Horrible biting epidemic, I think I need help!
Cinny has NEVER been a biter, ever. This is what I know from his previous owner and my own experience. I also NEVER hand feed him, nor do I let my kids or anybody else hand feed him treats. But a few weeks ago, out of nowhere, he is now biting people on a daily basis. And I mean MEAN biting, ears pinned and leaving huge welts, bruises and even drawing blood!!!
A few other horses at my stable who were not previously biters have also picked up the habit the past week or so. About 5 in total so far, which is 1/4 of the horses boarded there who were not previous biters. Somebody said they have seen a lady coming through and feeding treats but I have never seen this myself. It is also rumored that it's the BO's friend that sometimes stays with him but I have not seen him lately to confirm this.
So far we have all notified the barn owner that our horses are now biters. Cinny now has a BIG sign on his stall that says he bites and not to hand feed him in bright red letters and put up with zebra duck tape...you can't miss it as it stands out like a sore thumb.
Now the work begins, I get to try to break him of his habit. So far myself and my daughter have given him a good smack on the lower neck (above the shoulder) when he does it, and I have even tried my old trick of biting him back on his upper lip but it doesn't seem to phase him at all. What are some of your tried and true ways of breaking biting? I really don't like hitting on the head/face as I don't want to make him head shy.
I agree, a little smack is not going to stop him for long. You need to be REALLY aggressive with him, make him believe you're going to devour him whole. Get him out on a lead rope first of all, and hopefully you can see the bite coming and notice when he pins his ears or starts to give you a dirty look. Jerk the lead a number of times really hard, back him up aggressively a long ways and make him yield over away from you (his shoulders or butt or something). Then, go back to what you were doing before like nothing ever happened. I did this when one of my mares bit me hard a couple years ago, and she's never bit or nipped or anything since. I think she felt lucky to have survived the experience :lol: That's what I'd do. I'm sure there's more advice coming.
Some horses get very aggressive when you try to be aggressive toward them. There is a horse at my barn that has this problem, and they tried to forcefully break the habit but it got worse. They now leave a little squirt bottle full of water on her stall and squirt her in the nose whenever she bites. She HATES it and there is really a huge difference, no more biting!
My colt nipped me the other day after a work out. I was teaching him voice cues and had been praising/stroking him for being such a good boy. As I was scratching his neck, I guess he felt it was an appropriate time to 'groom' me and he pinched a bit of skin. Not enough to break skin, but enough to bruise.
Immediately, I smacked his shoulder, puffed myself up and approached him aggressively. Then I pushed him into a fast trot and made him do a couple extra laps until he dropped his head and started licking and chewing. I invited him back and he gently nudged his nose into my ribs where he had nipped me. He was very calm and subdued the rest of the evening.
I'll find out how effective this punishment was in the next few days.
I feel that horse that bite out of no where do it because, either they are in pain, their bored, or they want attention. I hand feed all the horse I ride, and none of them are bitters. So I don't see hand feeding leading to biting.
I would suggest rule out back pain issues..or any other health related factors. Make sure he is getting enough turn out and exercise. And if all of that is OK, then if he tries to bite, smack him on the shoulder one time. Tell him No, then go about your business. And usually biting them back doesn't work, it just gets dirt and hair in your mouth.
I know a horse that is nippy, and he bites for attention, if you ignore him he eventually stops trying to nip.
But I really found that exercise helps them to stop biting.
You know.....I would worry if a number of horses are picking this up at the same time. It smacks me as defensive behavior due to possible mistreatment at SOMEONE'S hands. Are there any new workers at the farm? One that has access to all the horses developing the problems?
A barn I taught a clinic at in Colorado, had a similar occurrence. When I raised this concern, they quickly discovered a new person who was turning horses out had been REALLY abusing the horses if they even looked sideways at him. He was fired and the horses had a lengthy rehab in front of them.
Young horses get a open palm smack on the muzzle with a firm QUIT. I rarely have to do it more than twice.
With an adult horse, the open palm smack doesn't pack the same meaning. I typically use a fist and aim for the mouth - with the same QUIT. If they are trying while I am cinching, it's an elbow for them to run in to.
My concern though is a horse might nip for treats but this sounds a whole lot more like they are being antagonized. Biting is not a behavior a horse picks up from a buddy in a normal environment.
I do not think hand feeding causes biting! I've been doing it for years and my horses are very polite.
I think people get confused about a horse that accidentially nips your skin when getting a treat and actually biting. Biting has aggressive intent (which it sounds like what is going on in this case) and nipping your palm or finger when taking a treat is an accident with a horse that doesn't know how to take food from your hand.
My friends and I all hand feed treats. I would be kind of a sad situation if we had to treat our horses with such kid gloves that we couldn't do that.
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