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Horse Behavior: How to Read your Horse's Mouth

January 02, 2015 3 min read

Close up of bay horse nuzzle in winterOver the past few weeks, we have learned how to read our horses by their ears, eyes, and tails. This week, we are going to learn how to read behavior based off your horse's mouth. The mouth, like the eyes, can take a bit of studying to truly understand what type of behavior or feelings your horse is displaying. The mouth is not as obvious as the ears or the tails, so as you are learning you will want to associate the mouth movements with other body signals. The mouth can be assessed two different ways: when the horse has a bit in their mouth and when they do not. We will go over both. When you horse has a bit in his mouth you can generally assess more than when they do not. With a bit Relaxed mouth When you see a relaxed mouth on a horse, the horse will ALWAYS be the most responsive to their rider. A relaxed mouth is fairly obvious – the mouth is not moving and the lips, nostrils and entire mouth area is relaxed. Mouthing the bit If a horse is mouthing the bit quickly, they are stimulated. This could mean that they are nervous, scared or insecure. They could also mean they are anticipating something such as getting ready to run. If the horse is mouthing the bit in a slow movement, it could mean a number of different things. The horse could simply just be readjusting the bit or keeping saliva moving. This is ok. The horse is accepting of the bit. If a horse mouths the bit frequently, this can indicate a number of problems. The horse could be showing signs of aggravation or resistance. They could also have mouth problems and could need their teeth floated or teeth removed. Gaping or holding the mouth open If a horse is “gaping at the bit” or holding their mouth open, they could be trying to evade the bit or use the mouth defensively to avoid the harshness of the bit. If this is the case, you might want to consider getting a softer bit for the horse. The rider might need to soften their hands as well. Without a bit Chewing on their tongue If a horse does not have a bit in their mouth and chews on his tongue, this could mean a number of things. The horse could be bored, frustrated, aggravated, or nervous. When a horse sucks on their tongue, this is a sign of security. Hanging their tongue out of their mouth A horse that hangs their tongue out of their mouth usually means that they are lacking something. The horse could be lacking intelligence, attitude or temperament. Understanding a horse’s mouth is critical for us, especially as riders. Pay close attention to how they accept the bit as this will come in handy. There are plenty of different signs that are shown to us by a horse’s mouth. This can be a little more difficult for us to read, keep practicing and you will know a lot more about your horse than you ever thought you would! Next week, we will be finishing up the series of how to read your horse by learning to read their skin! This will be an interesting one so stay tuned! As always, to learn more about understanding your horse, visit: http://americashorsedaily.com/how-to-read-your-horse-part-2/#.VKX04GRDtgp


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