Speaking Of The Foamy Mouth

In the most recent link we saw a horse with enough foam coming from his mouth to top every Starbuck’s latte for a week.  That’s too much and a clear indication of an unhappy horse, who finally had had enough and simply left.

Have a look at this short blog article entitled The One Picture.  The author points out several issues with the picture that are spot on.  I’d like to point out a few more, starting with the foamed mouth.  It’s still too much.  This horse has no white on his face, so that’s a big gob of froth about to splatter his chest.  If the flash wasn’t so tight, there’d be more foam flying out of this horse’s mouth.  The cavesson also looks to be cranked beyond tight.

Now look at the horse’s throat and how the skin is folded.  This horse isn’t just behind the vertical, he’s a lot behind the vertical with a throat closed tighter than a shuttered up summer cottage in mid winter.  I also have a real issue with the horse being pushed into this level of work at just 4 years old.  Remember what happened to the fancy grey mare this rider rode back in 2006?  Does anyone think this horse will have a better fate?

As the author mentions, a lot of people will praise this photo, the rider and the horse’s way of going.  They’ll be unable to identify all that’s wrong, but there is one flashing red neon sign, that anyone can be taught to see, that clearly indicates this horse is not engaged.  Simply look at the flexion of the weight bearing front fetlock and compare it to the flexion of the weight bearing rear fetlock.  As evidenced in the photo, this horse is solidly on his forehand, bearing strikingly more weight on the front leg than on the hind.  Engagement requires a horse to shift weight to the haunch.  My downhill, post-legged, Heinz 57 horse, can shift more weight to his haunch than what this royally bred, solidly conformed horse is displaying.  Imagine what *we* could do with this kind of horse if we were also Internationally acclaimed trainers and riders.

In conclusion, it’s wrong, all day long, every day and someone of this level should know better.  So the question I’d like to pose to this rider, to the judges and everyone else involved:  Do you not know better, or do you simply not care that you’re hurting the horse, that you’re corrupting the discipline, and that you’re setting the worst possible example for up and coming owners, riders, trainers and judges by systematically killing the future of good horsemanship.

Oh, and do you also not realize the horse is unsound behind?


51 thoughts on “Speaking Of The Foamy Mouth

  1. Yes, yes, YES!!! I remember being little at shows and asking about the foam. Our horses never had foamy mouths. I was told that it was a good sign, that the horses were relaxed. Even then I was scratching my head – I’ve seen a looooot of relaxed horses. Not ONE of them was EVER foaming at the mouth. Ever.

  2. I thought he may have been a bit off on the left hind, Stride appeared a touch shorter…would you elaborate on your thoughts of his soundness? Too many legs going too many directions for me.

    • He’s off on both hinds, but the left is worse. It’s up high – stifle and higher. No horse can stay sound for long ridden like this. His hocks never get underneath the hip where the thrust of the stroke needs to come from a coiled hind leg. Instead the horse pushes off when the hind leg is extended out behind.

      • I must have FEI judge delusional syndrome as well. I was so distracted by the action of the front end that I completely missed how poorly this horse is tracking up behind. It’s as if he wants his hinds to touch the ground the absolute minimum to maintain locomotion. Very strung out behind. It would be interesting to see this horse move with no rollkur or contact at all….would it improve or completely fall apart…..

        • Actually, his front end movement would be BETTER if he were ridden correctly. Prime examples of this are gaited/saddlebred horses, almost always ridden as this horse.

          Riding a horse hollow causes the front legs to piston up and down. Riding correctly doesn’t prevent ‘action’ it simply changes it to become rounder and further reaching.

          This horse is sustaining permanent skeletal damage to his entire spine and surrounding soft tissues from poll to dock.

  3. Most horses will produce some saliva in response to the bit resting in the mouth. Some bits even encourage this via the material they are made of (copper, for example). Most of my horses foam a slight amount, this is normal and provides a natural lubricant for the bit. Excessive foaming, however, is a sign that there is some level of discomfort (heavy hands, uncomfortable/ill fitting bit, nervousness, etc.). What really worries me about this picture is the fact that the horse is only 4. Shame what we do to these horses for the sake of the all mighty green dollar.

  4. No this is not dressage, it is what dressage seems to have morphed into; Dressage. And to me it looks like this horse has capped hocks, a bit.

  5. TOTally off topic, but I read the post she made about her horse’s hoof abscess (couldn’t resist). Gah. Hmmm….. Sigh.

    • I am guessing it’s my horse you are refferring to? so what post, I believe I’ve had about ten posts about that abscess… instead of snide remarks, educate me, please….

  6. No way should ANY 3-4 year old be ridden that intensely. Gross. My horses get backed at three, and might learn to canter at four. Might.

  7. no way any horse should be ridden this wrong… Mercedes, where have you been all my life, I love it that you dare speak up like this, sometimes I’ve felt so alone! Thank you 🙂

    • Oh, I’ve been around for years upsetting people in various horse disciplines. 🙂 I know that being alone feeling, but there are more of us around and thanks to social media we’re able to connect more easily. I’m holding out hope that eventually the numbers will be in our favor and things will change for the better. Thank you for taking a stand, saying it out loud and supporting education for the horse’s sake.

  8. UGLY picture.
    Some of the comments on that blog bothered me:

    “…a 4-year old should not be trained like this!”

    “…he is ridden like a much older horse.”

    “What a shame such impatience and greed to make such a young horse go in that manner, let him mature and he would be even more flashy in his own time.”

    What bothers me *most* is not that the horse is young but that it is being ridden/trained so incorrectly. I’m not sure that message is getting through.

    • Add in that the horse has OCD and the impatience is ten-fold. With that piece of information alone, this horse should not have passed inspection. I assume this horse is still a stallion and that there will be many mares lined up willing to ‘take a chance’ to inherit his movement. HERDA hasn’t stopped mare owners from breeding to talented stallions so what’s a little OCD? Certainly this could have been brought on by inferior feeding habits but why take the chance?

  9. I can’t link the page…but on a eurodressage webpage there is another ‘bad’ to the horse. Apparently, when Sezuan was DNA tested for registry, it was determined that he was not sired by Blue Hors Romanov as stated but actually by Blue Hors Zack. I know nothing of this lineage but really, how does this happen accidentally?

    • Mare was apparently bred to Romanov, did not get pregnant, was re-bred to Zack, but the wrong breeding record was sent to the registry. It wasn’t an accidental breeding but a mix-up in the paperwork.

  10. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/32696/researchers-study-head-neck-positions-effects-on-muscles
    has some biomechanical data from a study on how head position including rolkur actually affects the horses muscles- it is worth reading and citing as a rolkur horse will never develop the muscling to raise their forehand. It appears that not only is rolkur cruel, it is ineffective, and there is a whole cascade of cruelty that follows in its wake. The unevenness in the back-end is produced by trying to force the appearance of collection, including the piaffe, by whipping the horse on his belly and sheath until he begins to hop about on the spot from pain. The whip often has lead fishing weights clamped to the lash to make sure it hurts enough to get the required reflex. When I saw this happening and that the result was rewarded in the show ring, I was done with competitive dressage. And while the socially accepted euphemism is ‘tense steps’ an uneven spraddle-legged hop- about-on-the-spot only passes for piaffe at the FEI level if there is willful blindness. .

    • I completely understand your choice to be done with competitive dressage. I arrived at the same choice almost 2 decades ago. But I think now it’s the wrong choice to make. If everyone who knows what’s wrong with the sport quits, then who will change it?

        • We do what we can and in no way do I belittle your private efforts because every bit counts, but if you don’t take it to the show ring or have your students take it to the show ring, then nothing changes in the show ring.

          I do know that eventually doing it right is rewarded in the show ring because I’ve sent students out in classic seats into the hunter ring, into Pony Club and Eventing etc… and every once in a while a judge sat up, took notice and rewarded the ride.

          I’ve even had the occasional judge approach me after the show to express their pleasure in seeing something good and right. One judge had actually been the previous trainer of a horse one of my students owned and she asked me what I’d done to ‘fix the horse’, who’d been a runaway in her barn all decked out in extra tack and a harsh bit, but that was being ridden in a simple D-ring on a long, relaxed rein over fences by my student.

          Point being…there are still judges out there that can identify correct and will reward it when they see it. And the more they see correctness, the more correctness will be rewarded with wins. And the more correctness wins in the show ring, the better the chance that others will change how they do things and so on down the line until correct becomes the norm instead of the rare.

          Someone has to be willing to get out there and challenge in the show ring. That’s why I think my choice was wrong for the horse. I should have sucked it up and continued on instead of stopping.

          And I often think I should have not stopped racing horses either simply because most everyone else was cheating in one form or another, making it super tough to be competitive. Stopping didn’t make it better for the horses and I already had a reputation for being honest and unapproachable in terms of cheating.

          BTW, those are great comparison pictures in your Leaping article between Totilas and the Spanish horse.

  11. Been reading from the start but this is my first comment – to me he looks like a baby, big, gangly, not quite finished growing and not quite sure where all his legs are, let alone where they should be!

  12. It is very sad what some will do to horses and to the sport. Such a shame. I expect to always see this improper riding at the lower levels where there are so many riders that are uneducated or worse ‘educated’ with bad information. I don’t think humanity will ever get away from it. To see it at high levels of competition and worse yet rewarded at these levels is really sickening. It has a huge ripple effect and makes so many more horses suffer.

  13. Dressage as a sport is becoming more like saddle seat everyday, big lick dressage indeed, is that trailrider’s phrase?

    Big money on the breeding end drives this, I’ve said that before. This is no different than western pleasure, reining, saddle seat, barrel racing or flat racing. No one can wait to profit, the horses are started too young, pushed too hard, and barely a handful of people in each discipline know anything about horsemanship, and too many know about every device imaginable to tie down, pull in, or push on a horse using violence. And too many people ignore this because its all so pretty at the show, flashy outfits, fancy clothes, gorgeous horses, rigs, etc.

    It is easy to sit back and complain,but many are here to learn, to see what is wrong, learn to recognize it, and be advocates of better ways when opportunities present, to claim converts. It is easy to participate in a thread like this, to say its all so awful. But really study this information, study the look of right and wrong, commit this knowledge to memory, and be prepared to learn to do things differently so that we can be witnesses that there are better ways.

    • Mmm. “Big lick dressage” was my term but I am delighted for it to spread and everyone to use it. 🙂 Turns out it’s more appropriate than I thought when I made it up. I didn’t realize there was any historical connection between saddle seat and dressage, and was just being snarky based on watching You Tube videos. I’ve never been around gaited horses and knew nothing about their history. But recently I’ve seen older posts on another blog (Equine Studies Institute) where Deb Bennett mentions in passing that American saddle seat riding was started in the 19th century by French immigrants to the South East states who were influenced by Baucher, one of the key figures in classical dressage. Then saddle seat riding lost the plot, basically, but just kept the high head, the big trot and the flat saddle. So in fact saddle seat riding is itself historically a very corrupted descendent of dressage that became fixated exclusively on the front end of the horse. So the parallels between saddleseat (Big Lick being the worst example of that, far as I know) and Contemporary Competitive Dressage are actually a real thing. So maybe we will see stacked shoes soon at the FEI level?

      • thanks for letting me borrow it. I have read the same thing at Dr. Deb’s site. Given the rider’s posture and the horse’s movement, big lick dressage captures it perfectly.

    • No, big lick dressage is not my phrase. But in order to discuss a point of dentition, I went to find my old vet book, and retrieved the wrong book! Since it’s still in storage, that discussion will have to wait. But I found an interesting passage in the book I mistakenly pulled out:

      Now judging from these sculptures, the Greek horse was not above 14 and a half hands; instead of the graceful formation of the Arab, had the short, rigid shapes of the Galloway. They are what is vulgarly termed cock-thrappled, having the windpipe and fore-neck projected like the same parts of a game-cock when in the act of crowing, a fault in conformation which renders it impossible for the animal to bring his chin in to his chest, when curbed upon his haunches, and short, closely-ribbed, round barrels, heavy joints, short, stiff pasterns and high, upright hoofs.

      The author was discussing the type of horse in Xenophon’s time, and so the conversation on conformation continues.

      Taken from Henry William Herbert, Horse and Horsemanship, 1857

      • I would hate to have any definite ideas about horse conformation strictly out of artwork, the artists may or may not be horsemen, without cameras to capture an image, it is hard to say what they used for their modeling, or how skilled the handlers were that were posing the horses. How many correctly ridden horses can any of us say we routinely see even today with much more information and more available information. The neck thread I posted showed the difference between a true conformation fault, the ewe necked (not cock thrappled, we lose so much colorful language over time), versus a horse handled and ridden badly enough to over develop the base of the neck and make it appear ewe necked.

        Since the greeks were riding bareback or over a cloth but without true treed saddles, it wouldn’t suprise me that they favored short, broad backed well muscled horses, who wants to ride a tb’s withers bareback and try to shoot an arrow? Short or upright pasterns have been lightly addressed, they are not necessarily a ‘fault’ nor do they particularly contribute to rough gaits as has been alleged many times. Horses predominantly ridden barefoot for long distances over varying terrain will develop upright blockier hooves, look at the mustang hoof studies.

        I am not sure the greeks were ever considered great horsemen, Xenophon wrote after years of observing and learning from the Persian cavalry, a cavalry that was much more admired for the quality of its horsemanship than the Greeks, back in the day. His work is most notable in that it survived, some clearly made sense even by today’s standards or in spite of today’s standards.

        The gifts of information that Mercedes has offered here, are for some reasons I truly can’t comprehend, still not well known by average horsepeople. It is acted upon by even fewer. I call them gifts, because I think many people don’t realize they are being offered the keys to the kingdom. I cannot comprehend not using them to their fullest.

        • Pasterns are coming up next!

          I had all sorts of images of what cock thrappled was and have to say none of those images were of what it really meant. 🙂

          Thank you for providing your many gifts of information as well. I’d love for you to do an article on some of those historical texts you own – hint, hint.

          • the saddle bred/walker compendium of 19th century and early 20th century champions, I think all the photos would be past copyright? Or Beudant and classical high school, barbs and other desert horses in Morocco? The secrets of America’s scientific horseman, John Rarey? Dr. Hayes? Classics such as Pluvinel or de la Guerniere? I have a copy of Xenophon too. Training oriented or conformation oriented? An insight into the great horseman of the later half of the 19th century in the US, many of them former slaves all evidence of which was buried by Jim Crow? The Californios? So many books, so little time?

          • Yes. LOL! Start with your favorite. It’s good to remember where we as horseman have come from, where the horses have come from and where we and they have ended up; good and bad.

          • I just thought it was interesting, as we were discussing the photo in this post, that horsemen of the past were discussing the elgin marbles. Mr. Herbert writes:

            In one of the finest groups some half-dozen riders are caracoling gayly along, their horses well thrown back on their haunches, some going disunited, some at a regular and perfect canter, and sitting the animals with a pose of such perfect balance, ease, aplomb and grace, so that the rider’s hand is entirely independent of his seat, as proves that equestrianism, as an art and a grace, must have been cultivated to a high degree in Athens, however deficient soever the state might be in cavalry.

          • Don’t stress about the copyright. Look up the concept of “fair use” and how it applies to commentary, criticism, research and reporting. Free legal advice is, of course, worth what you paid for it, but I don’t see a big issue.

      • I’m not even convinced on the “lipstick” foam thing.

        What I want to know is that a horse doesn’t have a dry mouth and it’s able to mouth it’s bit softly and quietly and move and respond to it and that ordinarily produces saliva.

        It’s salivation that’s wanted and not in excess. Done in excess, it’s indicative of stress and anxiety or discomfort.

        I’m not convinced though that the ‘normal’ amount of saliva produced should ever become “foam” or “lipstick”

        IMO frothing never indicates “calm and relaxed and comfortable”.

        I can’t help thinking that calling it “lipstick” is just a validation.

  14. never the hard foam that looks like un cooked meringue and is approaching that consistency. If the hands are quiet and the horse well schooled, he can pretty much cushion the bit on his tongue, and not need to move it around much, and the rider will not need to move it much, so there should be no reason to create frothy foam to any large degree. Clearly the horse, if it does a test where it demonstrates forward down and out at a free walk, and then highly collected movements and some lengthenings, will changes his posture which does involve the tongue/hyoid somewhat, and he is going to need to swallow saliva so some movement will occur between bit and tongue that has nothing to do with distress or pain, or having one’s throat jammed closed, etc. But it shouldn’t be the white thick foamy stuff around his lips or his whole lower jaw dripping onto his chest and the ground.

  15. I want to see some foam, a little white lipstick, but not that extreme foam that looks like the horse is a Reddi-Whip pez dispenser.

    Hate hate hate how common it is to have the hindquarters so far out. When the hind legs are in a different zip code from the front legs, you’re doing it wrong. When will people realize that the front end doesn’t matter?? Focus on getting the push from behind and the front will come.

    Mercedes, are you familiar with Sustainabledressage.net ?

    • I think Sustainabledressage.net has gone dormant? But it still has its existing good information up. There is also a comepting site, Sustainabledressage.com, which is thin on content and what there is, is conventional.

  16. The problem w/continuing to show despite wrong headed judging, is that it gets expensive, very expensive and not much to show for the expense. Yes, showing is expensive, even when one wins. But to usually not place because one is not following the current fad, can get most discouraging. And there is the thought that one is then supporting the show structure, even if not following the fad. It is indeed a most difficult question. I voted by stopping my little bit of showing. But I do see your point of continuing to compete, but doing it properly.

  17. Just wanted to say thanks to all of you who took the trouble to read my blog and are willing to question the status quo. Regardless of tack, type, and conformation, the horse suffers when we humans try to force them into a preconceived static posture and thrives when we strive to be present with the horseness of the horse to the best of our ability.

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