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Does a Lip Twitch Hurt a Horse? The Pros and Cons

Last updated: December 13, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

We were at the training center horse barn, and one of the owners had a lip twitch on his horse. My friend, who’s new to the horse business, asked me what the guy was doing to his horse. I explained that he was twitching him, which prompted my friend to ask if it hurt the horse.

Yes, a lip twitch can hurt a horse. The horse may experience discomfort and pain when using a twitch too aggressively or for too long. A lip twitch can cause damage to the horse’s lips and mouth. However, using a twitch properly doesn’t hurt a horse.

A lip twitch is a device used to control a horse’s head. It is applied to the upper lip and works by squeezing the lip. However, a lip twitch can hurt a horse and should only be used as a last resort. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using a lip twitch on your horse.

Picture of a horse having a twitch put on its lip.

Is using a twitch on a horse cruel?

A twitch is a device that is placed on a horse’s lip and used to help calm the animal. It is usually made of a chain or rope and has a handle that is attached to the end. The twitch is placed on the horse’s upper lip and twisted, which causes pressure and helps to release endorphins, which have a calming effect.

There is much debate over whether or not using a lip twitch on a horse is cruel. While some argue that it is a necessary tool to help control horses during grooming, vet exams, or when a horse is being shod, others believe that it is an inhumane way to treat these animals.

The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. We rarely use a lip twitch on our horses because most are handled extensively from a young age and stand still on a lead rope, even during vet exams.

However, a few years ago, we had a horse that required emergency attention, and she wouldn’t let us care for her, so we used a twitch to get her under control and treat her injury.

For those who are proponents of twitching, the main argument is that it is a relatively harmless way to control a horse when necessary. When used correctly, a lip twitch will not cause any serious injury to the horse.

It can, however, help to calm them down and make them more manageable in situations where they may otherwise be difficult to control. I frequently see it used by some to train their horse and when one needs to be restrained but cannot be sedated.

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On the other hand, those who are against using lip twitches on horses argue that the practice is cruel and inhumane. They believe that horses should not have to endure this type of treatment and that other ways to control them do not involve causing discomfort.

In some cases, horses may react negatively to twitching, leading to further stress and anxiety. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use a lip twitch on a horse is up to the owner.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision and to only use a lip twitch if it is absolutely necessary. If you decide to use one, be sure to do so in a way that will cause the least discomfort to the horse.

We tried to give the yearling picture above medicine, but he was extremely uncooperative, so we put a twitch on him, and he settled down and took his medication quickly.

Picture of a two year old filly.

The Pros of Using a Lip Twitch on Your Horse

When it comes to horse care, there are a lot of things that owners have to consider. One of those things is whether or not to use a lip twitch on their horse. While there are some people who believe that lip twitches are cruel, the truth is that they can actually be quite beneficial for horses. Here are some of the pros of using a lip twitch on your horse:

1. It can help to calm a horse down. If a horse is feeling anxious or stressed, applying a lip twitch can help relax them. This is because the action of the twitch stimulates the release of endorphins, which have a calming effect on horses.

2. It can make it easier to work with a horse. If a horse is difficult or uncooperative, then using a lip twitch can help get them under control. This is because the twitch will help distract the horse from whatever it is, causing them to be upset.

3. It can help to keep a horse still. If you are trying to groom or saddle a horse, then a lip twitch can be helpful in keeping them from moving around. This is especially beneficial if the horse is fidgety or prone to getting up and moving around.

4. It is a relatively simple procedure. Applying a lip twitch is not complicated and can be done quickly and easily. This makes it an ideal option for horse owners who want to be able to calm their horses down without having to go through a lot of hassle.

5. It is relatively inexpensive. Lip twitches are not expensive, and they can be purchased from most equestrian supply stores. This makes them an affordable option for horse owners who want to be able to calm their horses without spending a lot of money.

I’ve read comparisons of horse twitches to acupuncture for humans. Both cause an increase in the heart rate, which stimulates endorphins. However, it’s not certain exactly how it works to calm a horse.

Overall, there are a lot of pros to using a lip-twitch on your horse. If you are considering using one, then be sure to talk to your veterinarian or equestrian supply store about the best option for your horse.

Picture of a horse with its ears pinned.

Cons of Using a Lip Twitch on Your Horse

While a lip twitch may seem like a relatively innocuous way to get your horse to cooperate, you should be aware of some potential downsides to using one.

First and foremost, a lip twitch can actually cause your horse pain. The muscle that is twitched is called the levator labii superiors, and it runs from the top lip to the gums. When this muscle is twitched, it pulls on the sensitive tissue of the gums, which can be quite painful for your horse.

In addition, some horses may react negatively to having a lip twitch used on them. Some may become agitated and even more difficult to handle. If this happens, it’s best to remove the lip twitch and try another method of restraint.

Picture of a horse getting bathed without using a lip twitch.

Finally, if you use a lip twitch improperly, you could damage your horse’s mouth. The twitching action can cause the metal ring to rub against the delicate tissue of the lips and gums, causing irritation or even cuts. If you do use a lip twitch, be sure to do so gently and only for the amount of time that is absolutely necessary.

Picture of a two year old thoroughbred horse.

The Importance of Knowing When to Use a Lip Twitch on Your Horse

Most people who’ve been around horse training facilities have seen a lip twitch in action, even if they don’t know what it’s called. A lip twitch is simply a device that helps to calm a horse by applying pressure to the upper lip.

When used correctly, a lip twitch can be an extremely valuable tool for calming a horse. However, knowing when and how to use one properly is important. Here are a few tips on using a lip twitch correctly:

– Only use a lip twitch when absolutely necessary. If your horse is calm and cooperative, there’s no need to use one.

– Make sure the lip twitch is the right size for your horse. It will be uncomfortable and may not work correctly if it’s too big or too small.

– Place the lip twitch correctly on the horse’s lip. It should sit just below the Horse’s nose, with the pressure point in the center of the upper lip.

– Apply pressure evenly across the entire surface of the lip twitch. Don’t focus on one spot, as this will cause discomfort.

– Use a lip twitch for the shortest amount of time necessary. Remove the twitch and try again later if your horse is still agitated after a few minutes.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your horse has a positive experience with a lip twitch. Remember, only use a lip twitch when necessary, and always use it correctly to avoid causing discomfort.

Below is a helpful YouTube video explaining the benefits of using a lip twitch and how to use one correctly.

YouTube video


How long can you use a twitch on a horse?

According to most equine vets, you should twitch a horse for no more than 5 minutes. It is important to check the twitch regularly and remove it immediately if your horse seems to be in pain or distress.