What is a tongue tie?

What is a tongue tie? In horse racing, a tongue tie is a band, or strap, which can be made of elastic, leather or nylon stocking, that is wrapped around a horse’s tongue, close to its base, and tied around its lower jaw. The purpose of a tongue tie is to prevent a horse from getting its tongue over the bit and to prevent soft tissue at the back of the mouth, known as the ‘soft palate’, obstructing the airway during high intensity exercise, including racing.

If applied correctly, a tongue tie does not appear to cause a horse discomfort, distress or pain and may, indeed, prove beneficial, in terms of allowing it to breathe freely, without making a ‘gurgling’ noise, during exercise. Obviously, a horse that is not struggling to breathe can travel further, and faster, than one that is, so the main aim of fitting a racehorse with a tongue tie is to improve its performanceon the racecourse.

Nowadays, like other forms of headgear, such as blinkers and cheekpieces, which limit the field of vision, and hoods, which muffle sound, tongue ties must be publicly declared by racehorse trainers. On a standard racecard, a tongue tie is denoted by a small letter ‘t’ immediately to the right of the name of the relevant horse.