It's time for another installment of pet peeves! On the agenda to discuss today is mouthy horses. Horses are curious critters, and, lacking hands, they use their prehensile lips for checking things out. Youngsters usually learn not to put their mouth on things during "work time" in the course of their early trianing, as it can lead to a lot of trouble in the future. Horses who grow accustomed to putting their mouth on things (including chewing, lipping, touching, etc) can grab the shank of a bit and flip themself over, pull down something and spook themself, damage other people's equipment and the list goes on and on.
So, what's the deal with owners who let their horses put their mouth on anything and everything they encounter? Often times, when asked about their horse's behavior, the owner will make excuses like, "Oh, fluffy just has to check everything out to make sure it's ok." or "I just want to let him be a horse." Listen here folks, your horse has all day and night when you're not working him to check things out and be a horse. When I have my horse out, I want him paying attention to me. Not searching for things he can "check out". In my opinion, there's a big difference between letting your horse check out something and letting them look for things to play with. When I expect my horse to interact with something, they are allowed to touch it with their nose as part of their safety check, but they are never ever under any circumstances to put any object in their mouth. It's a safety hazard, and, in my opinion, shows an overall lack of discipline. When I have my horses out, they should be paying attention to what I am doing so that they don't miss a cue. If their attention is split between me and their search for entertainment, we are not going to have very good communication with one another.
Ultimately, like most of my pet peeves, it comes down to a safety issue. A horse who is constantly putting items in his mouth is eventually going to cause trouble. Should the unthinkable happen and Fluffy ends up for sale, how will prospective buyers feel about a horse with an oral fixation? Are you setting your horse up for long term success? Or avoiding a training issue?