July 6, 2021

Tongue Stuff - Part the Zillionth

Last winter, we played with switching his bits up, but by the time show season started and the work got harder, it was clear that we needed to go back to the Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring Straight.

In one particularly frustrating April lesson in which he didn't even give me a chance to ride well before getting his tongue over the single-jointed nathe, I remember CGP puzzling through it with me. "It's so weird, because he actually goes BETTER once he gets it over. He lifts the base of his neck when it's over." "I know," I said, "It's part of the reason you see me get so anxious when he's going well, because if he going well and the contact isn't super heavy, it probably means he's got it over or he's about to get it over."


The more common version of the Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring has a forward curve (top), but Connor strongly prefers the straight version (bottom).

So we switched back to the Bombers in April, and although he was initially a little backed off the contact in it (probably because he was trying to figure out a way to suck his tongue back and get it over!), he soon started going really well in it. 

(Side note: Mary cannot square herself with the idea that you can have finesse and subtlety of aids with a straight bar bit. To the point that it's kind of adorable, lol. I keep telling her she needs to check her biases at the door, because if I can ride Second/almost Third level Dressage in it, she has all the finesse she needs to get him around a 2' jump course.)

It's physically difficult for him to get his tongue over in the Bombers, which has a very high port (and he has a low palate as well). He didn't get his tongue over in it again until he did it once with me during a virtual lesson in June, and then did it on CGP last week.

The post-solstice summer coat shed has begun

Her approach in the past has been to assume it's an expression of pain elsewhere in the body, or related to my heavy-handed riding, but she knows him well enough now to know that last week, he did it just to get out of the work, which is a habit I've reinforced over the years by getting off to put his tongue back once it's over.

"So I rode the pants off of him with it over until he put it back, which took about 25 minutes," she said. "I said okay, if that's your choice you're going to work HARD as long as its over, and then as soon as he put it back under we quit. Then the next day's ride he was SPECTACULAR. I don't think he's going to try that again anytime soon."

Unrelated Hank pic

"I'm so glad you did that," I said. "I've often wanted to do that myself because I hate that my reaction to him getting it over has to be to stop what we're doing, get off, and put it back under, it's like a reward and it's getting him out of the work," I said, "But I don't have the timing or skills you do to be confident enough to actually push through it and I never know if continuing to work with it over is the right answer or not, like I don't want to normalize that behavior."

As I said in the past, this problem is never going to completely go away with this horse, but the fact that I can count on one hand the number of times he's done it since last winter, and the fact that CGP keeps giving me more tools in my toolkit to deal with it, are both wins in my book.


  1. I kind of love it when my horse pulls nonsense like that with the trainer too. Makes me feel a lot better about myself... Lol! Hopefully he's learned his lesson this time!

  2. Carlos used to get his tongue over the bit all the time until he was about 9. For him it wasn't to get out of work or a pain response but one of being bored/unfocused in the work. Once I got him a bit with a roller he would play with that and then at some point grew out of the habit.

  3. Oh Connor!! Glad he pulled it with CGP, though - sounds like that'll be the end of that for a little while, at least.

  4. My Cob does it too. I ride her in a mullen mouth eggbutt (her strong preference) or a pelham for showing She never does it in those now at 15. I drive her in a kimblewick with a tiny port. Im looking to change that to a mullen mouth as well. She seems to do it worse with the port, likely because she goes with more contact driving (much more forward driving vs riding). I think it started with her not liking tongue contact with her big welsh d tongue and tiny inter mandibular space (her bars are like an inch and a half apart). I tend to wait her out to put it back. When she was younger we dropped her bit a hole so she learned to replace it easily. She also put it over less when the bit was lower.