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Horses who bite


How much success can I expect in 'curing' my horse of the biting habit?

He is a 10 year old tb gelding who is a bit handy with the gnashers. I have tried the foot thing (kicking him on his leg when he bites), the water pistol thing, saying no very forcefully and, when he is very fierce, scaring him into a corner of his stable. He makes all the moves to bite, but his teeth rarely make contact with flesh.

I have only had him for a year, and he has always been like this with us so I think the habit is pretty ingrained - he is not fed titbits, not by hand anyway, unless being ridden. He is much worse when being groomed, and when more than one person is near him. He is better after work when he can be really chilled. He is worked daily, turned out for 3 hours (yes, I know more turnout would help but impossible). He has a big character, but is not a touchy-feely guy. He likes to play with his lips on things anyway and, when he is being calm and kind, will take little playful nips on my clothing - seems to be his way of being nice!

The problem is that when he bites properly and is reprimanded, he often comes back at me - threatens with teeth (though not usually to bite), stamp his foot in the direction of my foot, kick out with his foreleg, lift his hindleg. I am totally NOT scared of him, but he seems to have little respect for me! We have kind of got used to each other. Because of his age, and he was badly treated/starved/left to rot, I wonder if anything would help? Any ideas gratefully received!

(God - I've just read my description of my horse - he sounds absolutely terrible - he really isn't that bad, though he does do all the things I mention!)

I don't suppose he's a CB, is he?  He sounds SO much like my old Bramble (and he didn't have the excuse of being a rescue.)  He started off when I first got him being so bad - he'd come across the door with mouth open, teeth at the ready.  I spent so much time standing outside his door with a piece of Class C pipe hidden behind my back, muttering "go on, make my day!)  But he wouldn't do it to me (come over the door, that is).  He'd come JUST as far as the gap - stop - and gnash his teeth furiously and rear (saying, 'if this glass wall wasn't here you'd be dead!')  But anyone else was at severe risk!

I had him just over 10 years until I lost him (paddock accident - it wasn't ME!) and I still miss him - he was a SERIOUS 'character' (otherwise known as an out and out bas....d!)

I suspect you won't change him at this stage - with Bramble, we had an agreement that there was a line (somewhere) he wouldn't cross - but I tolerated things I wouldn't have tolerated from another horse.

I used to ride a horse with a similar problem, he was a real swine in the stable before work but was positively chilled out afterwards.  I found he was much better if I let him nibble on a haynet (and take any frustrations out by biting that instead of me) while I was tacking him up, and I left proper grooming until after I had ridden.  Not ideal but it kept me in one piece 

It's good to hear other peoples' experiences - even if there are no miracle cures. When you have a horse with a bad habit, you do want to improve it but I suspect that this may be impossible in Cushey's case.

Yes, I do tolerate his behaviour whereas with other horses I would have 'lost it' by now. I don't want a 'Stepford' horse, but it would be nice to know I could trust him a bit more with other people. Last weekend there were some visitors to the yard. I saw them patting him and Cush had his butter wouldn't melt expression. I shouted across to warn them but they took absolutely no notice. I shouted again. They still carried on. Cushey then lunged for the small child, chomping his teeth. The poor kid has probably been put off horses for ever. Moral:  put up a "do not touch- this horse bites notice"!

Janet: He isn't a CB (cleveland bay?) altho I have had a pretty awful experience with a CBx (hauled over the stable door by my chest when I was 9!). I now have a very attractive scar and a lasting wariness of large chestnut horses.

RuthE: Yes, I tend not to groom until he has been worked, when he is often a real pussycat. He is also much better munching his haynet or standing in the sunshine.

Catherine, he sounds just like my TB. I've had him 11 years now and he has mellowed over time but when I first got him he was terrible and used to lunge with his mouth open. He bit me on the leg once and I still have a haematoma. He is mostly just nippy these days but will occasionally get me good, usually when I rug him up. I find that if I hold a stick in my hand when rugging him up he doesn't even try. He also does the holding hind leg up thing which I mostly just growl at him for, unless he actually looks like he is going to kick me which he never has done. I have tried everything with the biting over the years and nothing has worked. I think he was unhappy in the place I kept him when I first got him and was insecure, because the more happy and secure he is, the less nippy he is. He is very happy now and hasn't bitten me for ages (touch wood, I'll probably get it now), but he is still a very mouthy horse, likes to get hold of your coat, or hold the rope in his mouth, etc. I don't think he is really nasty, he too has a big character, and I think he just can't help himself. He was gelded late as well which I think may have contributed to the problem. My best advice is not to put yourself in a position where he can bite you -- tie him up whenever you are doing anything with him and make sure it is on a short rope and that he cannot untie himself, that way he cannot get you - I learned this early on after we got stuck in a vicious (literally) cycle of him biting me and me constantly telling him off -- I wanted to break that cycle because it was making us both unhappy and this is at least one practical thing I could do -- and I also put up signs for unsuspecting passers by!



I have wondered if Cushey's 'mouthiness' could be due to late gelding - for a TB he has one big neck! And, he has turned a bit loopy occasionally, very bolshy behaviour. He also slams his front legs down when told off. I don't know if this is stallion-like but it certainly  looks very arrogant.

I also agree about the cycle of nip, telling off, nip, telling off that it is too easy to slip into. It becomes self fulfilling after a while. I groom/tack up/rug etc, therefore I will get bitten! I now ignore him as much as possible and he is certainly no worse. I have also tried to play down his nippiness to others - purely because of the self-fulfilling thing - he started to get the nickname of Victor Meldrew - but I made it plain that I didn't like it and it didn't stick! It's difficult though, because I want people to be aware of his behaviour, but not to make a big issue out of it.

When my colt was nippy (not biting but lots of nipping) I found that I was telling him off all the time.  I put on a muzzle, so I wouldn't have to be wary - maybe you could muzzle him while he's being tacked and groomed, until you manage to cure the biting!.

Nope, tried that Issy! If he doesn't snap then he stamps violently - and given his really crappy (though improving!) flat feet I would rather risk this nashers than have him damaging himself even more. Also he is more likely to kick with his hind leg if he can't 'express' his feelings with his teeth. And that would just be opening another can of worms..

I have to say that his teeth only very very rarely meet on human flesh -  it would just be so lovely to have a horse that didn't give a good impression of a shark!

My 5yr old sounds exactly the same!

She has behavioural problems - bites, used to kick, she will bite herself she gets so frustrated!!

She used to lunge at you from the stable.. but I soon stopped that!! I let her mouth run into my fist - she soon learned that u just hold your hand up and it will hurt if she goes near it - she's not head shy or scared of me though!! (she is a sort of rescue- has had a tough life!)

she will stand in the stable, bite then kick the wall! That drives me mad!!

If the horse goes to bite me, I get aggressive towards her, not in the sense that i will kick or punch her etc.. (I'm not like that) I will rush into that stable, shout at her, and square up to her and make her submit to me!

It is working slowly but surely!!

Hitting and smacking doesn't work!! Also - pinching her neck and twisting the skin helps! She hates it, so if she snaps she gets her skin twisted!!!

As a 5 year old,  your mare's habits are not so ingrained. You should have more success than I am having with my 10 year old!

I have had to deal with my young stallion that I didn't have gelded until he was three (didn't pass grading despite being placed or winning his class at many County shows!). He was an expert at the 'kisses with teeth' habit - once picking me up by my leg off the box that I was standing on to plait his mane for a major show! I am tried all sorts - and I did resort to some things that some of you would find unacceptable so I won't go into details but you try dealing with a 17hh pure ID stallion who knew that he was just a solid bundle of muscles and hormones! Later on when he had been gelded (it took ages for the hormones to wear off!) I got him out of the biting by using Monty Roberts techniques. I took him into an enclosure (doesn't have to be round) and stood in the middle of it - every time he came up and tried to bite me I chased him away making strange noises and rattling cans etc - you can imagine the strange looks that I got!!! I would chase him around the enclosure until I got the head down, licking, chewing thing - at which point I would stop and put my eyes down etc. Then eventually he got the idea not to bite and was much more trustworthy after that. I did used to try putting a muzzle on him (one of those plastic bucket things with holes in) but he soon realised that if he swung his head and bashed me with it hard it was just as painful as biting (they seem to have sharp plastic edges

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