Dealing with a biting horse! HELP!

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Shmon

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I've ridden a horse who gets 'nippy' - he's a sweet old guy, but he'll show his teeth when he's groomed on his belly or if you get too close to 'his' space. Sometimes he'll flap his lips at me, trying to get a taste of my shirt, but I just say NO very loudly and give him a shove to the neck to push his head away. If I'm grooming around his belly (or doing up his girth) and he tries to nip, I just stick my elbow out. He hit my elbow really hard with his teeth once, and he hasn't tried to nip at me since. If he shows his teeth for whatever reason, I just glare at him and growl loudly (and sometimes stick my elbow up near his face). He's really gotten the idea - hardly ever tries to bite me now. However, he still does the flappy-lip thing when I give him treats :)
 

Vina

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Thanks to everyone! I'm really thinking about your suggestions, they are really helpful! I see that there is basically a hitting and non-hitting group here, though, so I guess I have to figure out which view I follow.

I tend to think that I'm the non-hitting sort, as this is kinda why I posted in the first place. The owner wants us to whack his horse with a riding crop if she bites, and I guess I'm just not all that comfortable about it. I tried to do this with him present, and I just felt so terrible in striking her. I guess part of me was hoping to find another way to go.

chapsi, yes, I think it is partially a case of invading her space, as she has always been a little on the dominant side, and used to nip on occasions. It's only recently that it seems to be getting out of hand.

galadriel, no, I would definitely not change this horse's form of punishment without the go-ahead from the owner! However, I was hoping to find something to try other than hitting, as I am very uncomfortable with it. I was hoping to present him with some alternatives. The difficulty lies in getting EVERYONE to follow suit. I will never know if everybody is doing the same thing, thus resulting in mixed signals for this poor horse.

Princess, no, this horse has no dislikes of me that I'm aware of! She bites at everyone, even her owner. It was never a problem until about 3 weeks ago.

Which brings me to something very interesting that murphs said....YES! We have changed her routine. I was off for several weeks and the owner found another lady to ride this mare while I was gone. When I returned, THIS is when I became aware of the biting problem. I have mentioned to the owner that perhaps this is her way of saying that she doesn't like being worked (in particular, by this other lady, maybe? I had no problems in riding her!) However, if this lady is still brave enough to ride her, I'm willing to let her take my place, and, although I like this horse, I have been turned off from riding her at all as she is, well, getting scary, and I believe that it's only a matter of time until someone gets hurt. I have left the riding up to this lady, I guess in hoping that the problem will get sorted out once the mare gets more used to be worked. (PS> I was riding her twice a week, now she's being ridden almost every day).

I was riding her as a favour to the owner, in addition to taking riding lessons. But I have since decided to leave the riding to the other lady, as I like my body parts in the condition that they are in! LOL Plus I do not want to become involved in perhaps making the situation worse, since I am a novice rider myself.

I really appreciate all the helpful advice from everyone! Please keep them coming! And a few wishes that she turns back into the lovely horse that she used to be wouldn't hurt either! :) Thanks again!
 

Vina

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(Okay, if that last post of mine wasn't long enough, here's a couple of things I forgot to add to it)

Gracie, I have a hard time picturing how I could get close enough to whack her on the chest with my hand, since she snakes her head out and my arm just isn't that long. I think I would be putting my face and upper body in the danger zone in order to get that much of a reach. I believe this is probably why the owner uses a riding crop (either at her shoulder or chest). And, again, I just can't get past the thought that I can maybe get the idea into her head not to bite without resorting to any agressiveness of my own.

I think I might try the suggestion of raising my arms and making a noisy fuss, with the owner's approval, of course. Maybe I'll print up this topic for him to read, and get his opinion, too!

She is regularly checked over by the vet and there doesn't seem to be any problems in that department. I'm still thinking it has to do with the workout she's getting. Perhaps it is too intense? BTW, I believe she is 3, almost 4, so very young. Is this maybe too much riding all at once?

Thanks again!
 

Laetitia

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Vina, in my humble opion I think you have hit the nail on the head, you are dealing with a baby here and sounds as though she is getting overfaced and confused, Especially as she has changed riders , routines etc. Awfully difficult if its not your horse, personally I'd tell the owner she is asking too much from this baby and if she persists in having the horse punished perhaps she'd like to ride it herself ! L
 

Gracie

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I think waving your hands in its space is a good idea to some extent.... That may get the message across but I think you must be careful not to do this in the horses face, because then you'll be dealing with head shy. When my mare used to bite me, I was able to smack in her in the chest, But then was when I was grooming her and I don't know if this is happening in her stall or what! I don't recommend hitting her with a crop, thats a bit harsher (*in my opinion!). But if by all means you feel unsafe, then don't hit her! How much work is she getting down? MY horse is a little over three and a half and she gets worked 3-4 times a week! Its actually important to do short sessions with young horses daily given them two days off. Kind of like school. But it could also depend whats being done with the horse!

Anyways, I'm just telling that it has worked for me. I'm not saying it will work for everyone.
 

Vina

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I could be wrong about this, but the other rider made comments about how she "goes better after the first half hour" and another reference was made to being ridden out for around an hour or so. This lady rides her pretty much every day, with perhaps a day off a week.

I was riding her for a half hour at a time, figuring that this was enough since she was young and I didn't want her to get 'soured' on working. I was taking her out 2 or 3 times a week.

I've decided not to ride her anymore, until I see if the other rider can settle her down or whether this is part of the problem. I think it will be easier to figure out with just one rider, rather than her getting mixed signals.

I'll keep everyone informed as to how it turns out!
 

Vina

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Gracie, actually, I am more concerned about waving my hands up in the air and thereby leaving my face open to attack! :( No kidding!

But I would not wave them in her face; I was thinking more up and out, to appear larger and somewhat startling (accompanied by a loud shout). Someone mentioned that this makes you look dominant, as if you are ready and willing to be the boss, and won't take any...er...poop. ;)
 

virtuallyhorses

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I think the variation in replies and solutions says much for the variation in horses and reasons for biting and I see that as a good thing -we're all obviously considering the nature of the bite, the horse's personality and the appropriateness of our 'punishiment' to the 'crime'.

I have smacked my horse on the nose for a bite and it was effective. However, after any smack (or warning), anywhere, I always provide a friendly rub a short while afterward. This makes sure there is a definate No! that last action was not acceptable, but its important that you return to friendly actions as if nothing has happenned after he's got the message - like horses, don't hold a grudge and don't be defensive if its not warranted. I disagree that horse's don't understand smacks - its our best approximation of a kick, but we need to use it like that - clear warnings first and then kick only when necessary.

However I do NOT smack for an attempted bite, or a bite toward the girth that indicates I'm either being overenthusiastic or that he's a little sore there somewhere. I don't even do this on the first 'air nip'.

I have to say here my horse is not a biter, he is very mouthy though and we simply communicate the limits of my acceptance - a nuzzle or some mutual grooming is allowed,don't forget that mouthing and licking are quite submissive 'baby' behaviours, but I'd better not feel any teeth pressure (that would be an instance when a smack would NOT be appropriate but I would shrug him off or warn him in some way if its getting too near a bite)

My usual reaction to an air nip is a sharp word and\or a stamp of my foot - I think I usually throw my head back and look directly at his eyes too but these actions are instinctive . I don't really think about it - basically I'm trying to warn him with body language and try to mirror the severity of the 'nip', there's no use going over the top for a vague air nip miles away from your body, but it should get some sort of reaction - usually an 'oi!' in a low voice.

I like the pinch idea but I'm not fast enough and I think any punishment has to be really fast or they don't know what its for. I should also say I think I have only smacked him on the nose 3 times in 9mths (and I can't honestly say these were not harsh smacks - more attention getters that I had to do them at all than causing any pain)

I think you can tell from the horse's reaction whether they feel they've been unfairly treated or not - mine's usually mildly shocked and then appologetic, quite obviously aware that he's crossed the line. He is not in any way shape or form headshy and after the initial head-in-the-air defensive reaction it tends to come straight back at me for the apology nuzzle\head pat (this time with mouth firmly shut and ears clearly forward)
 
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virtuallyhorses

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Head shy means that the horse is afraid of having its head touched - often more so around the ears and eyes but it can also just be a reaction to being hit or badly handled around the head. A head shy horse can be hard to halter, lead and bridle.

Mine likes a good hard rub around the ears - more like a dog than a horse and also enjoys having a good whole face scrub and occassionally likes to just drop his whole head into my chest and arms for a hug - I suspect he isn't head shy :D ;)

- although god forbid, that you should put water near his head without the appropriate courtesies first :rolleyes: :D
 

Gracie

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ok I've looked up some valuable information!
Horses bite naturally (Like with other horses due to)
*Defense, offense, love making and social chit chat.
Horses can bite humans for the above reasons.

Ways to discourage:
Yelling loudly and suddenly. Horses have sentitave ears. Most horses recognize the crime and the best thing about yelling is its quick and effective.

You can also use your elbow. Wear denim, when the horse turns to bite you stick your elbow out and it will hit your elbow, the horse will punish it self! (*This sounds kind of dangerous! I don't know if it would work!)

All sources are from "There is no problem horses, only problem riders!" Great book by the way!
 

alexa

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My horse bites, really bites hard and is VERY quick, but only when being groomed - he hates to be touched with anything on his body. He did this when I got him and after many years still does it. I had thought with kindness and never being hit he would stop but that is not the case. Since it is extremely painful I have the lead rope to his headcollar though a ring and hold the end so I feel when he lunges sideways and can tighten the rope. There is no issue in or out of his box at other times. I have not found any solution so I just am very careful now.
 

galadriel

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One of my mares has sensitive skin; hates to be brushed with ANYthing, no matter how soft. I typically hose her to get her mostly clean if I can (but cold weather, brrr). If she is reasonably clean, I rub her with a towel--she LOVES that.
 

virtuallyhorses

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just something to consider when reading posts :)

Had a thought after posting in this discussion- its off on a bit of a tangent ...so please bear with me

Its the problem of language and the emotional values we apply to certain words, something that is even harder in topics like this where the words are written down and interpreted later.

I'm thinking specifically hit, smack, whack etc have very negative perhaps even violent connotations, whereas pat is always interpreted as good. Yet I have seen people 'pat' their horses much harder than I have ever 'whacked' my horse - does the horse know the difference? or to a horse is a hit a hit?
 

galadriel

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I "pat" my horse pretty hard when we're doing something enthusiastic (like cross country)--with lots of "good girl!"'s.

She would never stand for being hit, and gets jumpy about just being touched sometimes. I am pretty sure she interprets "patting" for what it is.

Hehe...my husband, while watching xc with me, asked, "The horse did a great job. Why is s/he hitting it?" (My Badminton '96 tape; I need more in my collection!)
 

K&K

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Re: just something to consider when reading posts :)

Originally posted by virtuallyhorses
Yet I have seen people 'pat' their horses much harder than I have ever 'whacked' my horse - does the horse know the difference? or to a horse is a hit a hit?

I reward my horse with a rub instead of a pat for just that reason. She bites occasionally and sometimes I do have to give her a little whack to discourage it. However if I also gave her a whack when she's good, how will she know the difference? That's why for my horse, a reward is a rub and a whack (or pat) is discipline.
 

chapsi

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Alexa,

If grooming and touching is what gets your horse turn nasty, have you consider applying Linda Tellington-Jones massage for horses? I recommend the book "consider your horse's well-being"
 

Vina

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vh, well...this goes way beyond 'vague air nips'...this is more like 'shoot my head out at the speed of light and take out a chunk of arm if I can manage it' kind of biting.

I agree with you, though, about how some people 'pat' their horses so roughly (always accompanied by a loud smacking noise) that it almost seems like a whack for disobedience. I was never into patting horses like that. I prefer to scratch them or pat softly. I always feel that when an owner does that, it seems almost like a show-offy type thing, more for the benefit of the people watching, than for the horse (I hope no one thinks I'm bashing them for doing that, it's just the thought that pops into my mind when they do it).
 

galadriel

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Noooo, nooo, when you and the horse are so *focused* on something (like xc), the horse won't even feel a gentle stroke. No way. I tend to pat vigorously and mostly scrub along the crest (rather than repeated smacks), but really, a gentle pat or a light stroke is not even going to register on a horse who's really, really focused and VERY enthusiastic.
 
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