Stopping Mouthy Behavior - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Stopping Mouthy Behavior

((I've underlined all of the important parts if you don't feel like reading the whole essay. ))

I need some ideas: My 2 year old mustang colt has been giving me lip. I suspect that he's starting to get a little bored with our arena ground work. He's smart as a whip and picks things up in a flash, which means it can be tricky to keep him engaged and interested once he feels he knows something. I first got him and began gentling him in October, and now he's getting just confident enough to express a differing opinion.

He's starting to be a little nosey/nibbly. There haven't been any teeth involved just yet, but he's making some of the motions like he's thinking of nipping. I'd like to nip it in the bud before he gets too mouthy, but I don't want to risk making him headshy either... so I need advice on how best to reprimand him when he snakes that head out at me and catches the arm of my jacket with his lips.

I'll be upping the ante with his groundwork too. Any ideas for new groundwork activities to try are also appreciated. He knows basic longeing, round penning, walk/trot/halt/backing in hand, he yields his hindquarters and shoulders, he stands to be saddled/girthed, and he's been introduced to most "scary" things like plastic bags, spray bottles, cones, tarps, etc.

Last edited by Eolith; 05-06-2012 at 01:33 PM.
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 02:32 PM
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Keep him out of your personal space. To do this, you have to be 100% consistent. NEVER let him come in close enough to you to reach out and 'lip' you. If he does, give 3 or 4 hard jerks on the lead-rope to back him out of your space. Don't just push him back.

He needs to learn that you can get in as close to him as you want to but he must stay back 2 or 3 feet from you.

If a horse is not biting but just 'nosing' or 'lipping', I prefer to just jerk the lead-rope and then after he has stepped back, I just go back to doing whatever I was doing before.

To be effective, you have to be 100% consistent. That means that you do not 'play' with him or treat him like a pet or a dog. They make pretty lousy pets.
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input. I'm definitely aware that horses are not ideal cuddling pets and that this needs to be corrected consistently... I just want to make sure I do it in a way that will not have negative repercussions. I've spent the last 5 months getting him to accept me in his personal space... it wouldn't do to backtrack and risk him getting headshy. He's only shown this tendency in the last two times that I've worked with him, so I'm fairly confident that it's early enough in the game that I can let him know it's not okay with a few quick corrections.
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 05:24 PM
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Depending on his personality, he may respond to a firm and louder voice saying "NO". Also, are you planning on keeping him as a stud? It's gelding time, if not.
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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He's a gelding already. I just figure he's still young enough to be termed a colt. That was definitely one of the first things on our 'To do' list when we got him. ;)
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 06:39 PM
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I have a similar issue with my three-year-old gelding, but mine is not shy or sensitive; so I have to be very firm with him. I back him up, yell, and smack him (when appropriate), but he still acts like the punishment is not that bad.
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 06:50 PM
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Be consistent and use your "pokey" finger. That's right, poke him with your finger on the side of his face, slightly above the jaw, 1/2 down from the jawbone to the nostrils. Most effective.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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It's funny, I find that I'm having to readjust to my boy's new levels of confidence. It used to be that lifting my hand to hook my hair behind my ear would send him skittering to the other side of the pen. Now he's just getting to where he's confident enough to test the boundaries. It's actually nice to see him start to open up and become secure enough to try a bit of mischief... but of course now I need to let him know that mischief is best saved for when he's out in the pasture with his buddies, not "working" with me!
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-07-2012, 01:22 PM
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This may not be good advise for an aggressively biting horse, but when I first got my gelding, he was very mouthy..not aggressive really, more nosy. Every time he would do this, I would grab his lips and play with them, think, Mr. Ed! Lol. He would just get annoyed and walk away, or turn his head...it pretty much fixed that behavior, pretty quickly.
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-07-2012, 01:30 PM
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I didn't see if you had a habit of feeding him treats out of your hands or carrying them in your pockets. If you do this, stop! They know where the treats are and will try to help themselves. Some horses don't become pushy and lippy, but others do.
When I bought my gelding back for the second time, his previous owner fed him treats constantly. He thought every time he saw me that I was going to feed him something. I didn't give him any treats for a few months and he finally got the idea.
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