Mouthing acceptable? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Mouthing acceptable?

I was under the assumption that any mouthing from a youngster needs to be corrected to avoid nipping, biting, etc. later on. My 5 month old weanling has begun to gently mouth my hand a couple of times and I pop him on the nose and scold him. Also told everyone at the barn to not give him treats. So I was surprised the other night when my BM who is the trainer who is helping me with raising the weanling was letting him mouth and lick his fingers and hand. I said, "you aren't giving him treats, are you?" and he said no. Then I just said that I hope he doesn't go too far and begin biting, hoping that my BM would get the message...
Or is it OK to let them do this kind of mouthing? BM is exellent with horses.
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 03:10 PM
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Why didn't you ask him? I would not let any horse put its mouth on any part of me but I'm just cranky that way.

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post #3 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 03:28 PM
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I have been around a lot of weanlings and I have never let them be mouthy especially around people. Like you have said it can lead to biting and that is a lot harder to correct when they are older if they get into that habit.
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 03:34 PM
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It's your horse - if you don't want him being mouthy, TELL the BM that - don't just try to drop subtle hints and "hope" that he picks up on it.
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 03:41 PM
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If you scold him for being mouthy sometimes and then let him get away with it later, it will send mixed messages to your horse. Decide what is exceptable and what isn't. Personally, I don't think it is very far from nibbling to biting, so I would try to discourage this behavior as much as possible as early as possible.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themacpack View Post
It's your horse - if you don't want him being mouthy, TELL the BM that - don't just try to drop subtle hints and "hope" that he picks up on it.
Will do. I've only been seriously into horses for a couple of years so wanted to get some other more experienced people's opinions to be sure that I am justified in what I think. Thanks!!
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post #7 of 13 Old 08-08-2011, 04:04 PM
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I'm with Kevin. Any form of mouthing be it friendly play or not is unacceptable behavior in my book.
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post #8 of 13 Old 08-09-2011, 07:58 AM
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As has been mentioned by others its your horse, so its your right to set the rules.
Also consistency is key as also already mentioned.
There are two little points i'd add though.

Firstly horses recognise people and can change their behaviour accordingly. A horse that will not lead for its owner (because he has learned that is he stops he gets mints), leads without issue for me. Similarly fields where others risk being kicked if they try to remove horses out of a set order, are no issue for me because I control all the horses. That's not to make me sound great, it just highlights how a horse doesnt have to be mouthy with anyone else just because 1 person teaches it.

Secondly, I understand why many people do not like or allow any form of mouth contact. That's probably very wise in many cases, and especially if you are new to horses. However I have also learned that mouth contact can be very powerful so I do use it with some horses. For example, if I am making contact with a new horse I will often hold my hand flat and allow them to lick or test the palm, or hold it over their muzzle. How they act tells me a lot about the horse, and also its a very strong way for them to 'smell' me.

It may be this is what your BM was also doing.

As I say not something I would encourage others to necessarily use but mouthing does not have to lead to biting, nipping or anything else if we don't wish it to.
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post #9 of 13 Old 08-09-2011, 09:49 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doe View Post
Firstly horses recognise people and can change their behaviour accordingly.
I do know this and have experienced it personally in other situations. Presently, I was worried that being so young and having first contact with humans would predispose him to undesirable behaviors (mouthing) that would be difficult to correct later.

Quote:
However I have also learned that mouth contact can be very powerful so I do use it with some horses. For example, if I am making contact with a new horse I will often hold my hand flat and allow them to lick or test the palm, or hold it over their muzzle. How they act tells me a lot about the horse, and also its a very strong way for them to 'smell' me.
Interesting. I get the idea... one time I let him sniff all over my face & neck, and then when he got to my head he began licking my hair. This is not something I would normally let a horse do, but my feeling at the time is that he was smelling me to get to know me.

Thanks, Doe. Good clarification on the mouthing issue.
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post #10 of 13 Old 08-09-2011, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doe View Post
As has been mentioned by others its your horse, so its your right to set the rules.
Also consistency is key as also already mentioned....

As I say not something I would encourage others to necessarily use but mouthing does not have to lead to biting, nipping or anything else if we don't wish it to.
I agree that this is personal preference, there is no right/wrong, and that mouthing only lead to nipping of you allow it. I prefer very social horses and have always allowed touching with the lips, no teeth, and certainly nothing that approaches a nip. As with anything else horse related, you always do need to be aware and careful...when you stop being careful or start taking good behavior for granted, you're always at greater risk of being injured.

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