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How to stop biting

SEH

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Joined
15 April 2017
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119
Hey Everyone,

I have a horse that bites, not nasty, obviously not nicely but just like how he communicates. He's the love of my life but it is annoying! Sometimes just a nibble, sometimes quite serious. He's a big boy too. He also grabs hold of clothes and items and drags you or it around. He chews ropes, buckets, saddle cloths, his bridle, other horses rugs. Basically like a toddler who has to put everything in his mouth. I see him regularly carrying his water buckets around the field, he even empties them first just so he can, sometimes 5 times a day. He was very well socialised when young and he is VERY sociable and friendly, just pushy at times.

He has always been very mouthy and a biter, he bit my hand the first time I rode him and I fainted because of the blood. He doesn't generally do it to other people though, only if they are holding him for me and he is frustrated ect, but he rarely has contact with too many other people. It almost like he classes me as one of his herd and treats me like he would another horse. We have checked all the usual suspects (dentist ect) and he doesn't have a 'trigger' like some do like tightening the girth or food. He has never been given treats. He doesn't do it all the time by any means but I keep him away from other people and I have signs up and I fences the outer edge off, just to be safe!

I really don't mind the picking stuff up ect, but I have been advised that if I allow this or clothes grabbing then it only encourages his biting. He is miles better two years later but still having some problems. Part of me thinks I only think he is better because I am so careful and can sense when he is going to do it. I do natural horsemanship with him to try and teach him respect and boundaries but this is in the early stages. I also do a lot of groundwork with him but it doesn't seem to help.


Any advice to help stop this?
Thanks
 
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cobgoblin

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7,318
What are you doing exactly to stop this?
This is dangerous behaviour and cannot be allowed to continue. One of mine liked to nip when I first got him, he was young and I'm pretty sure he was cut late... He got a whack on the shoulder and a very loud growl instantly.. It soon stopped.
 

Cheeky Chestnut

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Being perfectly honest I tend to give mine a quick nip or slap on the muzzle and/or chase him backwards growling and waving my hands a stamping depending on the severity of the bite.

Many will tell too not to slap or nip but it has worked for mine, if he gets grabby and in your face I chase him out of my space and keep him there until I let him back in. He knows when he has done wrong and crossed the line but being two and Welsh he likes to push boundaries ;)

I get plenty of compliments on his manners and handle-ability and he’s brave and bold and clever, light of my life :)
 

SEH

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Joined
15 April 2017
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119
What are you doing exactly to stop this?
This is dangerous behaviour and cannot be allowed to continue. One of mine liked to nip when I first got him, he was young and I'm pretty sure he was cut late... He got a whack on the shoulder and a very loud growl instantly.. It soon stopped.
As I said, I do natural horsemanship and a lot of groundwork to help with respect and boundaries. He gets told off when he actually does it and I remove myself from the situation. I get told to smack him a lot, other people have tried it with him, only made him hand shy, it didn't help at all and I don't agree with it personally.

I chase him out of my space and keep him there until I let him back in. He knows when he has done wrong and crossed the line but being two and Welsh he likes to push boundaries ;)
Waving my hands in his face works does get him to back off but due to him being a bit head/hand shy it only worsens it and scares him. Thank you!

I can tell you how to stop this, but you won't like it.......

*Hint: it involves moderate violence (from the human).
You're right I don't, but thanks for the advice!
 

Cheeky Chestnut

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As I said, I do natural horsemanship and a lot of groundwork to help with respect and boundaries. He gets told off when he actually does it and I remove myself from the situation. I get told to smack him a lot, other people have tried it with him, only made him hand shy, it didn't help at all and I don't agree with it personally.



Waving my hands in his face works does get him to back off but due to him being a bit head/hand shy it only worsens it and scares him. Thank you!



You're right I don't, but thanks for the advice!
Personally I tend to go with the whole ‘Do what you’ve always done, Get what youve always got’ and ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity’.

This horse doesn’t respect you or your space. He needs to be made to realise that you are not lower than him in the order and right now regardless of what method you’re using you are.

Mine as never been head or hand shy and I’ve used these methods since he was six months old. He understands that when this reaction is given he has crossed the line. Your horse doesn’t seem to understand this, probably because whatever method you are using isn’t teaching this.

I would rather my horse was a little head or hand shy for a short while until he learnt the boundaries than me running the injury gauntlet every time he cane into me space.
 

Nari

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27 September 2005
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I'm afraid I'd be giving a good slap across the mouth and chasing off, not only is he treating you as part of his herd he's also seeing you as lower ranking. Not acceptable.

I'd also be watching him all the time I was around him, and making it very obvious. Any sign of a threat, and make no mistake this is a threat, and I'd be moving toward him with big body language and pushing him out of my way, in particular pushing his head away from me very firmly with a clear no. Don't wait for him to bite before you correct, learn the warnings and correct those. If you can spend some time watching a herd that has a clear boss horse then do, and pay attention to his or her stance, movement and look as well as how the others respond. You need to be that boss, not your horse.
 

Shay

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17 August 2008
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7,040
I can tell you how to stop this, but you won't like it.......

*Hint: it involves moderate violence (from the human).

You're right I don't, but thanks for the advice!

etc.

If you are not prepared to listen to all views - why post? Not everyone in the horse community agrees with every point of view. That is fine and natural. But you asked a question and folk have taken the time to respond. You don't like the responses - that is absolutely fine too. Feel free to ignore, think what you want about the poster, as they do of you. Just don't comment on it.

For what it is worth - this is dangerous. Yes he thinks you are one of the herd. But horse bites - and some horse physical communication - is not suitable for us squishy humans. He has to understand you are not a horse. But you do act as a lead mare. Natural horsemanship has its place - I am an avid proponant of some forms - and not of others. But this is not him having respect for your personal space. Quite the reverse!

You say when he does this you remove yourself from the situation - you are inadvertantly re-inforcing the behaviour. You are teaching him if he is not happy he just has to bite you and you go away. That is really risky. I don't (as it happens) think visiting violence with violence works. But meeting violence with running away will also make things worse. He has to understand in a dominant but non violent way that this is not acceptable.

The problem with a forum is that - we can't see you and you can't see us. It absolutely depends on the immediate situation and being able to respond correctly with split second precision. Mouthing is not necesarily a problem - but you have to be able to intereven and dominate the moment it gets too much. He should not be able to drag you around by your clothes for instance - that is too much. I suspect from your posts and your responses that this is has got to the point whewre you really need an instructor who you trust to help show you the difference between what is acceptable from him and what is not. But in the meantime - for safety you need to err on the side of correcting him too much rather than not enough. And if that crosses over into right a slap on the nose right now and when you can't get other help - better that than a broken hand. or worse - soemone else's broken hand who will sue you.
 

Snowfilly

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23 September 2012
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911
Oh lovely. A friend of mine has a nice set of scarring across her shoulder from a horse that bit. Took a lot of stitches and damaged her range of movement for ever.

If you’re hung up on not hitting his head, carry a long stick and give him a whack with that. Shouldn’t make him head shy.

I doubt your telling off is even registering, and by removing yourself you’re just teaching him that he can do whatever he wants. He thinks he’s the boss.

But honestly, a biting horse is one that can do a lot of harm and one that can get shot in fairly quick order if you ever have to pass him on. He could also be slung off of livery yards if he’s a threat to other people.
 

be positive

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9 July 2011
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As I said, I do natural horsemanship and a lot of groundwork to help with respect and boundaries. He gets told off when he actually does it and I remove myself from the situation. I get told to smack him a lot, other people have tried it with him, only made him hand shy, it didn't help at all and I don't agree with it personally.



Waving my hands in his face works does get him to back off but due to him being a bit head/hand shy it only worsens it and scares him. Thank you!



You're right I don't, but thanks for the advice!

Real natural horsemanship would deal with this quickly, it is something a well socialised horse/ pup/ human learns when young, they test their teeth on an older companion and get a sharp bite back, they quickly learn that it is not acceptable and turn their attention to an inanimate object, letting him pick up whatever he feels like, whether it is a bucket you have just filled with water, your tack, other horses rugs and doing nothing to prevent it is accepting his antisocial behaviour and condoning him biting you when he feels like it, he has obviously not learned respect or boundaries.

Telling him off can work but removing yourself will make no difference, he has sent you away in his mind, he needs removing from the opportunity or the opportunity removing from him but he does need consequences for his action, it doesn't have to be smacking, I think a well timed slap is probably best but a screech or really load growl can have a good effect, putting pressure on if you are holding him at the time and making him walk backwards until he is submissive is a useful tool for bad manners, your timing needs to be spot on whatever you do, flapping about 5 seconds later is never helpful but instant correction or reaction usually makes them think about what they just did.

I would be fed up if I had to keep filling buckets and he knows you will do so, you probably laugh at his antics and are encouraging him to continue to behave like a spoilt brat, if he was a child he would be horrid, why allow a horse to behave so badly in so many ways, many of which can easily be stopped with a little thought and this should make him less likely to bite to get even more attention.
 

Shilasdair

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And now my serious answer.
You are creating a dangerous horse. He has no manners, and no boundaries. You may think it's acceptable for him to bite you, but you are placing other people at risk too, which is entirely unacceptable. All the signs/warnings in the world won't protect people from your bad management if (God forbid) you are sick or injured and need someone else to care for him for you.

You need to address this now. He needs consequences for his bad behaviour - and you need to stop making excuses for him.
Now what I would do is slap his muzzle the instant he thinks about biting. I would then follow this up by chasing him away from me (and his feed/hay) for a while. I would decide when he can come near me, not him. And when he behaves, praise him with your voice.

Incidentally I have always given horses treats, and never had a problem with biting - nothing is headshy. Horses are very, very clever and learn rules quickly as long as they are consistent. And for what it's worth I think they feel happier and safer with clear boundaries, as children do.

None of this will be what you want to hear, and I don't say it to upset you - but big horses can literally be lethal and you need to sort this out.
 

Nari

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Shilasdair I wish we had more than a like button because this is spot on. I too will treat my own, and also slap (or punch) whatever part give offence. I've never had a horse that continues to bite or one that's headshy.
 

Ownedby4horses

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7 May 2020
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231
You need to really get a handle on this, yet hes drawn blood and "gets hold of you and drags you around", this needs to be stopped before he inflicts further damage. I dont usually recommend harsh methods but you need to be reacting to his behaviour, I had a gelding that nipped and after the second nip I did actually pinch him really hard, really fast on the muzzle. He actually never nipped me again. This is the sort of stuff an older horse generally teaches a younger horse when they try it on. You need to be moving him out of your space and not allow him to get hold of clothing or make physical contact with you! You're not only at risk yourself but anyone needing to handle him is also at risk.
 

Crazy_cat_lady

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14 January 2012
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Sorry but I'm another where my hand would be connecting rather hard with at least the shoulder. My D was being an idiot over having a bath the other day and went to rock back and snap the string which I find incredibly annoying, just because he decided the bubbles were about to eat him. Fortunately I was right by his hind quarters, he got a smack on the arse, told to grow up. What does he then do- stands nicely for the rest of the bath!

Biting can cause serious injuries and if he did it to another person you could have insurance implications. Sorry I wouldn't find it sweet, you may find it only takes a couple of firm punishments and he doesnt do it again. If you dont want to hit his head you could do his shoulder/ neck.
 

Red-1

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He bites you, has drawn blood, grabs your clothes and rags you around... And you don't mind him grabbing you, ragging buckets and tack around?

I don't think you do any kind of natural horsemanship that I recognise!

You need to start again. 2 years with a horse is not early days. I would get some help before he injures you or someone else.

Basically, if I were training him, I would make sure that whenever I was with him he did what I asked. So, I want to walk in the stable, he walks back and waits for the halter. When tied, he stands still and doesn't chew. If he moves even so much as a foot, even as much as a lean towards you, I would correct that.

If he swings his head your way, however sweet you think it is, I would correct it.

Hopefully if you take this stance, he will never bite as he will be paying attention to what you want, not just doing whatever he wants, unstopped by you. If he does bite, it is because you have allowed it, and yes, I would 'make space' between him and me, and yes, it would likely be with my hand and likely it would sting my hand too, so yes, it would sting him. But, make no mistake, it would be him suffering the slap because you were not attentive enough to keep his mind on what your plan is as opposed to him doing his own thing.
 
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Auslander

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Christ Alive - you really need to step up to the plate with this horse before he really hurts you, or someone else. My shetland is a bitey little sod - he is also a bit headshy. If he opens his mouth anywhere near me, or I feel exploratory teeth anywhere on my body, he gets a smack across the side of his nose, and then i send him away to reflect on his sins til I'm ready to be friends again. If I let him get away with it, he turns into a shark. He knows full well that if he plays nice, I play nice - and if anything, he is less headshy after a bollocking, as he is so intent on worming his way back into my affections!
 

BSL2

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27 September 2018
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If he is still biting you, he is not respecting your boundaries. Sometimes we have to be firmer than what sits right with our method of training. I nearly lost a breast to a biter. Luckily it was winter and I had numerous layers on, but I still have a scar to prove it. Watch how horses communicate in the field, very firm, but fair. Unless you can guarantee you will be the only person to care for this horse for ever, you owe it to him to show him " the way." There's worse than a clout waiting for him....
 

BSL2

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27 September 2018
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And now my serious answer.
You are creating a dangerous horse. He has no manners, and no boundaries. You may think it's acceptable for him to bite you, but you are placing other people at risk too, which is entirely unacceptable. All the signs/warnings in the world won't protect people from your bad management if (God forbid) you are sick or injured and need someone else to care for him for you.

You need to address this now. He needs consequences for his bad behaviour - and you need to stop making excuses for him.
Now what I would do is slap his muzzle the instant he thinks about biting. I would then follow this up by chasing him away from me (and his feed/hay) for a while. I would decide when he can come near me, not him. And when he behaves, praise him with your voice.

Incidentally I have always given horses treats, and never had a problem with biting - nothing is headshy. Horses are very, very clever and learn rules quickly as long as they are consistent. And for what it's worth I think they feel happier and safer with clear boundaries, as children do.

None of this will be what you want to hear, and I don't say it to upset you - but big horses can literally be lethal and you need to sort this out.
Shilasdair . For what its worth. 100% agree.
 

ycbm

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30 January 2015
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I wish I could show you the face of a girl I know of who was innocently walking past the box of a horse which decided to bite her. My friend picked up the bottom lip and cheek which was torn right off her face and rushed her to hospital.

For the horse's sake, your own, and anyone who might get within his reach, hit him, hard, before he ruins someone's life.

.
 

twiggy2

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A Bite from an established biter that is not feeling threatened=smack on side of muzzle, hard not a tap.
I would also watch and warn.
If he has bitten you hard enough to draw blood that is nasty, you can't dress it up into something cute.
Grabbing clothes that are being worn would also get a smack.
Buckets being carried about in the field, that's his time and his playing but I would make sure he has enough company and other stimulation and supply water in something he cannot empty, items that he can reach such as rugs etc are all fair game as far as I am concerned-horses explore with their mouths and inanimate objects lying about are toys to some horses, just put stuff out of his reach
 

NinjaPony

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25 March 2011
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Oh dear....

Can't help but agree with others.He needs telling off ASAP and you need to mean it.

To add a slightly different perspective, my Welsh A is prone to biting. He also came to me horrendously head-shy; couldn't wave a hand near him, touch his ears, put a head collar on etc. He was extremely suspicious of people and had clearly decided to defend himself first....

So it puts me in a bit of a bind... clearly, I can't allow biting, for all of the above reasons. He has never properly bitten me, but has grabbed clothes a few times and that is bad enough. However, it has taken years to get his trust. When he goes to nip you, he flies to the back of the stable before you can even react, clearly expecting to be clouted.

Mine was cut late, and likes to put things in his mouth. That is fine, I'm unconcerned about chewing buckets etc. It's not an excuse to bite people though.

So what I tend to do is shout loudly, smack his shoulder, and get him out of my space (assuming he hasn't already flown off) to make it clear that I won't tolerate it.

Trust me, you want to stamp this out NOW. I'm now in a situation where thanks to someone else, I am constantly monitoring his behaviour to make sure that it never escalates, and thank god in 13 years he has never hurt anyone. But I'm still very careful who i let handle him, and I am constantly re-asserting boundaries with him.

You need to start making it crystal clear that biting won't be tolerated. I would give him a proper whack on the shoulder, and immediately chase him out of your space, as a start.
 

SEH

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15 April 2017
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119
I clearly didn't explain the situation correctly which is my own fault. I was too liberal with the word biting, the main problem is the mouthiness. I was frustrated with him today and rushed to ask for advice (as I find the advice I get from here very helpful). He is not dangerous and never has been, in fact he is one of the safest horses I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He only ever grabs hold of clothing now and hasn't made skin contact in at least a year and has no contact with other people outside the family and he wont ever be sold. When i said 'sometimes serious' I mean he has only ever got my skin bruised twice and he got my thumb that first time while tacking up which is why it bled. I should have definitely been clear that he has never bitten other people while I have had him, only chewed their clothes. Also, we have signs along the fences asking people to stay away and he has no access to the outer fences (to stop people feeding them but I am mentioning it to put your minds at ease). Thanks for the advice, I will consider it. The fact it didn't work with the previous owner and had a lot of negative effects for him was the main reason I don't do it, even though I don't agree with it I would have of course tried it if it were a serious problem. I should have made this clearer too. I am quite sad that I got a lot of judgement and opinions but I guess thats how the forum works with the limited information I provided and it has been beneficial as it changed my opinion on the whole thing. I especially appreciate those of you who tried to correct me nicely. I also didn't realise it was such an acceptable thing to make contact with my horse, I thought I would be looked down on due to seeing others reactions to similar things before, which is obviously the opposite reaction to the actual one. I appreciate everyones replies and brutal honesty, it does make me realise that I need to be more forceful and take your advice to correct his behaviour.

Thank you!
 
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Lois Lame

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11 May 2018
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326
I get the feeling that the horse lives alone. I wonder if his behaviour would improve if he had at least one horse friend.

If a horse bit me I'd give it a whack on the gob quick smart. It's a no-no, end of story.
 

bonny

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17 September 2007
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Imagine for a moment you had a dog that bites ....would you hit the dog every time it went for you ? If you did, would it help ? Make the situation worse ? In my opinion hitting confirmed biters makes them worse, it’s different with youngsters but older horses bite for a reason and they won’t stop. Either learn to live with it and work round the horse or find someone who will. If dangerous or has other problems I would pts.
 
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