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Helping Horses That Bite by Wendy Hilton
Wendy Hilton with John Lyons

A word of warning, if you don't think you can handle this problem with your horse, please seek out professional help.

Horse Training Article Horse BitingBut biting is one of the most dangerous habits to humans that a horse can develop. Once a horse has made the decision to bite you, there is no escape. If he wants to bite you, you can consider yourself bitten. There are many ideas on how to deal with a mouthy, lippy horse or one that is already a confirmed biter. The first and sometimes the only way most people deal with this problem is to slap, punch, and/or yell at the horse. This tactic may or may not work and can actually cause the problem to worsen since some horses view this as a game. Another way people deal with the biting problem is to try to avoid the horse's head altogether, which doesn't solve the problem at all.

It is always best to avoid this inappropriate behavior from ever starting. Bad habits are always easier to avoid than to fix. There are some horses that just seem to be born mouthy, while others never even try to bite. Stallions get a bad rap for being the worst, but mares and geldings can be just as mouthy and dangerous. Stallions can have a tendency because of their nature to be more aggressive and they are usually kept separate from other horses. Therefore, they don't have the same opportunities to have their social needs met. A stallion needs social contact much more than a mare or gelding. You can meet that need yourself by giving them a job to do and developing a relationship with them of mutual respect.

One of the first things you can do with a mouthy horse is to take his nose in your hands and rub it. Don't rub so hard that you hurt him. The idea is to be gentle, but persistent. Soon the horse will tire of your rubbing and he will take his head away. Leave him alone once he takes his head away. Don't chase him with your hands. When he brings his head back to you, start rubbing again. Keep this up until he quits picking at you and stands quietly with his head away from you. This works better than slapping or hitting the horse, and you get no unwanted behaviors such as head shyness, or the horse fearing or resenting you.

The next exercise you can incorporate is called the "replacement concept".
You can use this technique whenever the bad behavior crops up. You should be prepared and decide which exercise you will use before hand. You must use an exercise that requires movement from the horse. It is always good to choose one that he needs improvement on. For instance, he may need work on his leading manners, so you could focus on getting him to go forward, backward, right, and left upon request. Or he may need work on yielding to pressure. So, you could concentrate on sending him off at a trot, picking up on the lead rope, adding pressure and asking him to soften his head and neck, stop, and then change directions and go the other way. You might. work on this exercise until the horse is in a pretty good sweat. Then offer him a chance to stop and see if he will stand quietly by you. If you repeat this lesson with consistency, soon the horse will realize that picking at you means he has to go to work. You will end up with a much better trained horse because you have worked on specific exercises that he needed improvement on anyway. Also, his attitude toward you and yours toward him will remain good because you do not always have to discipline him. Look at like this, when your horse starts his inappropriate behavior, it as a good training opportunity. Another way to deal with a biting horse is to teach him to stand at least three feet away from you. In other words, get the kid out of the candy store. He can't be chewing on your shirt or arm if he is too far away.

One last way to deal with the biter is my favorite.
It is what I have found that works wonders on both the horse's attitude and ours, because it builds a good relationship. Iown three breeding stallions and have worked with many more . This is the best way I have found to avoid a biting problem with stallions from ever starting. Many horses that are mouthy are just looking for attention. They are people horses, and so I give them the attention they are looking for. I will pet them, give them head hugs, rub their noses, ears, forehead, jaws, etc... I will put my fingers in their mouths ( Being careful to put them where the bit goes, not in the front where their teeth are.) I play with their tongues and teach them to let me hold their tongue outside of their mouths (Again, from the side). I will pretend to bridle them by handling their lips, and will maybe even slip a soft cotton lead rope in their mouth to simulate putting the bit in.( This is excellent for a young horse to prepare him for his first bridling). I will teach him a cue to drop his head when I rest the palm of my hand on his poll. When he drops it even a little, I release the pressure, and love on him. I especially spend extra time handling a stallion in this way from the time he is bom. The key to all of this is stay CONSISTENT, and don't give up.

The last thing to cover is what to do if the horse has bitten you.
A bite is when the horse opens his teeth even a fraction of an inch, and either bites you, your clothes, the air, or is aimed in your direction. When a horse bites you, you should consider it an act of war. He just declared war on you. There are a few rules to follow. Number one is you have three seconds to retaliate. If three seconds have passed since he bit you, just be prepared for the next time. There is no place in horse training for revenge. With the three seconds in mind you want to convince the horse that you are going to kill him. You want to get angry enough that you convey the thought that the horse just made the biggest mistake of his life. That's how serious biting is. I know of people who have had the muscles in their arms ripped out, and I know of someone who has been killed by one bite from a horse. If you are within the three-second limit, you are allowed to yell, hit, scream, roar, kick etc... You are not allowed to hit the horse with anything above the withers that could put his eye out, and you also don't want to hit him with something that could break the skin. No one can ever hit a horse as hard as another horse can kick him. So, the goal is not to cause physical pain but, to convince him that he almost made a mistake that cost him his life. We want to scare him to death! Once he's convinced, he won't try biting us again.

Wendy Hilton John Lyons Certified TrainerIt is very important to use the other techniques mentioned, so that your horse won't develop a biting problem to start with. Please don't excuse bad behavior. If the horse is grumpy and pinning his ears when you are around him, or when you go to feed him, realize that he is biting you in his mind. He is giving you fair warning to deal with the problem before it turns into a wreck. Watch your horse's body language and learn from it. Spend some time developing a partnership with your horse, and become a good leader so he can be a good follower. A word of warning, if you don't think you can handle this problem with your horse, please seek out professional help. The number one rule is that you can't get hurt.

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