Help ! Biting colt ! - The Horse Forum
  • 4 Post By LoonWatcher
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post #1 of 9 Old 05-14-2019, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Help ! Biting colt !

ok so I have an 11 week old orphan foal - all has gone beautifully - he is big likely Belgian cross HE WILL NOT STOP BITING ! Have tried kindness and redirection, have tried a good smack and he turns it into a game ! He is so bad he grabs the lead line unrelentlessly when I am trying to teach him to lead. Have even tried a little squirt gun ! OMG I am far from new with horses ! I have also raised several babies - never an orphan tho - I have never ever seen one sooooo bad ! He bites relentlessly not only people but anything he can get his teeth into. He is so busy biting that he can't get calm enough to deal with. Much of the unrelentless biting is with a lead rope on !
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post #2 of 9 Old 05-14-2019, 07:34 PM
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First, I'd get rid of the "he's so bad" mentality; horses aren't "bad." Horses act based on previous learned experience based on what has worked or some other medical/physical problem.

Eleven-weeks-old (two months) is still a baby and many babies tend to be a little mouthy and/or bite-y. I'm not saying I condone it, but rather it is "common" until taught otherwise. It's similar how many human babies put everything in their mouth; it's how both human and horse babies explore their new world. With his age being a factor, babies tend to have shorter attention spans. When you are messing with him, try keeping the sessions short and sweet. Don't expect too much too soon; let a horse be a horse.

How are you teaching him to lead? Does he know how to lead? How are you leading him? If you are simply trying to pull him along, he probably doesn't like that or possibly doesn't understand and will bite the lead rope in protest. I know a lot of horses (even adults) who try to bite the lead rope if they are being pulled along and/or are confused.

Is he actually biting people with his teeth or just licking and nibbling a little? I know many people would correct both, but they are two different things and should be handled differently. I'd highly discourage the biting of people, but try to be a little more sensitive when he plays with the rope or other non-sentient things. I know not all, but some horses do naturally grow out of the overly-mouthy stage.

Is he turned out? If not, can you turn him out? If so, is he turned out with other horses or a companion? If he is constantly in a stall or turned out completely alone, he may be bored. You trying to teach him is probably the only fun and/or different stimulus for him, which is why he could think it's a game. (Actually, even some adult horses play with the lead rope when they bored, not just foals.) Anyway, if he is turned out with an older, more experience horse, they could help teach him a little respect.

Another thing you have to do it reward the good. When he is behaving himself, do something nice to/for him, such as scratching his butt (if he likes that sort of thing) or simply leaving him alone (if he isn't a people-horse).

If he is bored, you could try getting durable, bite-able horse toys, such as jolly-balls. I know some foals (and adults) get an absolute kick out of those.

I do not mean to over-generalize, but some people (not saying you are one of them) tend to be over-sensitive with their orphaned foal. That "oh, the poor little baby has no parents and I had to save it" mentality - one they hold on to for the longest time. What may seem like a "good smack" to you, he sees it as playing. I understand young horses are more playful than other older horses, but if he thinks you are just playing around after you smack him, then your correction wasn't good enough - wasn't clear enough. I'm not saying to beat his butt after he bites, but you need to make it without a doubt, to-no-uncertain-terms clear that biting humans is not unacceptable and not the right answer. You also have to be consistent.

Here is a video of a (mother) mare correcting her foal around the 0:23 mark. Her little colt has absolutely no confusion about whether or not if she is playing around; he got the message loud and clear the first time.

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." - Confucius

Last edited by LoonWatcher; 05-14-2019 at 07:53 PM. Reason: Grammar. Adding.
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-14-2019, 07:56 PM
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What's his living situation? Friends to hang out with? I'm guessing wasn't adopted? So has he been alone the whole time?
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-14-2019, 11:18 PM
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Using a squirt gun with water might create a bigger problem with getting squirted with a water hose for bathing and spraying on fly spray and such . young foals are like teething human babies they like to chew on teething rings and such to help relieve teething pain.

A mare will gently use her teeth to nibble on the withers of her foal to calm it down when the foal is upset or nervous Use your fingers and thumb to imitate this. You of course can use more muscle to do this because your fingers are not going to remove hair or skin.

If you are not keeping him for stud. Geld him as soon as the vet says both testicles have dropped.

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post #5 of 9 Old 05-15-2019, 02:19 AM
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He needs to be with another horse, mare or gelding that is going to be a companion and a disciplinarian.

The toughest part about raising an orphan is to get the right amount of discipline into them, hitting them and squirting is not going to work at this age.

If he nips a human I would pinch the skin on his neck and twist as a mare would if he bit her.
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post #6 of 9 Old 05-15-2019, 03:04 AM
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Please! this is a real baby. he will grow out of this. I promise.

please reconsider your expectations to match his age. He is not even 3 months old, so please don't expect him to be more than the wee baby he is.

ETA: notice how that wee foal 'clacks' his teeth to signify that he is still small and vulnerable, and no threat?
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post #7 of 9 Old 05-15-2019, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by LoonWatcher View Post
Here is a video of a (mother) mare correcting her foal around the 0:23 mark. Her little colt has absolutely no confusion about whether or not if she is playing around; he got the message loud and clear the first time.
I did that once. I played with a little filly, and she kicked me in the leg. Naturally, being so little, she barely made contact. Still, as she moved away, I also kicked her in her little tush - making sure it was more of a symbolic gesture than an actual kick. It surprised her, but she came right back to me, and I gave her a scratch.

Keep in mind, though: that was not an orphan, so mom (who stood nearby) more likely than not already "explained" to her the concept of inappropriate behavior. I don't think a human can teach a horse all that horse needs to know to be successful in life. Living among other horses for most of his waking hours would be essential.

I would strictly differentiate between "biting" and "chewing on". "Biting" requires a disciplinary correction, "chewing on" merely discouragement.
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post #8 of 9 Old 05-15-2019, 09:52 AM
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Leppy colts are difficult. I’ve been warned against them forever, but I have seen a few that turned out nice.

@Foxhunter has the key I think, which is to put him in with an old gelding or mare. Someone to discipline him and teach him he is a horse is important.

We had one when I was a girl, and I remember the rule was not to play with him (but my family likes a touchier type of animal), and he never gave him a bottle from his hand. There was a bucket with a nipple that he filled for the colt.
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Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaams Donkey
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post #9 of 9 Old 05-15-2019, 10:59 AM
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I have raised many foals, with and without a mom's help, and there are a few things that they just HAVE to have.

One is stuff to chew on. If they can't chew on a Jolly Ball, Lead Rope, big dog chew toy, they are going to chew on you. The foal goes after the mares udder pretty relentlessly when he's nursing, until she lets him know that teeth and force are not acceptable.

Second, and this is the hardest thing for most humans, is someone who can explain things to him very clearly and with the force needed to let him know, "NO, NOT acceptable". The video above is excellent. You can see she let him kick her, then warned with the "mare face", turned her hindquarters to him a few times to get him to simmer down and when he proved oblivious, she tapped him quickly and firmly with her hoof. She didn't kick him across the pen, she didn't kick him somewhere he'd be likely to break bones, she gave him a good solid BOP with one hoof in his butt. And then she kept her hindquarters to him in a clear, "Keep out of my space" message which is akin to a human child being put in a corner.

I don't correct young foals for putting their mouths on me, as long as it's not a hard bite. They can lip, tongue, and nibble all they want. They don't have hands so can't pick things up to explore them, they have to use their mouths. So unless he's really going after you, let him explore. At some point he'll get carried away and give you a good nip, and then is when it's time to correct him.

He needs to have hay or grass pasture that he can chew on 24/7. He's also ready to start eating a foal ration and should be encouraged. You can put his milk in a bucket, and he's old enough to start weaning off the liquid and to put on Foal Lac pellets which are also a milk replacer, just not liquid. If you're still doing a bottle, stop.

If you can possibly put him with an older gelding or a mare who will 'explain the facts of horsey life' to him, that's you absolute very best option.
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biting problem , colt , foal , orphan

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