Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Tongue Lolling…

Presented by:  Larissa Cox

At a recent equestrian competition, several people were laughing as a horse had his tongue flapping in the wind while in the competition ring.   I am sure that you have seen this, and many have even wondered why horses hang their tongues out and just accept this strange situation.  Many do not realize, however, that tongue-lolling is generally a reaction to pain.


Causes of mouth pain can vary.  However, what one must do initially is have the horse’s teelth examined and floated as this could be the cause of his pain.


If your horse’s tongue is thick, consider that there will be little room for the bit, which causes your horse to salivate.  Remember that your horse must be able to swallow that saliva comfortably.  if the bit is too large, held too strongly or the nose band shuts his mouth too tightly, he will need to get his tongue out of the way in order to swallow.

Horse’s mouths differ widely and finding that perfect fitting bit that will be comfortable for your horse can be challenging.  As an example, horses which thick tongues and low palates would probably prefer a thin French link as they cannot bear the pain of a single-jointed snaffle.  The all popular double-jointed KK bit can be too severe for some horses as these bits are less likely to contact the horse’s palate but can put more pressure on the tongue.  You may want to find the thinnest, smoothest bit, such as the French-link Baucher.

 If you ride with a light contact, a thinner bit would be more comfortable for your horse.  Position the bit so that it is barely touching the corners of the mouth, then allow the horse to determin whether the bit should stay in that position or should be moved slightly.  You need to make your horse comfortable, both physically and emotionally, so that he can relax and discover that the bit is not a torture method, but a two-way communication device.  Experiment with the bits and watch your horse as he will tell you which one he prefers.

Rider’s Pressure

During Dressage tests, a lolling tongue is considered to be a resistance as it’s almost always a reaction to the rider’s hands.  What we call “resistance” is a more pleasant way of saying the horse’s natural reaction to pain, fear or confusion.  The trick is to keep the lighest contact that still allows you to provide steady, reassuring communication with your horse.

Check to see if your contact is even.  Some horses hang their tongues out because the rider is putting more pressure on one side of the bit more than the other.  For example, riders that are stronger on the right side results in their horse’s sticking their tongues out on the left…  If this is happening to you, make an effort to know how much pressure you are using on both reins.

Accept that your horse’s problem will not go away immediately but with effort, positive results can be achieved.


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