Scared of being bitten... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Scared of being bitten...

When I go to my lesson, our Instructor lets us groom our horses and give them luv before we tack up. But I'm terrified to go anywhere near a horse's head. I mean, I don't even like to touch the top of my horse's neck! Every time she turns her head, I jump back because I think she's going to lunge at me. I try to reach out and give her cheek a scratch, but she'll move her head, and I give up. I think this fear started because I was grooming a different horse, and he clacked his teeth when I tried to curry his neck, then again when I tried to clean his feet. Both of the horses are girthy, and the horse I ride lunged at me once when my Instructor was tightening her girth. However, I'm not scared at all if the horse has a bridle on (Noseband!) What can I do to stop this fear?! If I want a horse of my own, I want to be able to bridle him!
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post #2 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 01:32 PM
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Most of the time, like 99% of the time, horses will give a warning before they bite or kick. Well, the kicking can be so quick that a person might not see the warning. But, if you pay attention to the horse's attitude, you can tell if he is thinking about biting or not. If that is the case, then do something that interrupts that thinking.

So, if you are grooming, really watch your horse's ears and eyes, and her lips (see if they get tight or stay soft and loose). If while you groom around the hip, the horse's ears flick back, or the lips tighten, you know that something negative is going through the mare's mind, somethin you are doing feels bad or worries her. you could then , perhaps , groom a bit lighter there.

when you are grooming her neck, if she pins her ears, she is telling you it feels bad or she is worried about you putting the bit in, or she simply doesn't want to work (as a school horse might). If you need to do what you need to do, and you do, right? you let her know that she has to STOP that attitude. you can hiss at her, or growl at her, or say , "AH, [email protected]! Missy!", or you can slap your own thigh. Don't hit her unless she really gets obviously about to try biting you.
But, you do somthing that makes her break out of that thought of being irritated. Then , go right back to grooming with rythm.

You can also groom with one hand and keep the other hand slightly raised, ready to tap her in the jaw if she starts to swing her head over. she should know that she must keep her head facing forward when she is being groomed or tacked, and a quick tap of two fingers, kind of stiff like, will get her to put her head forward.

However, don't do all this if the horse is not actually showing you that she is thinking about biting you. You are probably imagining something that she is not even wanting to do. learnging to watch and read her body language will help a lot.
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post #3 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 02:59 PM
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Talk to the horse. Talk everything out. Say what the horse is doing ("Oh you are just looking at me. What are you looking at?") and say what you are doing. You can really hear your voice shake and it helps get control of your fear. If you are speaking and your voice is relaxed and confident, it will help. Same when you are riding. If you start to get tense, start talking. "I'm fine." sounds a lot better than "I-i-i'm fine, I think. Maybe. Uh." Be strong in voice. You don't have to be loud or all to hear. Just loud enough for you to hear, unless you need more sound.

They are smart living creatures. They speak with their facial expressions as much as we do. Practice in the mirror all the things you can say in the mirror without words. Horses are nowhere near as complex, but you can figure out their expressions. Watch closely. There are vast differences between "Ooh! A cookie!" alert, and "I might be afraid of that." alert. Get more comfortable learning how to read their language.

This does not go for every horse, but generally a nice lesson horse isn't going to haul off and bite for no reason. Usually if they are going to try, they will test you first and lip you. If you let them get away with that, it could progress to a nip. If he goes to bite when you cinch him up, let him run into your elbow. Don't hit him, but block. Use your voice again, too. As much as we need to learn what they are saying, communication goes both ways. They learn our language as well. Maybe not the exact words, but the tones yes. Be stern, and/or forceful when he threatens. "Heeey!" "Don't you do it!" "You know better!"

Their lips are nearly prehensile. They get a lot of info through touch.

Try feeding a handful of hay. You get about six inches to a foot of length between the mouth and your fingers. You can also see how they take the treat. Usually lips first. It will get you near the mouth at a pretty safe distance. They are not known to lunge aggressively at their hay. If you want put it in a bucket and watch. When I was little, I would stuff handfuls in the bars of the stalls. Lol.

As you get more comfortable, you will get better. Remember, you are there to learn to control the horse, not the other way around.
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Last edited by LadyDreamer; 04-13-2013 at 03:02 PM.
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post #4 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 10:40 PM
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I used to have that problem, too. You'll get more comfortable as you gain experience. I wouldn't think lesson horses would be real prone to biting or lunging. They should be docile.

Next time you're around the horse, just make yourself relax. Stand still and let him sniff you. You should be able to tell by his body language if he's agitated. Ear pinning almost always comes before a bite, so you at least have some warning. But like I said, lesson horses shouldn't have vices like that. If they're girthy, have your instructor help you until you're confident enough to tack up yourself.

Also, you want to have an assertive attitude around horses. They know when you're timid or defensive, and it doesn't take them long to figure out who they can bully. When you give off a don't-you-dare-push-me vibe, they're much more inclined to respect you. Took me forever to figure that out, but boy does it make a difference.

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is ultimately to be at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be.
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post #5 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 11:02 PM
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9 times out of 10, a fear like this (having not been actually bitten) is due to not knowing what to do in the event that it happens. Have you thought of asking your instructor to show you the signs that a horse is going to bite and how to react if they do?
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post #6 of 8 Old 04-13-2013, 11:25 PM
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Excellent advise that everyone else has given you especially the warning signs to look for, all I can add is to be confident because a horse can sense when you're nervous and will either feel nervous themselves or try and walk over you.

Just today I had to help a girl at my barn who was terrified of a lesson horse that she has never ridden before. The horse was testing her by physically pushing her around and even taking a few nips at her. The horse is super affectionate with me, so when I came over he knocked it off and instead was more interested in snuggling into me. It was kind of funny because the second I backed off and the girl resumed grooming he would start getting aggressive again, then I would come back and he would act like an oversized puppy dog with me.

I was telling the girl that she needs to first of all, don't be nervous around any horse but make sure they know who is in charge. If a horse takes a bite at you, give them a smack on the shoulder but never on the face! If the horse is pushing you around, then you should push them back. If you're tacking the horse up on cross ties, make sure they are tight enough where they can't throw their head back to bite. I've made the mistake of having loose cross ties with an insanely girth sensitive TB and ended up with a bloody head when she swung back and we bumped heads in a bad way.


Also make sure when you're doing up the girth that you're being as gentle as possible while talking to them. On the girth sensitive TB I ride, I like to hold the girth against her and then do it up one hole. Wait a little bit and then go up another hole, etc. On some horses you can go up several holes and they won't even flinch but on others you have to go slowly one up at a time or it'll hurt.

The hardest part isn't finding what we need to be, it's being content with who we are.
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post #7 of 8 Old 04-14-2013, 08:35 AM
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I don't think anyone mentioned it unless I missed it, but the teeth clacking is a sign of submission - not aggression.

I assume you are new to horses. Eventually you will learn to just go about your business and watch the horse out of the corner of your eye. Most of us that have horses a long time have eyes in the sides and back of our heads.

You do need to cure this before you get your own horse. When you shy away from their head like that you are conditioning them to move you away with their want to be the mover, not the movee...
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post #8 of 8 Old 04-14-2013, 08:51 AM
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My youngin Saro went through a biting phase. I started getting a little goofy about it so I put a feed bag on her. Ask your trainer if she has one. It helped my confidence more than anything. Just knowing she couldn't "connect"teeth to skin, was a comfort to me and a good lesson for her. She stopped biting immediately and I no longer have to use it.
If there is no feed bag see it they have a grazing muzzle. A feed bag is much softer though and my personal favorite.
I want to add that I tried EVERYTHING to stop her from being bitey. The feed bag did the trick in one day.

"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened..."
- Anatole France

Last edited by Vidaloco; 04-14-2013 at 08:53 AM.
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