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not sure if there is something I ought to be doing about this...

This is a discussion on not sure if there is something I ought to be doing about this... within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Do horses feel remorse?
  • Can horses feel remorseful

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    01-20-2012, 11:10 PM
  #31
Trained
I am also one of the training crowd that is NOT okay with a horse ever being mouthy with me. They are not dogs, so there is no way they are licking or ever coming within 'nipping, or biting' distance of me, period. Regardless of the "bond" you have with your horse, if you allow the same grooming behavior that your horse would use on another horse, which includes licking (and eventually biting, 'grating' with their teeth', etc). Your horse's mouth is capable of inflicting alot of damage, even with a small bite, why choose to 'willingly' take that risk? That's just me.

However you choose to stop the behavior is up to you; work his butt off whenever he tries it, back him briskly out of your space when he tries it, make him feel like the world is going to come down on him for 5 seconds of his life...whatever you choose, or whether you choose to leave it as it is. Just be aware that since he IS NOT afraid to bite...and no, just because he is 'backing up' when he does this, does not mean he is feeling remorse (he's probably been throttled for the (biting) behavior in the past, and is anticipating it coming), and yet, still tries it because you allow the initial behavior.
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    01-23-2012, 03:39 AM
  #32
Foal
Cassidy my horse has always been mouthy.....however when he was a colt he was biting people hard, never had he bitten me but nippy with me! He always got a firm no and a slap on his chest. He doesn't bite strangers anymore but does test me about every 6months. My horse is very dominate and would love to be the boss if he thought he was allowed to nip I am sure he would still be biting people.
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    01-23-2012, 03:49 AM
  #33
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2pride    
Just be aware that since he IS NOT afraid to bite...and no, just because he is 'backing up' when he does this, does not mean he is feeling remorse (he's probably been throttled for the (biting) behavior in the past, and is anticipating it coming), and yet, still tries it because you allow the initial behavior.
Totally agree!! Horses don't have the same emotions we do or we like to put into our horses......he is moving so he don't get hit. It really is ha I got ya aint nothing you can do about it! My horse does it! If you notice they move just far enough that your hand can't reach.... my horse has a rope toy that when I know he wants to mouth on me he can have his toy rather than tryna chew my jacket! He even chews his lead rope as well!

I found truly mouthy horses don't stop...he is mouthy when in his herd...I can't chase him all day to stop him so I find ways round it:

Getting him out my space by backing up
Giving him his horsey chew toy
Depending what I am doing giving him a hay net to keep his mouth busy
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    02-01-2012, 09:06 PM
  #34
Weanling
I don't totally rule out licking and grooming, but the original post sounds like horse play to me and horses should not INITIATE play with people because the more dominant horse is the one who decides when play is OK.

The drawing back after a nip is part of the game. If you have ever observed two horses playing "nibble lips" with each other they lick and lip one another until one manages to nip the other then he will usually recoil immediately, expecting the other horse to escalate the play with a very aggressive return bite. By striking at a horse that is already in retreat, you aren't doing anything he didn't expect and he will probably think you are just engaging in more play. If you have a very cheeky horse this will NOT discourage biting, it will escalate the behaviour.

I am speaking from experience, my mini stud horse was very mouthy, I thought it was cute, but when he started nipping, I started smacking him and he turned into a BITING MONSTER. His biting habit lasted three years and continually got worse as long as I kept "playing" the "I can get you before you get me" game. When I stopped hitting him and started backing him and making him yield backward out of my space when he got mouthy, the biting ended in about 2 weeks. He hasn't even nipped at anyone in over 10 years now.

That is why I would recommend not allowing the licking and nibbling, Your horse thinks you are inviting this sort of play, and unless you are willing to play those kind of games I would discourage the nibbles. I don't agree with smacking a horse for mouthiness but getting him out of your space by backing or yielding the forehand is usually sufficient discouragement for a nibbler, or in my case it even worked on a sever biter.
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    02-02-2012, 11:13 AM
  #35
Foal
I don't want to derail the thread but can some explain the issue of letting a horse lick you?ive given horses treats and then they lick my hand or sometime they do it just to be silly I don't see an issue with it it seems harmless to me?
     
    02-02-2012, 05:30 PM
  #36
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThursdayNext    
It's kind of like having a kid that cuts up and then before I can say anything, the kid goes "oops! I'll go to time out now!" and heads off. Like, what do you do with *that*?
I would be more inclined to relate it to having a kid that breaks a rule and then runs away before they can be reprimanded. He's pushing the boundary and anticipating a reaction - if you don't give him one, that boundary will eventually cease to exist in his mind.

I agree with the advice already given. Ultimately, this is undesirable behaviour and he has done it more than once. I had one incident that was very similar to yours but a touch more serious - where a horse (my fault for having my back turned) came up behind my and tagged me good on the shoulder, then bolted to the end of his paddock. I whipped around and got after him, it matters not that he was already running away. He never tried that stunt with me again.

I have a zero tolerance policy with mouthy horses. It's probably my most hated vice, and the one I've run into the most frequently. I've tried all sorts of varying degrees of dealing with it - I too wanted to allow "mutual grooming" behaviour, tried to establish mouthing was okay but teeth were not, etc. Been there, bought the T-shirt, and have no desire to go back. What I've learned after dealing with this 50 bajillion times, is that when I handle any horse the first thing I do is establish my (generously large) perimeter of space. You don't have to round pen them for half an hour to make it clear - I praise them when they're out of it, and correct them when they enter it. Lo and behold the mouthy ones are usually the first to enter my space and insist on claiming it. Some only do it when grooming or any other time where mouthing may have been "allowed", some only do it when expecting treats, those are the easiest to deal with because you can just stop allowing it.

However some horses I've met are just absolutely fixated on being in your space and mouthing you to death; I don't know if it's a mental thing, if it's a deeply ingrained habit from foalhood, or what, but these ones are way up there on horses I do not let my guard down with. I don't draw the line at teeth, I don't draw the line at mouthing, with these horses I've found that the only way to deal with it is to be very strict with personal space. If they're in my space, they're going to mouth, and if they're going to mouth, teeth are going to sneak in on occasion, if they don't ultimately decide to escalate to taking my hand off. If the line is drawn at personal space, I don't get hurt (which is my priority) - however with these ones I found I had to enforce that boundary CONSTANTLY. Consistent handling and time seemed to be the only things to make a difference, but it's tiring - and to me, absolutely necessary.

Thing is, I've yet to see a horse that didn't have what I'd consider to be an "issue" with mouthing, even care to bother doing it. If a treat is offered, they take it and either look expectantly or move on with their lives; if their special spot is being scratched, there are countless things they'd rather wiggle their lip against than me

In regards to the question about what to do when a horse has learned to strike when you can't respond appropriately, all I can really say is get creative. Going off the assumption that he's actually made a habit of this, then I'd plan ahead for it. Talk to the farrier beforehand so that when he bites the farrier can get out of the way quickly while you give him heck. If it's a pony ride (assuming you're leading him) then again a plan of action ahead of time would probably best, I'm assuming it's a sneaky nip, and the correction would depend on the severity of the nip and how sensitive he is to correction. You don't want to back him up or start moving his feet around with a child in the saddle, but depending on the situation, I've issued a smack and a reminder of my personal space. As with selling him...prep work. Again assuming this is a habit - it should be dealt with before selling (if it's for whatever reason just with new people, maybe bring in some fake "potential buyers"), or the else the issue should be disclosed to the potential buyer anyways in which case correcting him would not be the issue.

Skittles, to simplify what I've said above, once the innocent treat lick results in a nasty chomp, most tend to see it in a different light.
     
    02-03-2012, 05:46 PM
  #37
Yearling
My take on horse-on-horse behavior that is displayed toward a human is not OK in my book...especially the mouthy/oral behavior. I'm not a horse and I do not want to be treated like one. I have a different role in my horse's life and it's not that of a fellow horse. I know some people that let their horses "groom" them...just like a horse will groom another horse. Not cool. The same as people that let their horse scratch/rub their head on them. I'm not a tree....don't treat me like one. Oral behaviors are hard to stop if you have instillled the behavior to begin with.
     
    02-11-2012, 07:45 PM
  #38
Foal
My experience has been a bit different to most of those above. My gelding was beginning to threaten to bite and sometimes nipping or bumping me hard with his mouth. As other people have mentioned, smacking him escalated his behaviour - he thought it was a game and he was better at it than me. What worked for us was a series of warnings that escalated in a predictable way each time he bit or threatened to bite: gentle but firm No and finger waggle like would use to warn naughty child; if repeats then firmer and louder No! And vigorous finger waving; if repeat then shouted NO! And get after him like enraged bear. It only took once at the third level for his biting to diminish hugely; since then have only needed to go to second level once, now he doesn't do it at all. As it was tapering off he would do as you described, and pull back like he was saying 'oops', I still gently said no.

Most of it was invitation to play I think, although a couple of times he meant it more seriously. As we got to know each other better it definitely seemed to be a play invitation. I know this will sound weird, but each time after I had told him no, I explained that I appreciated his offer to play, but humans can't play those games,it is too easy for us to get hurt. :) Perhaps all this did was to make me feel calm and confident and reasonable.

Anyway, I am finding the softer and quieter I am with my boy the softer and quieter he is with me, and the more softly I ask for things the more likely he is to try to do as I ask. He used to be prone to being very resistant and determined, now he is very willing to try for me.
     
    02-11-2012, 09:50 PM
  #39
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThursdayNext    
Who said anything about having special bonds and rubbish like that?
Just curious, why do you think 'special bonds' are rubbish? Horses are social creatures, like us. Scientists who study wild horse behaviour closely speak of 'peer attachment' - special one-on-one bonds pairs of horses sometimes develop each other. Humans can develop close bonds with dogs if they spend enough time with them & interact with them the right way, so I don't understand why people would think it is not possible to develop a similar bond with a horse. I know we and dogs are predators & horses are prey, but you hear of horses forming a special bond with a particular horse/goat/donkey/dog - why not a human?

I suspect it might be more about us not spending time with them in a way that is likely to develop the bond, rather than the bond not being possible. Anyway, don't want to hijack the thread, was just very curious why you said what you did.
     
    02-11-2012, 10:29 PM
  #40
Yearling
I agree that you should go after the little rat if he nips - if he's moved away already, then stand tall and shoulders back and aggressively move toward him and make him back crisply several steps...or else. My rule has been that if I feel teeth they will think they are going to die for 3 seconds. I have one who's really mouthy and he will regress if I'm not consistent.

I had an experience with a therapy school pony who is a biter. He wasn't a lovey nuzzler, he wanted to bite the leader's hand. I had a "conversation" with him - I'll give you 12 inches of lead rope so you are more comfortable if you won't bite me. The other horse leaders choked up on the rope so they could control his head and try to avoid being bitten and I think he was always feeling trapped. Anyway, to get to that point where we had our agreement, I walked him for the first time without a child aboard, and almost invited him to nuzzle/bite. When he did, I pinched his lip and made him back up. Repeat. By the third time, he hit my pointed knuckle when he came toward me, pinch and back up again. With a child aboard, he tried it once and ran into my knuckle again. It was a correction that no one but the two of us was aware of, because he knew what to expect and it wasn't dramatic, just unpleasant. After that, we got along fine and he needs one reminder from time to time (I'm not his regular leader) but he knows I'm consistent and he acts a gentleman for me. We also do the pre-signals when we're changing speed or stopping, and positive reinforcements....if he walks out or slow or stops when I ask, he gets a 'good boy' and a neck rub while we're waiting on the next instruction with the therapist.
     

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