Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Different Side of Winston

This morning dawned clear and dry after our rain non-event yesterday afternoon and last night.  We only got a few light sprinkles of rain; barely enough to record.  We are far below normal amounts and there is particular concern about the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  It isn't as deep as it should be and the snow is very dry.  Most of our water comes from that snow pack so it isn't a good situation.

We went down to the barn early so Winston could finish his breakfast before the equine dentist arrived.  Brett had groomed the arena in advance of the rain.  He takes great pride in his arena grooming, leaving artistic marks with the harrow when he finishes. 

He completed the new fencing around the horse pond.  The horses and donkeys shouldn't be able to destroy this:

Back at the barn, the rabbits were anxiously waiting for their breakfast. 

...the horses were waiting too.  We bring them in to eat their buckets of vitamins and carrots and then turn them back out for their hay.  We try to have the horses outside 24/7 whenever possible.  In the summer, we bring them in during the heat of the day and in the winter during rain or windy weather. 

The equine vet pulled up right at 8:00 and I pulled Winston from the pasture.  The vet tech was setting up the equipment and Winston was not happy.  I led Winston over to the open area near the arena so he could watch from a distance.  He was very looky and when the vet came over to do a brief physical, he started hopping all over the place.  The vet who did the prepurchase exam told me that Winston was pretty wild at first - kicking out even- but had settled down by the end.  Everytime this vet put his stethoscope on Winston, Winston jumped and scooted.  He even managed to bonk me in the face once.  Giving him the sedation shot was also difficult.  Our equine dentist is a very kind and calm vet so this caught me by surprise.  Flash and Jackson are pretty ho-hum about vets.  Dr. Kelly said he sees this behavior in horses who have had a bad experience with a vet -- who knows.  Hopefully, he will get over it with time and experience.  He certainly isn't a spooky, wild, hot-head normally.

Winston's mouth was full of points on his teeth and ulcers on his cheeks and tongue (from the points).  Otherwise, his mouth was in good shape.  He has some fairly significant TMJ but that should resolve now that his mouth will be more comfortable.

The only other thing that Dr. Kelly suggested was using a bit that gives Winston's tongue clearance.  He pushed against Dr. Kelly with his tongue the entire time and so needs a bit that doesn't restrict his tongue.  My current bit is a double jointed snaffle and that would wrap and lay heavy on his tongue.  He thinks Winston would be more comfortable in a solid bit with a high port.  I put the Happy Mouth bit that came with him-- and which is solid -- on my bridle.  Hopefully, he will be happier with the contact.

Not a good configuration for Winston's mouth
I looked through my Dover catalog and didn't see any snaffle bits that are solid.  ...I think by definition they have a joint?  I am so uneducated about bits.  It looks like I'll be making a visit to the tack store soon.  Can I use the Happy Mouth bit for USDF competition?  Have any of you had a horse with a busy/sensitive tongue that can share their solution?


  1. Myler makes a very nice high-ported snaffle bit - it has a roller in the middle and has some mobility of the pieces to the side of the port. I've had great luck using it with large-tongued horses like Pie.

  2. Oh, and this post has a picture of the bit:

    The one pictured has slots for the headstall, but you can get it without any slots for the headstall or reins although that version sometimes is hard to find.

  3. I hate the dentist too..all this stuff in your mouth who would be happy. Great Pictures though!

  4. It's beginning to get scary without rain or snow. At least we got a lot last year and I hope that will help for a while. Tow of our dogs are scared but calm at the vet, but Soldier goes berserk. He was seven when we rescued him, so who knows what may have happened.

  5. First, I love being the first one to ride in a nicely harrowed arena.

    Poor Winston. I wonder what he experienced before.

    By definition, a snaffle is a non-leverage bit. Snaffles can be jointed or straight, solid bars. I have never heard of a ported snaffle (Not sure if the Myler Kate described is legal for competition). I do not think the straight bar would give him more relief, but a narrower bit might. Thicker is not always more gentle, especially if the horse does not have a lot of room in his mouth. I use a loose ring french link for Harley which is more on the narrow side. Due to his overbite, he has a low palate.

  6. Val - the ported snaffle I linked to, as far as I know, is not approved for use in dressage competitions, but the Mylar comfort snaffle is and might work as well - not as much curve but still more shaped.

  7. Val and Kate: Thank you both for the input. The bit Kate initially recommended is not approved for competition by the USDF but the comfort snaffle is. It is curved and specifically designed for tongue relief so I'm going to give that one a try. It's also thinner than than KK Ultra I have been using so that should help with the big tongue/no room issue too.

  8. here's a link for legal bits

    my horse has a small mouth and can't have a single joint snaffle. But he loves this one:

    I bought my guy as a 3 year old and he was a bit wonky with the PPE and I was told he needed to be sedated for his teeth. We haven't done it yet. Winston has had a lot of changes lately as well but I bet with his personality he will settle.

  9. Sounds like you have some desensitizing work to do! You get to play doctor with Winston! Sneak in a little fake stethoscope work, etc, during your grooming, and after he's comfortable with you poking and prodding, have friends do it too. It will make life easier for your vet and for Winston too - vet visits will be less traumatic. Poor guy, it does make you wonder what happened to cause this reaction.

  10. I have encountered horses who could smell the arrival of a vet in the parking lot. It will take work and understanding to get over those reactions. He's lucky he found you.

  11. I'm glad Teresa posted the link to the legal bits for USDF as it's changed this year. Good luck finding the right one =)

  12. Clearly I am a little late on the comment section, but here is a link for a straight snaffle...

  13. That's strange how he reacted to the vet. Hopefully with kind treatment he will settle and not make such a big deal out of it. :) Glad his teeth are good now!


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.