Would a happy tongue bit suit my horse?

(I'm sorry if this is really long)
He's had all his teeth, back, saddle checked etc.
So I have a 12yr warmblood gelding who is currently ridden in a single jointed dutch gag, I have previously tried him in a single jointed loose ring snaffle, but the bars were a lot thinner than the ones on the gag, so he didn't seem particularly happy in it, infact he went better in the snaffle ring of the gag. I have also tried him in a NS loose ring with a lozenge, although he wasn't massively unhappy in it, he still went better in the snaffle of the gag. (i'm not sure whether the gag has become like a comfort blanket for him, as it is what he's used too, so he doesn't want to settle into another bit or whether the bits I have tried he does find more uncomfortable than the gag). He goes alright on the snaffle ring, takes a better contact once he's walk, trotted and cantered etc. but he is definitely willing to be more forward and off the leg on a long rein with no contact. Although he can go to the opposite end of the scale and be very strong, lean on the hand, occasionally yank his head down. This is more common if i ride in a field, jumping, or at a show when he's excited and keen. He doesn't tank off, infact his canter rhythm will feel the same, it just feels as though i cannot bring him down to trot, and more often than not, he will fall into his trot and then rush because he's so heavy on the forehand. (we're working on this with schooling though). Occasionally if i try to half halt or use a bit more strength to gain control he will throw his head up, he's never got his tongue over the bit, but sometimes when he's being really strong he'll have his mouth gaped open and occasionally stick his tongue out, which makes me think he's disliking tongue pressure. I do sometimes have to put the rein down onto the second ring of the gag, when jumping, (especially at a show/in a field) but he REALLY dislikes this, he throws his head up more, also tucks his head into his chest and will pull down on the rein, I only ever do this for added control when it gets dangerous, or i physically can't control him, so because I can feel how much he hates and fights against it, i will avoid it when i can. His gag is either a 6" or a 5" 3/4, although i can only fit 1 finger between the 2 bones at his lower jaw, which might mean he has a slightly narrow jaw? Despite being a warmblood, he has a dished face and his head is not particularly big. If i part his lips, his tongue bulges out a bit at his canine teeth, not sure whether this would mean he has a particularly fleshy tongue or whether that's normal? I was thinking of trying your loose ring happy tongue bit, to see whether it is tongue pressure he dislikes, or if it's something else. I don't know if this is relevant but he's also a very what i'd call a slobbery horse, he will always salivate with any bit, so much so, that sometimes when he flicks his head up his slobber hits me (gross I know!) Anyway, as people do when researching for bits I stumbled across some people saying ported bits are dangerous, or can damage the roof of the mouth? I know any bit can be dangerous, it's all about the riders hands, but i was just curious how much/if at all your ported bits effect the roof of the mouth. I know a single jointed bit can do this too though. I was also wondering, do you have to steer clear of certain nosebands if a bit has a port? He's currently in a grackle, as he seems to prefer this to a cavesson or a flash, it is a pretty loose one, and he can still open his mouth, which kind of defeats the object but he prefers it. I have read many brilliant reviews about the success of your happy tongue bit, which makes me want to give it a try, to see if relieving tongue pressure for my boy, will infact make him happier. I do not mind whether it is dressage legal or not, as he is a showjumper. I would like to be able to do all things, e.g. flatwork, hacking, jumping in one bit, ideally a snaffle, but if he is still too strong in the snaffle happy tongue for jumping (but he likes the tongue relief) then I could always get a slightly stronger happy tongue bit too. Do you think it would suit him? I haven't tried a bit without a joint in it, and I don't think he's had a ported bit before, so I am a bit apprehensive. But if you think it would make him happier I'd want to give it a go.
TIA :)

Posted in General, asked by Megan Mckeary, 2 years ago. 1034 hits.


Hi Megan,

Thank you for your wonderfully detailed question!

The Snaffle creates a lot of squeezing pressure on the sides of the bars, and this is what he is objecting to. The Gag having a thicker mouth piece is probably why he is better in it, if it is also more curved than the other bit Snaffle you tried, that would also make it more comfortable.

Thank you for looking at his bottom jaw, this is very important information, your horse has a very narrow bottom jaw, and a fat tongue by your description. Yes, your horse is tongue sensitive, and we need to move the pressure, but the Happy Tongue will have too wide a port for him, and it will not sit properly on his bars, this will cause other problems, and is not at all a solution.

We need to take the pressure off his tongue as much as we can, but we also need to take into account how the bit will fit in his mouth. These horse's can be difficult to fit, but we do have options!

My first choice is the Ultra Comfy Lock Up. This bit looks like a Snaffle, but it is double locked so that it cannot fold closed, this eliminates the nut cracker action. It is also angled on the sides so that it goes up and over the tongue, which greatly reduces the tongue pressure. The fit of this bit is not as critical as the Happy Tongue, it will still place pressure in the correct areas even with his narrow jaw. I wouldn't go any stronger than a 2½ Ring for him, going stronger than that will only create more problems as he will fight the pressure. A plain loose ring would be great though.

The port and it's interaction with the palate depend on the design of the port. The Happy Tongue has a low, wide port, it is designed for the tongue to sit in the port, and the top of the port is thinner than the rest of the bit, all of the means that it sits between the tongue and palate. A port will interfere with the palate if it sits on top of the tongue, a narrow, high port would definitely create palate pressure.

You don't have to stay away from certain nosebands if the noseband is used correctly. We encourage loose or no nosebands, a tight noseband will mask the symptoms of the horse being unhappy with the bit, with a loose noseband we can see that the horse is unhappy and make a change.

Again, thank you for being so detailed!


Claire @ Bombers
2 years ago
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