The Biting Horse

You are in the barn, minding your own business, and you casually pass by your horse’s stall. Suddenly he snakes his head out over his doorway with his ears pinned flat back. His mouth is open and he viciously makes contact or tries to make contact with your body. Does this sound familiar?

True biting, different from nipping, is intended to hurt. Horses are not usually naturally aggressive in most situations so if your horse is biting, something serious is going on. Besides charging the stall door, other times they may bite are when the girth is being done up or when he is eating.

Some reasons horses bite are because they feel threatened, they feel they have to show themselves as strong in order to survive, or they feel that they are number 1 and you are number 2.

Try to determine the cause of the biting. Is the horse afraid of something, perhaps of people coming in too close to his personal space? Or carrying something that could be viewed as threatening? If this is the case, then those threats should be removed as far as possible and gradually introduced through training.

Safety is a major issue with biting, so while you are working to train your horse to not bite, make sure you and others are safe in the meantime. If a horse bites from his stall, a sign should be placed on his stall and a guard or bars should be in place so he cannot get at passer bys. If he bites during feeding, try having the food in the stall/paddock before the horse comes enters it for the day/night and only experienced people should be feeding him at feeding time.

Despite your efforts, if your horse still remains aggressive, enlist the help of a professional trainer. Seriously aggressive horses will need consistent and professional help to make them into more properly behaved citizens. Watch the trainer work, if they like to punish the horse or use a lot of force, look for another trainer. (Some horses will need an extra bit of firm treatment though depending on how much disrespect he has for humans.) Round penning can be a great tool for dealing with aggression issues, because it makes you a part of the horse’s heard, only the dominant member. Round penning should be left to experienced trainers as it can be dangerous.

Whatever you do, try not to hit the horse back when he bites. It’s hard not to, but this will only teach the horse that he was right to bite because he is expecting the pain to come, and it will teach him that he will just need to bite harder and faster next time. If you decide the horse has a respect issue and not a fear issue, you will still be better off not punishing him at first.

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