Chewing on the bit

I had a someone contact me the other day with a question on chewing on the bit:

She was asking why her horse was chewing at the bit and whether she should go from the snaffle to a shank. I explained that I would lean toward the wolf teeth first before I would think about what sort of bit was being used.

Wolf teeth, not to be confused with Canine teeth – Canine teeth are usually found only in the mouths of male horses, including stallions and geldings. Also referred to as ‘tusks’, ‘tushes’ or ‘bridle teeth’, the lower canine teeth normally erupt at age four, with the upper canine teeth following at age five.

 Canine teeth appear in the mouth for the purpose of fighting — as stallions compete for mares during breeding season. However, they also play a role in chewing, whereas wolf teeth do not. Interestingly, canine teeth do appear in up to 20% of mares, but they are usually very small.

What to do if your horse has wolf teeth

It makes sense to remove these potentially troublesome teeth before you attempt any serious work with your young horse. You don’t want your horse to associate any discomfort or pain in his mouth with being worked. Horses can develop bad habits such chewing on the bit or head shaking, lunging their head and neck down toward the ground and twisting their heads through having long term pain, associating that pain with being ridden, creating anxiety in the horse which can go on for years before it is diagnosed as never having their wolf teeth extracted. These bad habits and anxiety can take a long time to retrain those bad habits out of the horses mind. Wolf teeth are on the bars of the mouth and where the bit may settle. For this reason alone, they may need to be removed.

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