To slam together one´s jaw

January 22, 2009

“What sound is the horse making?” I asked my riding instructor, as I pointed in secret to a horse that was in the arena . We sat up in the bleachers and waited for the riding lession ahead of ours to finish. “The horse clamps his jaws continuously and vigorously,” said the teacher, “and the noise echoes because of the hollow in a horse’s skull.”

“The horse is stressed out,” my teacher answered before I could ask again. “You have probably noticed that the horse started to grind his teeth when the rider began to pull the reins in order to ride the horse on the bit. The horse begans to stress out and bites the jaws together and moves them side to side.  That’s how the teeth grinding noise takes place, that we heard a minute ago, and much lower than the slamming sound. With continuous pulling on the reins by the rider the horse becomes more stressed and begins slamming his jaws together.”

 “The rider didn’t pull so hard on the horse to have stressed him out too bad,” I pointed out to my professor. “You could be correct in your point Mr. Larusson. This horse has probably stressed out because of a memory of a previous rein pulling that was much more violent than what he is experiencing now. These horses are riden very carefully because of this reason. They can handle no mistakes by the rider or the warm up being cut short, because they will stress out if this happens. Some riders tie up the noseband very tight on the horse to prevent these stress noises to occur but other signs of this stress are quite obvious.

“What are other indications of stress?” I asked and finished with “I think the horse’s neck is in a prettier upright position and has a nicer give in at the poll.” My teacher stared at me a minute and then asked, “is everything alright with you Icelander?” before he continued. “As you can see, the horse is behind the bit or tilts his head to avoid the rein pressure. When he is behind the bit an extra rein contact does not restrain the horse, rather his neck will continue to arch in this peculiar manner. The rider is not in control of the speed nor the direction they are going in. On the other hand when the horse tilts its head, the horse shoots his shoulder to the side, becomes crooked and the body position of the horse does not serve the purpose for the task at hand.

Horses who have these signs of stress and poor posture are increasing here in Iceland. It was therefore appropiate to have a horse at high level of this stress in the final test for riding judges at Holar at the beginning of this year.

Does your horse grind its teeth or slamm together its jaw?


Magnus Larusson

In the picture, Hylur frá Bringu is comfortably connected through the rein to his rider´s hands

To slam together one´s jaw