Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Chewing On or Playing with Tongue, Lolling

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • To discuss your equine's general health and management.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

This is a “stereotypical” behavioral vice seen primarily in horses that are stalled, as a result of stress, boredom or excitement, particularly in relation to feeding time.

Horses that have suffered an old injury to the mouth may engage in this behavior long after the injury has resolved.

Tongue lolling is also commonly seen in retired racehorses, and sometimes seen in combination with other stall vices such as cribbing.

In rare cases, this observation is the result of nerve damage causing tongue dysfunction. When under saddle, this behavior may result from pain caused by a bit or resistance to the rider’s hands.


Try to determine whether this behavior is “normal” or a sign of an underlying problem. When is your horse engaging in this behavior? Does it simply appear to be a means of expressing excitement at feeding time? Is it accompanied by any other signs of illness or injury?

Look for other signs of injury or discomfort in the mouth, and examine your bit. Consider your horsemanship. Share your findings and concerns with your vet and trainer.


Your vet may be able to rule out physical causes for this behavior. Given the horse’s history and current management, they may have ideas for related factors. If there is no underlying physical cause, changes in management may lessen or resolve this behavior.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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