What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Difficult to Bridle or Work with Mouth


A horse’s refusal to allow you to look in their mouth, or resistance to being bridled, is a highly undesirable behavior that needs to be resolved.

Barring any physical cause for the behavior, horses are taught to act this way in the same way that they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive this behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors. In most cases, this observation is a result of poor handling and training. There is an opportunity to fix the problem but that is going to require evaluation of the cause.

Difficulty in bitting, bridling or working around the mouth can also be a response to discomfort. A variety of physical problems may cause this, including dental problems and mouth and tongue injuries.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
    • If the behavior seems extreme, or the horse seems to be in distress.
    • If the horse seems to be having difficulty eating, in addition to showing this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Help solve the problem. To overcome the behavior, make the "right thing easy" and the "wrong thing difficult." Start by inserting a finger in the mouth. If you can't get a finger in the mouth, you can't bridle the horse safely either. Be careful of being bitten. Be very gentle with any painful area, and ALWAYS maintain some pressure on the head as the horse withdraws, instantly releasing pressure when the horse yields by dropping its head. Be careful, as incorrect technique or over-restraint of the head can lead a horse to rear or strike.

What Not To Do

Do not resort to restraining or forcing. It never is the right way. Do not believe that any gadget or single concept will fix these problems.

your vet's role

Your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain by performing a careful physical and oral exam, and observing the nature of the behavior.

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, and others who have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. Your vet may have some suggestions for managing or resolving this problem from a training perspective, or may refer you to another individual who can help.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How old is the horse?
  • What specifically is the problem?
  • Is this a long standing behavior or something new?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Describe the behavior in detail.
  • Does the horse have a history of dental problems?
  • Has your horse had a dental exam performed by a vet or dental tech working with a vet?
  • Does your horse show any other signs of dental problems, such as difficulty eating, slow eating, dro
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP