Mouthy colt- I don't want to give up on him. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
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Mouthy colt- I don't want to give up on him.

So some of you may know Zane. He was born July 14th, 2010 out of a Foxtrotter mare I bought as a trail horse. His sire is a QH.

I've been struggling with him so long, it's not even funny. I love him so much, and as corny as it may sound, it's my lifelong dream to raise my own horse, so I was thrilled when I found out my mare was pregnant.

So it's been one struggle after another. First the deformed leg, then a patent urachus (leaky navel), then when he got gelded he got infected. It's just been a mess from the day he was born to be honest.

I just don't know how to gain or keep his respect. He is so mouthy, that if I pony or lead him, he can hardly keep his mouth off of me, my tack, the other horse, etc.

I have tried crops, a stud chain, hot sauce, you name it, I just can't seem to stop his mouthy behavior. I keep thinking that the harder I try, maybe some good will come out of our training sessions. I try SO HARD and I never seem to make any progress. I can correct his behavior and he turns around a second later and does it again.

Anyway, I read all this stuff about being consistent, being the leader, etc, etc, and I just can't seem to train him. I try and try and try. I love him dearly and I am afraid if I give him away he will end up at a slaughter house because of his deformed leg.

I WANT to keep him. I love him. But he breaks my heart every time I work with him. He's my dream-come-true, I don't want to give him up or give up on him. But I just can't make any progress.

It's gotten so that I dread working with him because I know I will end up in tears. I admit I do cry easily, but I never end up in tears with my adult horses. Working with him almost takes the joy out of having horses. I have the will and time to work with him, but we never make a whole lot of progress. I don't know if the mouthyness is the main issue, or it is just a symptom of a broader lack of respect.

So anyway, I know no one can help me over the internet. I just needed to tell someone my story. My foal breaks my heart. I don't want him to end up someplace bad, but I just can't fix him no matter how hard I try. Friends talk about helping me, but no one seems to follow through. Even if nobody cares about me, won't someone care enough to help keep the horse from loosing the only real home he may ever have? I want to keep him "till death do us part" but I can't keep a horse I can't even take for a walk or pony off another horse. It's not like I can keep him as a pasture pet. Hay is $12.75 a bale and it's Arizona so I don't have pasture. If he could just have manners I would keep him forever!

I'm just heart broken that's all. I'm afraid this may end badly for me and Zane. And I could never forgive myself if I give up on him. I will always feel like I gave up on my foal. He was born here, he is my responsibility. Any bad manners had to have come from me, right? I don't want to give up on him. I am not the kind of person who sells their horses. I have had three horses I had to put down from old age related issues. I am not the kind of person that sells their horses on a whim.

I just want to lead him and pony him and have him be polite. Is that too much to ask? Is there ANY hope that he will grow out of the mouthyness?

I watched a lady pony a foal the other day and it followed her like a dog on a leash. My foal bounces everywhere and bites and chews on everything.
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post #2 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 10:13 PM
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DON'T GIVE UP ON YOUR BABY! Since he is your dream come true please just be persistent. I know you have been told this many times but here are a couple of tips to help you. First off, he is very young. I don't know when he was weaned, but weaning a foal too early will cause them to be mouthy. Also he could be teething. I would try giving him some play toys that are very soft and squishy. Like the dumb bells they have for horses. Start off on the ground with him. If he tries to grab the lead rope or bite your shirt send him away. If he invades your space shoo him away with the lead rope or lunge him for a minute or two. You can also try putting a lead rope in his mouth as a practice bit so he has something to chew on while you are ponying him. But as I said before... Do not give up. Work with him on space. He is young so he will be mouthy, but let him know that it is not ok to be doing it to you, other horses, or tack.

*As Long As We Are Together, We Are One And We Are Safe*
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post #3 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 10:38 PM
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I agree! Don't give up! I had a really mouthy colt and I just gave him a good smack every time he bit, it took a while but he got to associate biting was bad! lol. Have you tried the hot potato trick yet? What you do it bake a potato and take out it of the oven and put on the outside of your coat but tie it on with a bandanna or something so it looks like part of you and he will get the hot in his mouth. You want to put it where he bits you most often so he will bite right onto it. I have heard you can go in there an really rile them up to make them bite or just wait for them to bit it, either way, they take a bit right onto that searing hot potato and they associate that pain with biting.
I have only heard of this a few times, I might not be telling you how to do it right so I would research more, but its worth a shot.

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post #4 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 10:57 PM
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Have you tried ignoring it? You could be, in his mind, rewarding him for the behavior with attention (the correction).
I know that with Lacey, and a few other people-oriented horses/ponies I've been around, if I start correcting her for certain bad behaviors, she starts getting worse. But, if I ignore them, she figures out that she gets no where and stops.

Also, how are you correcting? Are you using the same amount of correction each time or are you starting small (low pressure/light correction) and moving up to a "come to Jesus" moment (very high pressure, make him think he's going to die, etc) when he doesn't stop with the light correction?

Totally OT, but: if it makes you feel better, I got a kitten a few months before your Mr. Zane was born and he's my first cat in years and my first baby animal ever. He's also had a mouthing/biting issue from day one. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong and I really don't think I am doing anything wrong. I never play with him with my hands, I correct him each time he bites, etc, but he still bites like a little rabid lion.
Now, I had basically given up even trying to solve it. I kind of became resigned to the fact that my cat is always going to be nippy and that's just who he is.
But you know what? Now, about a month after I just gave up on fixing it, he's stopped biting so much. he still bites about once a day but it's no where near the 5-6 bites a day I was receiving when he was younger. I've begun to wonder if maybe the biting thing isn't just him being a kitten and now that he's almost out of the real kitten-y part of his life (he's 9 months old), maybe he's going to grow out of it. I'll bet that he's always going to be mouthy but hopefully not bite-y.

Also, in response to the lady ponying her foal: different personalities! Her baby is probably just one of those "A+ in every class" babies! And your baby is a "sexy, smart but troubled, tough guy". You can't expect the tough guy to be the poster child for good behavior too, right?

Don't give up!
When I first got Lacey, I felt so hopeless every time I worked with her. I began to really dread going to the barn since I felt like we were getting nowhere. But, after a year of crying every time I worked with her (and I'm not a crier), something finally clicked and now we're inseparable. It felt like it took forever, but I feel like it makes my relationship with Lacey so much sweeter since I know how bad she really can be.
I bet that once you and Zane click, you'll be amazing. I'll bet he's the horse you need, instead of the one you want, you know? Like, he's the one that will open doors to things that you never thought you'd see open.
Keep it up! I'm rooting for you. :)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.
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post #5 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 11:06 PM
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A quick fix for just being able to pony / lead him for now would be a cavesson. It prevents him from opening his mouth and biting while you are able to exercise him a bit. Hopefully, this will get some of his energy worked out & help you to gain confidence. Then once you are able to start working with him, you need to "man up" and give this guy the serious business when he tries to bite you. There comes a time when you need to whoop some a$$ to get him to respect you. Don't just smack him once for biting you, smack him a couple times, holler out a "hey" or "no" and get his feet moving immediately. How hard you smack him is relative to the amount of force it takes to get his attention. Some horses are more responsive than others and it is a matter of getting a feel for his reaction. The goal is to eventually get a response from your voice/ body language without any physical force.
You also should refrain from all hand fed treats until he gets past this. Another issue to consider is his point situation. Is he in a "herd" where he has older higher up n the pecking order horses to teach him to respect them, or is he out with other colts/ lower pecking order horses doing whatever he pleases?
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post #6 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 11:46 PM
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I know it gets discouraging but don't give up. He is still just a baby and he will grow out of it eventually.

I wonder if he wouldn't really benefit from just being ignored completely for a while. You know, catch him up for shots and the farrier and other than that, just leave him alone. Don't pet him, don't catch him, nothing.
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post #7 of 12 Old 02-18-2011, 11:48 PM
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for such a seemingly insignificant problem you seem to be pretty saddened by it. :(

2 things, whenever he mouths something you don't want him too, stop him from doing so. don't attack him for doing it, but don't allow him to do it. do just enough to get him to stop, then leave him alone for a while (if he returns & continues, do the same again)
and try taking advantage of it to build his overall self confidence, find something that horses normally **** bricks at (a tarp is a good one) and ask him with your halter to be mouthy on that. don't (as before) be pulling with all your might on the halter, but don't just let him run away from it. lead him into it at a pace he's comfy with and ask him to drop his head down onto it.

also if he bites, feel free to block him. i find an en elbow or forearm to be effective. your not trying to hit the horse, your just trying to prevent any further advancment of your horses head. and if he's faster than you in this little battle and he gets close enough to bite, then you lose & he wins. nomatter how much you "discipline" him afterwards (as many other horsepeople will suggest), you've still lost & he's still won.
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post #8 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 01:24 AM
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There are basically two schools of thought on biting: One is like John Lyons says to do: try to "kill" your horse on his neck (not head) for 3 seconds. It'll scare him more than hurt him. The other is to make as little of a deal out of it as possible, to ignore the mouthiness that comes from a young & curious horse, block it (never get into smacking or horse'll make it a game of trying to bite & duck the smack), & getting the horse busy so that he forgets about mouthiness. Another important part of the "no big deal" approach is to give the mouthy horse lots of manual stimulation, because he needs it (horsenality type); rub his muzzle, slide a finger over his top gum, etc., then, if he escalates, rub him harder than he likes, so he's the one to pull away, satisfied with all of the initial "mouth attention".

I've never tried John Lyons' way, but I can vouch that the second way works often.

A really helpful plan for you, I think, is to direct your horse, not correct him all of the time. Direct him to establish leadership & to eliminate giving him time to get nippy & then your having to correct that.

Last edited by Northern; 02-19-2011 at 01:29 AM.
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post #9 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 05:09 PM
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Don't give up on him! You definately are a better person than alot of people I know who, the second anything goes wrong, they want to just get rid of the problem. The fact that you kept him through all of his problems so far says alot. I certaintly think he will grow out of his mouthyness soon enough if you keep the consistent training.

When I got my first horse, he was definately not a beginners horse. He had the same problem with excessive mouthyness. When I started training it was just all wrong, but I moved to a different trainer and he got alot better. He will see what he can get away with, but a swift kick in the rump get's him back on track and he's good for the rest of the lesson. Some other people mentioned this. But when he starts with that just take controll of his feet, back him up, tack his space and his time since you took yours. Some of the parelli games might help with this. Just look them up on youtube because it wouldn't much be worth it to buy the videos, in my opinion. You can adjust the exercises as needed.
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post #10 of 12 Old 02-19-2011, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! I got so many kind responses, it's hard to know how to respond to all of them. But I'll give it a go.

I do feel a lot better today. Today I didn't "do" anything with him other than feed him and pet on him a bit. What I like to do, which is something I did today, is carry a crop and then go out and groom him or give him treats (yes, my bad) and make him stand patiently a few feet away before I give him one. Or ask him to side pass on the ground (which he actually does quite well) and then give him a treat. Or back up and stand politely for a treat. He will do those things at liberty without even a halter on. Or I will groom on him a bit and have the crop handy just to use as a want to tell him to back up or if his face does get too close, to ask him to move away. Our problems seem to be mainly with ponying and leading. He gets "attitude" when on a lead rope and I almost wonder if it isn't a playful thing. It's either playful or dominance, I'm not sure which, where he kind of gets bouncy, pushy and nippy.

I call it nipping (and not biting) because he has bit me three times since he was born, where he used his teeth. What he normally does when he is being lead is sort of snake his head and threaten. Or try to grab a piece of tack and chew it. Really, it's the exact same thing he does with my older gelding (which is the horse I pony him from) when they are loose together, except it's a tamer version. Zane rears and bites and practically mauls the older gelding to get him to play. So I think when I pony I am fighting this instinct to play like he does when they are loose together.

I think one of the major things that went wrong yesterday is that I only had a couple hours to ride and I normally turn him loose to let him run out on the forest. Yesterday I didn't. First, because I was short on time, and secondly because I think I need to curtail the running wild and keep him on lead more, but I dunno, maybe he really needs that running loose time to burn off steam.

Originally Posted by Countrygal892000 View Post
I don't know when he was weaned, but weaning a foal too early will cause them to be mouthy. Also he could be teething. I would try giving him some play toys that are very soft and squishy.
Zane isn't actually weaned yet. I aim to do that in the next couple of weeks when the weather (hopefully) improves. The pen that I will put him in where he doesn't share the fence line with his mom doesn't have a shelter. That's why I have put off weaning him. He's a really independent sort of guy though!

He does have 5 toys to play with. Two jolly balls, a basketball and a couple of big plastic things from the dollar store. So he does have some acceptable chewing options, and he does love his toys. The jolly ball with a rope on it is his favorite.

A friend gave me a small, 4 1/2 inch I believe, snaffle bit for him to be his first bit, and he has worn it a couple of times. I might try letting him wear it when I pony him just as a pacifier to see if he still tries to nip and chew.

Originally Posted by Gizmo View Post
I agree! Don't give up! I had a really mouthy colt and I just gave him a good smack every time he bit, it took a while but he got to associate biting was bad! lol. Have you tried the hot potato trick yet?
I don't know about the potato thing. He mostly doesn't make actual contact with me. It's more like a game of "I'll nip at you and you see if you can get me back." I think the nipping is like a game of tag to him.

Originally Posted by Wallaby View Post
Have you tried ignoring it? You could be, in his mind, rewarding him for the behavior with attention (the correction).

Also, how are you correcting?

I'll bet he's the horse you need, instead of the one you want, you know? Like, he's the one that will open doors to things that you never thought you'd see open.
I haven't tried ignoring the behavior. Maybe I should. I guess I have been in the camp of "make him think he is dying for three seconds" school of thought. I guess what made me realize this could be serious is that I have John Lyons book "Lyons on Horses" and he says biting is one of the worst things a horse could ever do because it is a sign of disrespect. Worse even than kicking. But Zane really doesn't make contact (unless it's to chew on something) but I am afraid it will escalate if I don't try to fix it. He has bitten me on three occasions, but I go ballistic on him when he does it, so that is why I think it is more threats than actual bites now. Unless it is all a big game of tag to him.

I admit I have smacked him on the nose, chest, butt, just about everywhere with a crop and/or my hand. And used a stud chain and jerked it when he goes to bite. I've tried dousing my reins, his lead rope, my chaps, anything that he frequently goes for, with hot sauce, which he doesn't like, but when the hot sauce dries it doesn't stop him anymore.

I've done a lot of stuff that to me is borderline cruel, but I figured if it would stop the behavior then the ends justify the means. Because if I don't get him straightened out I can't keep him. But even what to me seems like drastic measures, hasn't fixed anything. Other than to make him a bit head shy.

I keep hoping that if I can get him and I through this, then I will be a better horsewoman for it, because I will have found my way through things I have never had to work my way through with horses before. But if I fail, then it will be an epic fail. Because I want to succeed. This is one thing I do not want to fail at. My foals life could be depending on it.
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