How long should nibbling be allowed? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 02:40 PM Thread Starter
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How long should nibbling be allowed?

I have a 3 week old colt and he loves to nibble. I know they do this to learn about objects and ive never disciplined him for it and he has never bitten my skin but i was wondering how long they should be allowed to "explore" before theyre old enough to learn that getting mouthy to a human is a bad thing?
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post #2 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 03:44 PM
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its all personal choice... i let both my geldings lip me... play with my clothing, hair, lick my hands and gloves... they are 6 and 7 years old... I let my horses do to me with respect what they would do to another horse.... Thats just my point of view

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post #3 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 03:47 PM
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It should never EVER be alowed

My name is now my horses on a dor not my horse sonador
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post #4 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:00 PM
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I don't allow mine to do it. Even as babies I created very clear boundaries that it was not allowed on people. It can lead to a real bite really quickly and its best to start them as early as possible that its not allowed.

All I pay my psychiatrist is cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day!

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post #5 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:02 PM
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Yup, it's a personal preference. In a young horse, it's natural for them to explore their surroundings. However, I wouldn't let them be mouthy to me. That leads them to nipping and then biting. It is easier to nip it in the bud when they are young than try to fix it when they are older after they have developed the habit. When they are older and have respect for you may be different. I feel the same way about hand feeding them treats. Until they have respect for you, I wouldn't feed them by hand. It makes them more likely to bite at your hands even when you don't have a treat.

Everyone should be allowed at least one bad habit, and that's NOT owning a horse!

Mares RULE! Geldings drool!
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post #6 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:03 PM
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It really depends on what you are using them for. A pet/pleasure horse could probably be allowed to nibble all the time as long as it doesn't start to bite at people. But a show horse might have to behave. I don't think a judge would be pleased if someone's horse was munching on their handler in a halter class.

I personally do not mind a nibbling horse as long as they do not bite me or slobber on me too bad. It's really a personal preference, no wrong or right to it. But I don't punch my horse in the mouth for being curious like some trainers do.

Looks like I've caught myself a pretty good fish...
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post #7 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:03 PM
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Personally I don't allow it at all under any circumstances at any age. Everyone has their own idea and that is fine by me!

I don't allow nibbling, nuzzling or rubbing of any sort ever and my reasoning is that all these behaviours, whilst very 'cute' under some circumstances, are sending the wrong message to the horse in my books, especially youngsters. While these behaviours don't start as overt disrespect, they pave the way for more disrespectful behaviours in the future.

If I am handling a horse, no matter what age it is, I expect it to be patient and not fidget, either with me or with the things I am holding e.g. lead rope, brushes, keys etc. These types of things can be dangerous to them too if they are playing with something and accidentally swallow it. Very scary for the handler when you are finding yourself extracting a lead rope from your babies throat! Best to teach them not to fiddle with everything in the beginning.

If you want some bonding time with the little guy - YOU scratch HIM. He will enjoy it and it gets him used to the feel of your hands all over him.

Sure at a young age they like to experience things by popping them into their mouth but they are free to do that to their hearts content on their own time in the pasture, not when I am with them!

ETA: Butt in the dirt my comment about nibbling lead ropes was not directed at you, we just posted at the same time

All horses deserve, at least once in their lives, to be loved by a little girl.

Last edited by sarahver; 03-19-2011 at 04:08 PM.
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post #8 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:28 PM
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Yes this can prove a problem... Well young horses like to nibble like human babies they teeth on things - my 5 year old still nibbles but he is growing out of it - he used to be very bad because his old owner spoiled him. It is definitely okay for your colt to still nibble but don't let him nibble you - that is teaching him to disrespect you - you should start to get stricter when he turns older about a year old maybe but its very natural for young horses to nibble!

Hope i helped!
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post #9 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 04:37 PM
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Judgeing from some of the other issues that are coming up for Moe, you might rethink letting him nibble on you at all. Maybe he needs to see you in a whole new light.
I am very blase about it with Mac, and I realize it is a bad habit. He is , however, overall very respectful of my space and has never been even one iota aggressive to me.
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post #10 of 16 Old 03-19-2011, 06:01 PM
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It depends on your preference and the horse itself. My mare likes to nibble (she's 5, but she thinks she's still a baby!) and I don't punish her for it. My view on my personal horses: I try to bond with them as a horse might, I let her nibble or play with my clothes but she knows when I am angry and if I raise my voice to her she will stop. We have gone through the biting stage, and she won't bite me, so as long as she is respectful and knows where the line is drawn, I don't see a problem with her behavior. I see it as her being playful with me, bonding, whatever you want to call it.
My gelding is 28 and he loves to nibble/lick my hand. I have the same approach with him. He would never in a million years bite me or another person, he is just searching for treats. He is a W/T lesson horse, and the kids love him! Beginners are just forewarned not to give him small treats (and taught how to give them with a flattened palm) so he doesn't mistake their fingers for treats, but he usually finds the treats with his lips and tongue and pulls them in that way, he's never bitten a child- accidentally or purposefully.

I usually leave this behavior at the stall or grooming area, and they both know that if they are being tacked up or led, they should respect my personal space. I'm usually the one to initiate the behavior, and they respond. If they initiate the behavior and I don't feel its appropriate, they usually back off if I raise my voice and raise my arm. I just feel its a form of communication, and as long as they are gentle, there is no harm done.

However, if I was training someone else's horse or riding a lesson horse, something along those lines- I would draw a clearer line and make it more of a professional relationship with that horse. The owners can develop that sort of relationship on their own time, and I am not going to encourage what someone else may consider bad behavior. I will give them treats or praise, but I won't be as personable as I am with my own horses.

Since he is a baby, I would let him be a horse and a baby horse at that. The only time I would correct him or draw any sort of line is if he gets real pushy, bites, kicks, or otherwise tries to invade your space when he is clearly not welcome to. Because he is young, simply raising your voice to him should work with raising or waving your arm. If it doesn't, then carry a crop with you and just smack him (just hard enough to sting a little, I wouldn't try to hurt him as he's still figuring things out) in the chest [so he instinctively backs off]. If you are going to punish his bad behavior, you should reward good behavior, so maybe start halter training in the stall or something like that, so you have a base to reward once you establish the base to punish.
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