Why does my horse clack her teeth and fidget when I groom her?

Penny4thot

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Oct 19, 2019
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Hi, I have a new 6 yr old mare Ella, who is super sweet, she literally lowers her head and stretches it out for me to scratch her head. but she clacks her teeth and fidgets when I groom her body. I'm fairly new, Ella is my second horse and my long time partner, Sophie who I lost to cancer last year, also a mare Never did this. so I'm not sure if this behaviour is because she really really likes it or I am hurting her. She Clacks her teeth and then reaches her head toward me and moves away, sometimes pawing the ground. I've tried cross tieing her, softer brushes and gentler strokes with the same responses. Could it be boredom? How do I stop the pawing and fidgeting? And should I be concerned about the teeth clacking? Thank you in advance for any insight on this.
 

carthorse

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I'd say that you've got a horse that doesn't like being groomed. Some just don't, no real reason they just don't like it. Keep sessions to a minimum and maybe try giving her a haynet to take her mind off being groomed. Keep experimenting with different brushes etc, it may be you'll find something she at least tolerates. Mine isn't a big fan of grooming either, with him I've found a Lincoln Ultimate Groomer is tolerated as long as I use it gently, followed by a quick polish with a goat hair body brush and he always has a haynet though I don't tie up. I do get a wriggle on and get it done as quickly as possible, and use either too firmly and he moves away and doesn't want me past his head again until I've put the offending bit of kit away.

If it's grooming anywhere on her body I wouldn't worry about it, just find a way around it that works for both of you.
 
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chunky monkey

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My youngster is okay being groomed but if you hold your hand or say touch with your finger he will flinch as though trying to get a fly off. Hes really sensitive like that and will move away to get away from you. It sounds like your is over sensitive. Have you tried using a shedding blade. I find you can cover more body in long strokes rather than a brush. What does she do if you use your hand like a brush. If she likes that then maybe a grooming mitt might be an option.
I find neither of my two like there heads brushed but love having behind there ears scratched. Mine will lean into it. I would say yours is probably showing an affection. For some a nice scratch will often get there lip quivering.
 
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newforest

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Are they different in season. I only ask as mine goes through a phase of nipping if she's having a particularly bad one.

I have a plastic curry for flicking of the mud as anything else will remove oils and it's not that nice I shouldn't think in the clipped parts.
I also just use my hand and mud drops of.

They can be funny though. I decided one day to use a towel to rub the sweaty bits, that resulted in a loud squeal and buck. Obviously not to madams taste then.
 
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Jessey

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To me teeth clacking (without other aggressive body language) is what young horses do to show they are submissive to older horses, generally only seen in foals and youngsters when they feel threatened but perhaps your mare has gone back to this as she's feeling a bit insecure in her new home. How long have you had her?
I'd probably spend time just hanging out with her, not doing anything just being there, let her explore you, sniffing and touching. Then when she relaxes with you, with your hands, slowly work out where she likes scratches, starting in the places other horses would scratch. As you progress be very mindful to be very relaxed around her and keep your body language very passive, and don't rush around her.
 

Trewsers

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Could be that she's tender depending on where you're brushing. Could just be she's saying "no thanks not today" to being groomed. One of my mares hates being groomed and though a beautiful and kind creature most of the time, she'll point at the brush with her head and will tail swish if you persist. Zi (gelding) does not always like being brushed where the girth sits - but that's not each time. Hmm. Sorry not much help !!!
I get teeth clacking (love the word clacking lol ) from Storm lots of the time, it's mainly not directed at me, but at any horse that happens to be passing by her stable!
 
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Huggy

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This is new to me! Never had it, though Hogan swings about if I take too long grooming, but teeth clacking? Not a clue!
 
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Cortrasna

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I am not entirely sure what you mean by teeth clacking- I have had a couple of yearlings do this when first being handled and groomed etc and it is very much the nervous and unsure submissive reaction seen in the wild to show an older horse their acceptance of a lowly position on the herd dynamics but once they got used to the grooming and day to day handling it very quickly disappeared.
My brother had a hand reared foal that he had bred that did this for most of her life when she was stressed in any way. I guess the hand rearing altered the usual emotional and independent growth pattern because of the human interaction and no mammy to show the way. I would think perhaps your relatively new horse is feeling a little unsure and unsettled and for whatever reason is using this behavior to express that to you?

Probably not helpful or accurate but my take on it anyway! :rolleyes::D
 

Huggy

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I'm really glad to hear others have grumpy horse behaviours! It does sound like the teeth clacking is an irritated response, but I struggle to picture it. In answer to what you can do about it, my boy doesn't really enjoy grooming, feet picking, or basically any kind of interference with his body! At first he swung himself around, trying to intimidate with his bulk,(a bit like yours clacking and swinging her head at you). Unless you find a specific thing, like pain, is causing it, I'd persevere, and calmly keep grooming, until she knows it's not going to make you stop. I've had to do this with Hogan, and he now tolerates the necessities, with the very occasional disagreement, but when told to stand, and I carry on, he's become resigned to it. Good luck!
 

Jessey

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There is 2 takes on 'teeth clacking' in the responses here, I think OP needs to clarify what other behavior comes with it, if it is 'biting the air' with other grumpy behaviours like ears back, 'snarling' at you (you know, like grumpy mare face ;) ), tail swishing or if it is just the mouthing with head and neck stretched towards and uncomfortable fidgeting which I would interpret as a submissive action, there's an example of this here
 

Cortrasna

Grumpy old nag
Aug 5, 2009
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There is 2 takes on 'teeth clacking' in the responses here, I think OP needs to clarify what other behavior comes with it, if it is 'biting the air' with other grumpy behaviours like ears back, 'snarling' at you (you know, like grumpy mare face ;) ), tail swishing or if it is just the mouthing with head and neck stretched towards and uncomfortable fidgeting which I would interpret as a submissive action, there's an example of this here

Yes that video clip is my interpretation of teeth clacking too. :)
 
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Penny4thot

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Oct 19, 2019
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Do you mean clacking teeth as in what a foal does to appease older horses? Or is she being aggressive?
it doesn't seem aggressive at all. Her lips do quiver and it's more like teeth grinding and not like a foal clacking, at least not from what I watched on a video of clacking.
 

Penny4thot

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Yes that video clip is my interpretation of teeth clacking too. :)
it doesn't look like clacking in the video. Her ears are forward or listening to me talk to her. And she's not threatening to bite or kick. Just wants to rub her head against me. Could it be she likes it too much?? Or boredom.
 
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Penny4thot

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Oct 19, 2019
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I'd say that you've got a horse that doesn't like being groomed. Some just don't, no real reason they just don't like it. Keep sessions to a minimum and maybe try giving her a haynet to take her mind off being groomed. Keep experimenting with different brushes etc, it may be you'll find something she at least tolerates. Mine isn't a big fan of grooming either, with him I've found a Lincoln Ultimate Groomer is tolerated as long as I use it gently, followed by a quick polish with a goat hair body brush and he always has a haynet though I don't tie up. I do get a wriggle on and get it done as quickly as possible, and use either too firmly and he moves away and doesn't want me past his head again until I've put the offending bit of kit away.

If it's grooming anywhere on her body I wouldn't worry about it, just find a way around it that works for both of you.
Thanks, I'll try softer brushes, but I'm thinking it doesn't hurt her... She just doesn't want to stand still. So, maybe I have a standing still issue instead..??????
 

Penny4thot

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Oct 19, 2019
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Thank
My youngster is okay being groomed but if you hold your hand or say touch with your finger he will flinch as though trying to get a fly off. Hes really sensitive like that and will move away to get away from you. It sounds like your is over sensitive. Have you tried using a shedding blade. I find you can cover more body in long strokes rather than a brush. What does she do if you use your hand like a brush. If she likes that then maybe a grooming mitt might be an option.
I find neither of my two like there heads brushed but love having behind there ears scratched. Mine will lean into it. I would say yours is probably showing an affection. For some a nice scratch will often get there lip quivering.
Thank you, it does seem more affection than 'cranky' mare, or ticklish maybe. But how do I get her to stand still?
 

Penny4thot

New Member
Oct 19, 2019
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To me teeth clacking (without other aggressive body language) is what young horses do to show they are submissive to older horses, generally only seen in foals and youngsters when they feel threatened but perhaps your mare has gone back to this as she's feeling a bit insecure in her new home. How long have you had her?
I'd probably spend time just hanging out with her, not doing anything just being there, let her explore you, sniffing and touching. Then when she relaxes with you, with your hands, slowly work out where she likes scratches, starting in the places other horses would scratch. As you progress be very mindful to be very relaxed around her and keep your body language very passive, and don't rush around her.
I've had her about 9 months. This is a new thing though.
 
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