouth is a specific mouthpiece - Sprenger’s “WH Ultra Soft” mouthpiece has a rubber covered lozenge on the popular KK Ultra mouthpiece. This has been found to be extremely beneficial for horses who protest mildly to the tongue pressure as the rubber covered lozenge distributes pressure better and provides a softer feel for the horse.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning about what bits suit horses with Busy Mouths! You can head over to www.abitless.com.au and go to the “Busy Mouth” section to see what we have in stock that could suit.