It's TidBIT Tuesday! Today I want to talk about another thing that impacts bit physics - a relaxed jaw. In this post I'm going to run through some signs to watch for to see if your horse is relaxing his jaw and working properly. These are true for bitted AND bitless - so listen up!
1) Lipstick foam. This is the thin line of green foam along his lips. You DON'T want large amounts of bright white foam - that would indicate a stiff jaw and the salivary glands being compressed. The thin line of foam tells us that the jaw is relaxed enough for the tongue to move in the mouth with the head's up and down motion, which creates bubbles in the existing saliva.
2) Soft muzzle. The horse's nose and lips should be soft and squishy. Lots of wrinkling or elongated/oval nostrils indicate tension in the face and lips which can impact the bit.
3) Even contact. Side to side, lifting the rein should produce the same response and feel the same through the contact. If one side feels like you're pulling harder, your horse is likely holding tension in that side of his jaw, which causes him to resist contact.
So how can you fix jaw tension? First, give. 99% of jaw tension is caused by too much pulling, and can be fixed by working on softening your own hands. Second, eliminate any underlying problems. Chiropractors and massage therapists can help with issues in the neck, poll, and jaw, and having an equine dentist check their teeth can help eliminate any problems. Finally, patience. All horses are naturally asymmetrical, and their instinct is to push against pressure. Don't get frustrated by a stiff jaw, instead help your horse work through it bit by bit. Harsher bits and yanking hands will only exacerbate the problem. Have you dealt with a horse with a stiff jaw? Comment below!