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Brumby 02-16-2009 06:29 PM

Biting and rubbing
I have two questions. The first is about horses rubbing on you. I know that some people allow it, but I have witnessed first hand how it developed bad habits. So what is the natural horsemanship way to correct it? The second is what is the natural horsemanship way to correct a young horse with biting habits. The way I have heard to correct is to bop them on the mouth when they bite at you. What do you suggest. Thank-you.

Spirithorse 02-16-2009 08:12 PM

For the rubbing, I let my horses do it. He gives me so much, so I give back to him. I really see nothing wrong with it. But because I've been a good student of horsemanship, the horse already respects my space and respects me, so it's a non-issue. That's the key. If for some reason the horse does get a little rough, I simply ask him to back up or I'll use my nails to scratch him.

For biting, first I need to figure out why the horse is biting. Is it out of fear or dominance. Depending on which it is, will determine the strategy I use. If it's fear based, then I will do everything I can to prove to the horse that I am not a threat...I'll retreat more than I will approach and I will work on the relationship and watch for his thresholds. For dominance, I first work on getting the horse out of my space and respecting it. How many ways can I back the horse out? Does the horse respect it? So then I work more close-range, getting him to yield to and from pressure. I watch for signs that a bite might be coming...and I interrupt the thought immediately before it gets any further. I do this by backing him up or sending him out and asking him to move his feet. If the horse tries to bite because he is sensitive around an area then I respect that, I don't punish him for feedback, because that is what a bite is. Remember, a horse WILL NOT bite the alpha.

Summer08 02-23-2009 09:24 PM

Spirithorse has some great suggestions on correcting those behaviors. Keep in mind though, that the rubbing and biting/nipping might be the same behavior. I'm training a colt right now and it is for him. If you've ever watched two horses groom each other that is exactly what they do to each other, rub heads and necks for the big general spots, and then use their lips and teeth in small nips to get the really itchy spots. In the herd, its a sign of comfort and affection to groom each other. A horse won't realize you have much softer skin and much worse balance unless you tell them. So if the ears are up and your horse doesn't seem to be displaying fear or aggression, he could be trying to give you those great itchings he loves so much.... Then again if he's knocking you off oyur feet, he may be seeing how much of a jerk he can get away with being. :wink:

Dumas'_Grrrl 02-25-2009 10:26 AM

I completely agree with Summer.

Biting can sometimes be solved by rubbing the horses muzzle not hard but in an uncomfortable fashion...think of taking both hands and rubbing a small dog on both sides of his head at the same time and speaking in that gushy voice "your such a goooood boy" where it makes both ears flop back and forth but you're not hurting them. Horse's muzzles are really sensitive and it won't take more than a couple seconds for him to pull his nose out of your hands. (be careful here, i'm having a hard time typing what I mean... I wish you could see my hands :lol:)

Some horses do bite out of dominance...that needs dealt with through respect.

The rubbing is something that I have never really liked, usually I end up being rubbed when I'm in good clothes and just out there checking on the horses before I have to leave for somewhere... I hate having to go back in and change because of horse boogers and dirt.

As already said, it could be love or it could be dominance too... figure out which and go from there. When it's love, I just push the horse off me and say no.

ThePaintedHorseman 03-03-2009 10:19 AM

A Horse should not invade personal space
You should not allow your horse to rub on you. A horse should not invade your personal space. First of all its a safety issue. A horse can come up to you meaning no harm or aggression, and hurt you just because they're so much bigger than we are. That has happened to me, once I was petting my horse and his head came up and clocked me in the jaw.

Second that's a subtle way horses show dominance. The leader in the relationship (which should be you) can invade the personal space of the other party, but not vice versa. So a horse should stay out of your personal space. If you choose to go in and pet your horse or rub on him, that's perfectly fine. But he should not be rubbing on you.

This is a subtle clue many people miss. The small things add up-think about it-a horse that respects your personal space is less likely to buck you off than a horse that is pushy, rubbing on you etc.

So its a good idea to set the ground rules early-you can enter your horse's space and pet him, but he can't come in and rub on you without you're asking.


Spirithorse 03-03-2009 11:23 AM

I'll have to slightly disagree. I mean yes, rubbing CAN be a sign of dominance IF the horse doesn't respect you already. But if your horse respects you and you INVITE him in to your space I see no problem with letting them rub on you. Like with my horse, he respects my space wonderfully and I let him rub on me. He doesn't get pushy at all. If a horse does get a little excited I'll either say "All done" or I'll back them up and rub them myself.

MaieuticManege 03-09-2009 09:14 PM

What I do is treat him like the other horses would. My boy started getting nippy because he wanted carrots so when he did bite I'd give him a smart hit so he knew he wasn't supposed to do it. I even made him stand away from me while I held a carrot and whenever he got closer I'd make him back up. (yes, treats are bad and I don't recommend it, someone, not myself, was feeding him carrots and I had to throw a lesson in there).

For rubbing, usually I just push them away with my body or my elbow. Not only is it uncomfortable when they are sweaty and dirty, but it can be dangerous. To them I should be the head mare and they should treat me as such.

Calamity Jane 03-16-2009 10:34 PM


Originally Posted by Brumby (Post 252484)
I have two questions. The first is about horses rubbing on you. I know that some people allow it, but I have witnessed first hand how it developed bad habits. So what is the natural horsemanship way to correct it?

A horse that rubs on you, can do so because he's standing with his head very close to you. If he wasn't so close, he couldn't rub on you, right? So, if you prevent it from happening, it won't happen. Prevention is the best thing, then you have nothing to correct. So, in other words, simply don't allow your horse in your space. If he steps toward you, back him up that many steps. Not to punish, but to simply tell him, "if you step toward me, there is pressure to back up. If you stay put at a certain distance, there is no pressure to do anything." Your horse will then choose to stay put rather than to come in toward you.

If you want to give your horse's head a hug, or you want to be close enough to scratch his face, then invite him to step forward, but you can't just let him make that decision. That's the important part. If you do, you invite him to rub on you. If you are inviting him in, then you're in charge, so to speak. Your horse can tell the difference.

Anyhow, you can then rub his face all you want. But at any time, if he becomes pushy about it, then immediately back him up and try again. Invite him in and rub his face. He'll learn that if he initiates the rubbing and gets carried away, he will be moved. If he remains calm and doesn't get pushy, he gets the attention he wants.

If you're consistent, he'll understand the difference.


The second is what is the natural horsemanship way to correct a young horse with biting habits. The way I have heard to correct is to bop them on the mouth when they bite at you. What do you suggest. Thank-you.
Biting is just another way for the horse to move your feet. And the way horses interact: the dominant horse moves the submissive horse's feet. So, if your horse bites you, then he's trying to move your feet. And if you move your feet, take the time to look and rub your wound and then smack him in the mouth, you waited way too long for him to connect the smack with the bite and makes that approach pointless.

Also, some horses get smacked often and not in a way that gets rid of the biting that it can actually turn into a game (ever seen 2 horses play biting at each other?)

So, if your horse is nippy, then the same thing applies as did when you asked about a horse that rubs against you: If the horse can reach you he can bite you.

Don't give him the chance to bite you. Keep him out of your circle at all times, unless you invite him in. Don't let him step in toward you unless you ask him to. And when you do, hug his head a lot, rub his face in a good way. Because another reason why horses bite is because they are bored and want attention, so give the horse attention before he asks for it by rubbing his face in a good way and hugging his head.

If the horse is nippy, back him up or if he's nippy while you're working with him on the ground, he's telling you he's not being worked enough and has time to think of other things. So, I'd ask that horse, "can you think about being nippy and move your feet faster?" (not in punishment)

If the horse is nippy and you can't move him and you can't move out of the way, then grab his upper lip and massage it aggressively. Like you're kneading dough. You're not trying to hurt him, you are trying to be annoying. A lot of times though, when people use this way, they're too wimpy about it and so it never works. the point is, make it the horse's idea to pull his head away from you. And when he does, leave him alone.

This way, he learns if he brings his mouth near you he's going to get his upper lip grabbed and kneaded like dough, if he doesn't bring his mouth toward you (to bite or nip) then you will leave him alone.

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