“My horse bites me”. That statement is spoken all too often and biting can be one of the most dangerous behaviors. Biting is commonly seen during saddling, making a bad experience for both horse and rider. Some horses expect to be girthed up tightly and harshly, while their human expects to be chomped into right before their ride. Biting can mean a variety of actions. Horses are known to bare their teeth, swing their head with an open mouth, nip at your clothes, beg you for treats with his face in your pocket, and nibble on you and everything else around the barn.
It is natural for horses to explore their environment with their mouth and lips; behavior like this has the same effect for horses as is does humans, using our hands to touch objects. Each individual bites for a few different reasons. Group 1 horses do this because they are naturally playful and interested in everything in the environment. Group 2 horses tried nipping when you didn’t hand over the cookies fast enough, you laughed it off and gave in, and he learned that he could turn you into a vending machine. Group 3 horses are the cranky, disrespectful, downright dangerous type. These horses turned biting into a learned behavior either from a bad situation where they were girthed up too tightly and now use biting to defend themselves.
Backing and Blocking
Begin by simply moving your wrist side to side and wiggling the lead rope. Keep shaking the rope until you see a change in your horse, which could be as little as attempting to shift his weight back to completely taking a full step, when he does either release the pressure and completely stop moving the rope. If your horse has a stubborn streak and doesn’t even offer to move after about ten seconds of doing this you may have to increase the pressure a bit by waving your whole arm, if this is yet not enough after another ten seconds increase the pressure still and use a whip, schooling stick, or the end of your lead rope to slap him on the chest. If you horse’s feet are still stuck keep slapping his chest with increasing pressure until he steps back. Practice this lesson until your horse is consistently backing up with the lightest shaking of the rope. It is very important to start with the least amount of pressure possible when teaching your horse something new, he will only be as light as the pressure you start with.
Blocking is an effective way of protecting yourself without smacking your horse. If your saddling and he swings his head around at you just stick up your elbow and let him run into it himself, no hitting required. You can use a brush or a whip as well your arm to block your horse whenever he is feeling nosy. If he is friendly nuzzling you give him more attention than he wants. When he wants attention and uses his mouth in your space just rub it a lot and a little faster than he want he will soon learn he doesn’t like that kind of attention and he will stop.
Hopefully this article gives you ideas to help solve your horses biting issues; all while beginning to create a connection with you horse. If you have any questions about me, CAA Equestrian, or would like to request an article topic send me a message on my contact page.