Horses are an intelligent species of animals. But to express their moods, even they might be inclined to bite their human owner.
So, how to stop horse biting? To stop horse biting, you need to establish a lead position. The horse needs to know that you’re the dominant one out of the two. It’s also important to discourage horse biting with a stern “no” when your horse tries to lick or bite you.
In this article, we’ll learn some basic training techniques to stop biting in horses as well as learn of the various reasons why horses might bite.
Tips to Stop Horse Biting
Here’s the thing:
A bite from a horse is in no way a welcome gesture and needs to be dealt with effectively so they do not form a behavioral problem.
There are numerous ways to stop aggressive horse biting. Here’s what to do if a horse bites you:
1. Establishing a Lead Position
Is your horse biting when being led? If so, then this is for you.
One of the many reasons, your horse might bite you is to assert its will or dominance over you – which is a big no-no.
But wait, it gets worse:
If such behaviors are left unattended, they might help the horse feel more confident. It’s better to take the lead and reprimand your horse for such actions.
One way to ensure this is to position the horse where you want it to be. If it moves or doesn’t follow, gently tap the body until it moves.
A foal might require a few more tries before the actual results show up. But, this is one way to teach respect to a horse that bites.
2. Training Sessions to Stop Horse Biting
A thoughtful and tactful training plan is the solution to many of the behavioral problems of horses.
You might be wondering:
When is the right time to start a horse’s training or what age is the most important to teach horse obedience?
It’s better to start a horse young so it quickly develops the right mindset and refrains from acting wildly.
Horse training is a slow but steady process where you teach your horse not to disrespect you and follow commands properly.
This is done through swift responses and treats so good actions are administered with good results and bad with punishment.
It is highly recommended to act quickly and stop an action preemptively. Do not wait for a nibble to become a bite. This way, the horse can tie the bite with being punished and not a different gesture.
We’ll discuss some training exercises in the next section!
3. Disallowing Mouthy Actions
Many horse owners allow their horses to openly lick their palm during grooming sessions. This is a no-no for anyone who wants to reduce biting in horses!
If the horse bends to lick your palm, it’s better to answer with a stern ‘no’ and stop it. In case your horse acts aggressively, it’s better to push the horse back and only begin brushing when it’s positioned where you want.
How to Train Your Horse to Stop Biting
Training a horse is both fun and tedious at the same time.
However, if you adore your horse and wish to spend a lifetime with the beautiful equine, it’s better to train it so it follows your will.
Here are a few techniques you can follow to better train your horse:
1. Clicker Training
This horse training technique relies on the usage of a clicker that’s “clicked” when an action is considered good.
A clicker helps the horse identify good actions and remember them. This association of good with good is done by rewards in the shape of food or rest.
Start off by feeding treats on a simple click. I personally love Mrs. Pasture’s Cookies for horse training since horses are suckers for this stuff.
Once your horse begins recognizing the click, start behavior training it so that you only click and treat the horse when the desired action is performed.
This is a great example of positive and negative reinforcement learning in horses.
2. Space Training
It’s important to teach a horse to respect your physical space. I receive lots of complaints of a horse biting when being led, and I consider space training to be the solution for it.
Simply, hold the lead rope in your hand and position the horse where you want.
Then, begin to wiggle the reins so it makes the horse uncomfortable but isn’t painful. This way, it will resort to moving back from you to avoid the wiggling.
As soon as you see your horse move back, quickly stop wiggling the rope. Praise your horse and give it a rest.
Remember, consistency is key in training a horse. If you keep doing this repetitively, there will be a time when your horse will repeat these actions by itself.
If it goes well, a rope might not be needed at all. Just a simple flick of your finger and your horse will obey.
Reprimanding wrong moves is critical as well. This should be done within 3 seconds of wiggling your horse’s reins. So swiftly take lead and your horse will follow.
3. Hiring Professional Trainers
Horses are incredibly intelligent and versatile animals that have a knack of learning. However, with the wrong person in the lead, things could suddenly go downhill.
Professional horse trainers are undoubtedly better equipped with the knowledge to understand horses and stop them from biting you.
An individualized training plan and tactics will help your horse stay on the track and maintain respect at all times.
Horse trainers might be expensive but, if you are an equine lover, you should choose the comfort of your horse and yourself over being bitten by the horse.
Additional Tips to Stop a Mouthy Horse
If your horse acts aggressively towards you, there might be an underlying issue or discomfort that you should quickly investigate.
More often than not, it is the lack of proper training which leads to such issues with horses.
In order to stay on the safer end of things and ensure minimal harm to your own-self and your horse, you need to follow a few steps. These would not only keep both of you safe, but might also help stop horse biting.
1. Visiting a Veterinarian
The first step you should take in case your horse exhibits strange behavior is visiting a vet. This will make it easier for you to identify the cause of this mood swing.
Dental hygiene should always be maintained for horses as they are probable causes of mild discomfort which lead to biting.
If your horse is biting due to some health condition or illness, it might be identified right away by a vet and treated in time.
2. Don’t Smack the Horse
If you’ve ever had a fight, you know your first instinct – hit the person back. Do not try this on horses (or… people!)
Horses can be incredibly sensitive and might show further signs of aggression they’re hit back instantly. They might also consider this as a playful gesture and hit you back.
Rather, they should be punished in a gentle manner such that the horse is aware of its mistake and doesn’t repeat it. You might adopt a positive reinforcement learning technique which relies on treats.
3. Watch for Behavioral Changes in Your Horse
If your horse begins to act aggressively towards you, there’s a high chance, it will have expressed those feelings by its body, movement, or voice.
One of the most common signs of aggression in horses (which can lead to aggressive biting) is the pinning back of ears or stamping of hooves. If you see such signs, it’s better to step away so the horse biting is out of the question.
Keep the horse busy in situations or locations your horse is likely to be nervous or uncomfortable. This won’t give your horse the time to express such feelings.
4. Don’t Hand-Feed Your Horse
A horse can not directly see in front of it.
Because of this, they are not sure where to place their mouth when you feed them by hand.
Hand-feeding also makes a horse uncomfortable in the absence of familiar faces.
It’s better not to hand-feed and provide horses and to provide their food in a proper hay rack so they are comfortable.
I’d recommend checking out this hay and grain feeder for horses. However, if you’d like to reduce the mess hay feeders cause, buy a hay hoop.
5. Discourage Nibbling
Young horses are more inclined to chew their way through items.
Although some horse owners don’t find a problem with their horse nipping at their sleeve, your horse might soon turn to your finger or arm, leading to disastrous injuries.
It’s better to discourage such actions from the get-go.
One way to control this chewing habit in teething horses is to leave hay in the stable so they are always occupied. However, keep a good eye on whether this approach is causing your horse to gain excessive weight.
Many riders also use horse bits for this purpose, but there’s a lot of debate on whether using horse bits is cruel.
Types of Horse Bites
Horse bites can be dangerous. From injuries to life-threatening outcomes, it all depends on the type of bite and what it actually signifies.
Here’s a table to summarize a few types of horse bites and the reasons for which the horses feel tempted to do this:
|Type of Horse Bite
|Assert dominance; Release pent-up energy
|Pain due to the tight girth or a saddle which doesn’t fit
|Discomfort or pain
|An underlying health condition which is painful
|Explore a new action and if it’s rewarding
|Play by hitting gently and nipping (horse or human)
|Scratching or Allogrooming
|To scratch the withers of a fellow horse
|Out of self-defense and dominance
Let’s take a deeper look at these types and study a little more about them.
1. Aggressive Horse Biting
Signs of aggression can lead to some of the most disastrous bites. A quick change in behavior and posture might be followed by an aggressive action.
If your horse has a buildup of negative energy, it might resort to biting or nipping. It’s better to curb these feelings as you go, to better understand and control your horse.
This is often done to assert dominance over the human owner. But a thoughtful response to such actions can quickly disperse the situation.
Here’s the deal:
Do not overreact, express your anger, or hit the horse in frustration. If you do, it’s likely to worsen the situation. Rather, if your horse begins to show signs of aggression, quickly switch the mood with a basic exercise.
This way, the horse will be occupied just as these moods begin to show. Soon, after multiple such incidents, a horse might administer this route as a ‘no go’, and stop horse biting. A reward (like resting) after an exercise might work better.
Stallions might resort to aggression much quicker as compared to other horses and would require much more tactful training. It’s better to stick to more versatile breeds if you are new to horse riding.
However, professional help might be required if such situations continue to happen
2. Playful Horse Biting
Horses are playful by nature and they love a quick game. So, a dab on the head or the nose might turn their playful nature on.
If you are more inclined towards hitting the horse’s back, just remember, they will likely try to dodge their way and hit you back again, or worse, nip or bite you!
It’s better to stick to exercises or riding to encourage a playful environment. You should never hit, nip, and smack your horse as that won’t ever lead your horse to stop biting, but might actually increase it.
3. Horse Biting out of Curiosity
Foals are incredibly intelligent with little to no sense of what is good and what is bad for them and their human owner.
So, with their curiosity and nature to explore, they might nip or bite you or something else. Often, this is done to see if their action was rewarding – which it obviously was not.
However, this requires a training session from their youth where such actions are discouraged and taught to be a ‘no’ for humans.
Reward your horse for its gentle behavior and this might encourage them to stop biting or nipping altogether.
4. Self-Defense or Fear-Induced Biting in Horses
Horses are prey animals. Their natural instinct is to flee a dangerous situation rather than fight. However, to deal with unlikely situations, they do have a self-defense mechanism – biting.
Although this persistent feeling of fear for horses will not be an issue for their human owner. However, you never know when a horse might consider an action offensive.
This includes both horse-to-horse and human-to-horse aggression which might allow them to turn their instincts on.
To be on the safer end of things, it’s better to rely on gentler treatments and punishments should never be too harsh or aggressive or they might drive your horse away!
Often, horses, when they are cooped together, might scratch their partner with a bite or a nip. This is done on the withers or the rest of their body, to remove the discomfort they might be feeling.
If you ever see horses biting each other (provided it is gentle and not harmful), consider it a simple scratch!
Again, such actions on a human should be discouraged from the start.
6. Uncomfortable Saddle
A poor saddle fit can cause pain and discomfort to your equine, leading to horse bite marks all over your body. The horse’s body, behavior, and movement might be enough to signal a painful fit.
Here’s the thing:
A horse can’t really speak its feelings to you, so, they resort to nipping or biting to signal a discomfort when riding.
It’s better to adjust the saddle or change it entirely. Also, you could ride the horse a little slower until you are more proficient at riding and do not tighten the girth excessively.
I always advise riders to buy saddles from a quality manufacturer who has a plethora of saddle sizes available. Although there are a number of options in the market, I prefer Ace Rugs in this regard. Buying a proper saddle should help in stopping horse biting.
7. Discomfort, Illness, or Pain
Worsened health conditions might lead to more mood swings in horses and make them uncomfortable.
If you feel a change in the horse’s stance, body, teeth, or behavior, it is always better to consult a veterinarian.
A professional might be able to better understand the cause of a mood swing and help your horse feel better.
How do you stop a horse from walking over you?
Pushiness is a grave concern with horses. It is often overlooked in the youth of horses and becomes a problem later. Pushy behavior normally refers to the horse asserting dominance over you.
A small exercise you could do is to tie a rope around your horse and signal it to move. If it still doesn’t, tap the body with a training stick. Repeat this while standing and then again while walking.
Can a horse bite off a finger?
It is highly unlikely for a horse to bite a human finger off. A bite or a nip might lead to a broken bone or ruptured tissue or skin. The exact outcome of a horse bite depends on its severity.
Can horses show affection to humans?
Yes, horses do show signs of love and affection to humans. However, it takes time as you will have to gain the horse’s trust and respect.
This is done through small steps involving gentle behavior and grooming.
Featured image by Thowra_uk