Horse biting

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11 Dec 2013 21:08
Hi, I have an 8 year old TB Mare, I recently bought her and have found out that she's a biter, she seems to bite when in the stable, mainly when I'm near her neck or brushing her, I brush her lightly and I'm definitely not rough with her. I have tried moody mare formula, I have tried ignoring it, shouting at her and even held a whip to show her not to do it but she just persists on biting. She also whips her tail a lot and kicks when you persist with her. Any advice would be appreciated.
18 Dec 2013 22:32
We had a section A pony that was prone to biting. As you have we tried lots of different things but he would still nip. We took advice from Monty Roberts - my mother and I went to one of his demonstrations - he advised that every time Chester would bite to knock his shin with my boot. The idea being that it took the re-enforcement away from the problem area -the mouth- and that the horse will eventually learn 'when I bite my leg hurts'
Please don't think I mean booting your horses leg, it was literally a tap with the toe of my boot on the front of his shin. Often coupled with a 'no' or 'ah' verbally but never turning to face him of changing my stance.
This, coupled with never ever feeding from my hand - which was possibly the more difficult bit as people often wanted to give the little pretty palomino pony a carrot over the door!!- worked a treat!
Horse Hero Guru
19 Dec 2013 19:29
Hi Meg

I’m sorry to be slow in replying, but Christmas celebrations and preparation has taken all my time!

The solution Tillyflop suggests can work well, but really you need to look at the cause too. It sounds as though your mare is used to (both her and you) doing things her way and that biting and kicking are a good way of keeping things that way!

Having said that, she is obviously sensitive and doesn’t really trust you not to hurt her when you are grooming. Obviously this doesn’t make things easy for either of you in a new relationship, but it a problem you need to sort out.

First, make sure you are safe when you are working around her – wear a hat, sensible footwear and stay alert. My normal trick when working near the front end is to keep my elbow stuck out so that if she lunges towards you she hits your elbow, which will hurt her and mean that she administers her own deterrent (if you can borrow some elbow pads from a skateboarder it can help you too!).

Now you need to work on desensitizing her. A form of advance and retreat works well here – start with just your hand and stroke her firmly and positively all over, starting where she is happy with the contact then straying into her sensitive areas. When she objects, keep your hand where it is until she settles, then repeat until she accepts it. If you feel unsafe around her back legs, udder etc then make a ‘false hand’ on a stick until she accepts that, then your hand and then a brush or whatever. You need to keep up the training using different things – stable rubbers, plastic bags, whatever you think of.

Also make sure that she is not difficult in other ways – she may well try to be dominant when you are leading her – pushing past you or dragging back. I suggest that you try some of the groundwork used in the videos on here by Richard Maxwell and Jason Webb. These might not be addressing the main problem you have but will help her to accept that you are the one who pays the bills, so you are the one who is in charge of the relationship, whether it be grooming or anything else.

Good luck, keep safe and have a good Christmas.
11 Jan 2016 21:03
Hi, I am having problems too.

My pony is 11:3hh, welsh sec A, mare 7 years old. I have recently had back, feet and saddle checked, the saddle has been widened. She is healthy and gets ridden 3 times a week for 40 minutes - 1 hour. In addition to this I work her off the ground twice a week, lungeing, long reining, leading in hand, hacking out in hand. She gets plenty of turn out with a friend. She tends to do little nips at any time, when picking out feet, when changing rug, when I am leading her with or without daughters on. She caught my daughter on the hand yesterday, she was just leading her across the school having just got off her. She nips at them when they lead her in from the field and when they brush her. It seems to me that she is just trying to dominate and since my eldest daughter is quite timid she has the effect of making her move away. My little one gets nipped on the head so I do make her wear her riding hat. My pony has been bossing two 15hh horses around in the field so she is no shrinking violet. I have been watching Richard Maxwell videos and trying to make sure that she moves out of my space and all that.

I have tried a firm slap on neck or tap on face and 'no'. That really wasn't having any effect so I googled it and found that lots of people try to mimic the head mare by nipping back, at least they pinch with their fingers. I have been trying this, it helps a bit but the worst thing is she keeps nipping my kids, aged 5 and 7.

I stand with them and nip her for them because of course she nips and then they can't get her back because she lifts her head out of their reach.

I am going to try the tap with boot on the shin thing, I love watching Monty Roberts at work too and definitely believe in the whole talking equus thing.

One more idea, when I was training my rescue collie and he was aggressive towards other dogs I found that a squirt with a small water pistol broke the behaviour pattern, is it worth trying this with my pony? It might work for the kids because it would give them a bit more range.

She is such an amazing pony in every other way but I just have to stop her biting because it is horrible. Would welcome some advice/ideas especially regarding the kids.

Many thanks,

16 Jan 2016 18:44
Hi Bev

First and most importantly, please make sure your children are safe around your pony. She may be an amazing pony in many ways but at present she is not a safe child’s pony and you must not let them be with her without close supervision until she has learned that her duty is to look after them, not attack them.

I take it that you have read all the posts in this thread. It does sound as though your pony has developed the habit of biting when she doesn’t really want to do what is being asked. It may have started as a defence method but, as she is bossy to other horses, it does seem as though she is trying to control you and your children.

Slapping or hitting a pony on the nose, face or neck does not work – it will either make her head shy or more irritated with you. Personally I find the best technique when working on rugs or feet with a pony that bites is to keep my elbow firmly out and pointed at the pony’s mouth so that if she swings to nip she will hit her mouth on my elbow. Punishment is then administered by herself before she can bite, not afterwards. The use of a harsh “no” works as well.

It is important that she learns that you are the boss – that doesn’t need to be done through being unpleasant or bossy but by you having confidence in yourself (or at least giving that impression). Think back to your days at school – you knew which teachers you had to listen to and behave with – not because they were louder or handed out more punishments than the others – they didn’t need to, they just had that air of calm authority that you respected.

This is going to be far harder for your young daughters to learn, but they too will need to exude an air of confidence so that your pony learns that she does what they ask too. Ideally young children should be around ponies they can enjoy, have fun and feel safe with, ponies that will look after them. Your daughters should not have keep watching to make sure they are not going to be bitten. I know it is not what you want to hear, but is this really the pony for them? Is it possible to get another, kinder pony for them to play with until they have more confidence?

Good luck with your pony and your daughters – I hope they enjoy their riding and become caring horsewomen in the future
19 Jan 2016 21:28

The water pistol worked really well! Not getting bitten any more. Thanks for your advise. I can see your point about questioning whether our pony is right for us.

The thing is I think any pony can get a little bit naughty when they see your defences are down. This pony is great on the lead rein and with the little ones just off the lead rein. They have ridden her out on hacks, on a cross country course and at all sorts of shows and pony club things, she doesn't get over excited and has never ever broken into a canter with out being asked. Also only had two unauthorised trots in two years.

She is just a typical welsh sec A and will try it on again I am sure but we have learnt a lot from her already. I don't leave the kids unattended with her and make sure they wear their riding hats around her just in case.

Hope everyone else is doing well with their bitey horses and ponies!
19 Jan 2016 21:34
P.S Thanks also for the monty Roberts tip Tillyflop. I think that works well too, I tried it on the horse that shares a field with my pony, he nips when I change his rug too. He had a look at his leg to see what was going on down there!

p.p.s Our pony and my eldest daughter passed their Pony Club D test on Saturday and pony didn't let us down! Very proud mum here!
25 Jan 2016 22:26
I'm glad you have found a solution that works for you and your pony. Please congratulate your daughter on he D test pass
13 Feb 2017 18:55
Hi wonder if anyone can help/advise me on my new forest pony who is a bolshy little chap that takes it too far sometimes.
Bit of info..had him 6 years very naughty/nippy when i had him but mostly stopped that until i needed to do a lot of stretching exercises with him and pole work in hand to help him with various physical issues,i used treats (sparingly)to help encourage him to stretch where i needed him too and mixed pole work in as well, problem i had he seemed to get too excited about the prospect of a treat and didnt really concentrate on what i was actually asking him to do and almost seemed to get aroused as well and started acting quite coltish,he has always been very mouthy and gets worse the more i try to stop him.he almost sees it as a game.
So now if i go to lead him over poles he is snaking his neck behind me and trying to bite my legs and if i have him upsides he just twists his neck away when i try to stop him trying to take a chunk,i have had horses for years but he really tests me and he can be so strong,i have stopped all treats as cant stand him begging me all the time and chuntering constantly at me for them,but hasnt stopped this behaviour at all.
Thanks for any advice given,was thinking maybe i need to get someone out to help me but who?he is a lovely pony but too big for his boots and this needs to stop.Help x
26 Feb 2017 18:24
Hi Caspetta

It sounds as though your New Forest pony has never really lost the mouthy behaviour, but that you managed to mask it by not giving treats. As soon as you started treats to do stretches the biting came back.

I think that the biting when you try to lead him over poles is just that he hasn’t really learnt good manners when being led – and biting or pulling away is a way of showing it. Have a look at the Richard Maxwell video on teaching Ravi to lead

Once you have established that you are leading your pony, not the other way round, I think that the other matters will sort themselves out too

Good luck

26 Feb 2017 18:47
Hi thank you,yes that does sound about right,when i have physio or something for him and he is being worked on,he gets really mouthy and very stallion like...i have thought about rig calm to see if that will stop it.
Will have look at the link that sounds interesting,like Richard Maxwells way of doing things.


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