How to stop biting?
When he becomes aggressive with his mouth I quickly smack him on the mouth and he raises his head and becomes more aggressive and cranky. He doesn't submit, he fights back. My next course of action would be to lunge him as soon as he tries it, but this is not always feasible in a lesson barn when the arena is often tied up. Anyone have any experience/suggestions for me? He does not bite all the time, but he can be a cranky guy.
Make him move. You may not be able to lunge him (in fact, by the time you get him out onto the circle it is already too late, he isn't associating the driving away with the biting) but you can sure make him move away from you. Make his feet move, make him give at the shoulder and at the hindquarters, make him fear you are going to kill him with big noises and loud movements.
Make him think he is going to die. When you just slap or 'peck' at a horse, you often make them much worse. It can end up with a horse being vicious and unsafe. If you get after a horse, make it severe enough that he does not try the same stunt again. If it takes more than twice, you have failed and have only made him worse.
But, the best thing to do with nipping is to just hold a nail in your hand and let him run into it. You can always 'set them up' where the hand with a nail it is is always between you and the horse. It is no different than a horse running into an electric fence. They literally teach themselves that biting hurts them.
As Cherie said, this is fast becoming a game to him, and is much like young horses will play, bite bite bite, until one really bites hard or kicks out...the smacking is basically playing a game. PLUS he sees you DOING something.
Hence the head raising going on.
Either do the horseshoe nail thing, where the nail tip only is poking between your knuckles on whatever hand is closest to the head, rest of fingers/thumb are in a fist, in other words, if you are cinching up, your left hand will be closest, if you are grooming his off side, your right hand will be the closest to his head.
Standing at girth area, ignore horse completely as far as he knows, your eyes are on what you are doing and face is not looking at him, when he reaches to bite, casually move your hand so that he runs his mouth into the nail tip.
Do not give any indication that this has happened at all. Not by voice, gesture, sounds, fast movements, nothing. You are merely moving hand as you would to move fly away from your cake type thing. Lazy, slow, no big deal.
If he bites when near his head, either arm yourself with a nail as before, or you can use a stiff brush, bristles out, on flat of your palm and when he moves mouth towards you, let him run into the bristles. You are to exert no force, nor make any sign that you know this has happened. It needs to be as if you have a prickly force field around you, and that you are not doing anything to cause it.
You can also use the point of your elbow, both at girth or head or wherever, merely bend your arm and raise it when he begins to move head, and let him run jawbone into your elbow point. Again, do this slowly, and do not look at him, or make any sign you noticed it. And no laughter or talking either.
That said. If you are prone to be always messing with his face? Quit it. That will lead to biting faster than anything. No stroking of muzzle, pulling at lips or anything of the sort.
But he is showing you dominance at this point, and it will get worse if you don't stop it.
The trick to this, is to not ever let him think you are actually doing it, but rather he is doing it to himself. That is why it is imperative that you do not make any gestures, or say anything. Just a casual movement of hand or elbow.
This is going into the realm of "personal choice" now, but I don't like the method of letting them hurt themselves on you. This doesn't teach the horse respect, it just teaches him not to do it. This biting is a respect issue, and as such it should be dealt with actively rather than passively. The horse should be well aware that you don't like it, he should fear the wrath of his leader when he does bite, and he should think you will actually kill him and skin him and feed his entrails to the hounds if he does it again.
My 10 month old colt bit me on the arm so hard he either slightly fractured a bone in my forearm or bruised it horribly it took several weeks to heal. Ask me if he ever bit me again..... I made him think he barely escaped within an inch of his life. After that we worked on what MY space means. Never even offered to nip or bit again he learned I don't play that way.
Put either a drop noseband on him or a grazing muzzle.
I don't slap a horse when I get bit. I give them a right cross to the kisser, get in their face, yell at them and make them move. Generally only takes once and they don't try again (had one gelding that just "had" to try a couple times a year). Generally they give warnings before actually going for a bite, that's when I set them up for my routine.
I do know one who runs a stable and uses a nail (16 penny for ease of holding) and all the horses there are extremely polite. She always has the tip of that nail sticking out between a couple of fingers. When she goes for a horse I swear she looks like a sewing machine going all out.
As you can see, there are multiple ways to go about dealing with a horse that bites.
Whichever method you choose is right for you, you need to make sure you are doing it correctly. Doing any method incorrectly will only worsen the problem.
I personally smack my horses when they bite (and they've learned their lessons so biting attempts usually never happen anymore). However, it's more than just a slap on the wrist and oh please stop that pleeease now. You have to react to the bite within 3 seconds. If you do not, they will not correlate the punishment with the act.
99% of the time, you will see the signs of a bite before they happen, if you simply pay attention to your horse. Don't try to stop the bite. Allow the horse to make the mistake. That's how they learn.
So the very instant they went in for the bite, my arms are up, my body is "big", and I smack them hard on the nose with my hand or whatever I am holding at the moment, and they are getting yelled at. Basically, they're thinking they are about to die by my wrath. I am the leader, and you just got in trouble. (Think about what a stallion does to a horse in the herd that gets out of line. They'll get chased, or kicked, or romped on.)
This only lasts for about 2 seconds. (And remember, you have to reprimand your horse within 3 seconds, or they do not make the connection.) Then I go back to what I was doing before, and act like nothing ever happened.
As I said, my horses (when they come to me after purchasing) will try biting once, maybe twice, before they figure out that it isn't going to fly.
When you smack a horse on the face it instinctively puts its head in the air to avoid the impact so reduces the effect - in fact it becomes a learning thing with them - bite then throw head in the air
If I get a biter it gets hit really hard with a whip the first chance I get - the first bite is often a surprise thing and that will get a really hard punch on the neck or shoulders - after that I have a whip handy.
Once they know that there is a repercussion to biting a raised 'not happy' voice is usually enough
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