I'm hoping someone here has some useful (read: out of the box) suggestions. My newest horse is amazing. He is a machine in the ring, despite never having shown much and i love just about everything about him....with the exception of one thing.
He bites. ESPECIALLY ring side.
He isn't a mean biter, more of an "i'm bored and you aren't paying attention to me" or an "I need to chew on SOMETHING" biter. He never pins his ears or anything, and actually really loves people. He does use teeth, though- if this was a lip-grabber, i'd be less annoyed. He grabs reins, leads, people, brushes- basically whatever he can reach. he bit me in the shoulder blade while we were jogging for ribbons the other day.
I usually know how to deal with biters, as he is not my first one. HOWEVER, this guy is different. if you smack him, or yell at him, he likes it. Actually, he RELISHES in it. Yelling, smacking, growling, shanking, no chew sprays and hot sauce etc. seem to encourage the behavior, hence the odd title for this thread. He enjoys being punished! I've tried ignoring, but that doesn't help either.
He is 8, and i'm sure has been doing this for a while. I also think he was gelded late, which doesn't help.
FYI- His other manners are impeccable- stands quietly, ties, loves to be groomed, leads like a perfect gentleman, great with clippers, good with other horses, etc. 95% of the time he respects my bubble, and is a very sweet boy, but this biting, and the lack of reaction from typical punishments baffles me. He isn't DANGEROUS, as i don't think he'd seriously hurt anyone, but he will definitely leave a mark. I'd rather not be black and blue after every horseshow just as a result of holding my horse
Any innovative ideas from the COTH crew?
Can you bring a halter with attached grazing muzzle to the ring and just put it over his bridle while he's waiting at the ring? I know it won't fix the actual problem, but at least you wouldn't be black & blue.
LOL, did you steal one of my horses out of the barn? One of them is the same way as your horse. Cut late, very unproperly disciplined stallion-like ground behavior, MOUTHY as all get out, and he will bite if he feels like it -- although he LOVES people. I refer to him as my "S&M horse", as he really enjoys the use of whips/chains/spurs. Sigh. I have had him for about 2 years, and I got him with that behavior well-ingrained. He is much worse with females than males. Mr. SSR, who has owned multiple stallions, and my farrier, who has also dealt with multiple stallions, handle him best (and hence is another reason why he is now Mr. SSR's horse).
I have yet to find anything to truly help other than a muzzle. Most of the time I try to make sure my halter and a ratty nylon chain lead shank are always there, so when outside the ring I can put the halter on over the bridle, with the reins tucked up by the throatlatch, attach the shank with the chain over his nose, and let him chew on the lead. I go through a fair number of them, but at least he isn't chewing on the good stuff, or me!
My gelding is very mouthy. Chews on everything he can put his mouth on. The dentist said his points get so sharp that he's a 6mo floater and that could be the reason for his constantly teething everything.
I had one like this. Trick with him was to keep something in his mouth. I always had a cotton lead rope that he kept in his mouth while ring side. He liked chewing on it and having it in his mouth. Soon as we got called for the jog out it came. I also taught him to jog in beside me so not to get behind me in the jog and bite me. I have seen others like this too.
Thanks for the replies so far....
His teeth were JUST done, and fine. And I've taken to carrying a rope dog toy around with me by the ring, which he happily gnaws on. I'd prefer not to encourage the behavior by allowing the chewing, but it sure beats getting chewed on myself. Maybe I'll just have to accept this one character flaw of his
i had a wonderful horse ( to ride) who was just like this. the only thing that kept him quiet at the ring was to park him in front of a trash can and let him take each piece of garbage out one at a time. you had to choose one that wasn't too close to the ring or he would scare the hell out of other horses he would do it mounted and held. he would bite everything and anything, hoses, ripped pants at the knee of braiders and dumped one badly when he grabbed her ladder, ate bridles, you name it. muzzles only made him beat the hell out of the handler with them. he never put his ears back.....
carry your whip in your hand pointing towards him when jogging and as the other poster suggested, jog at his shoulder.
ultimately this horse ended biting the hell out of a child who walked between him and the rail. she had to have surgery for the nasty hematoma he gave her on the chest.
the only cure i ever found for biting was to bake a potato to burning hot and shove it at the beast. it worked since the pain was self inflicted and he never tried it again. ( i guess i should put on my flame suit about now).
God how I hate people who "teach" them it's okay to chew on anything
outside of their feed tubs! Thoroughbred grooms are the worst offenders, thinking they'll be 'good" if they let them chew on their lead shanks. It's a lazy man's way of doing things, horses do not need pacifiers, they need proper training.
I have a recently purchased horse that is exactly as you describe, except he's not a show hunter, he's a 1400 lb draft cross field hunter with a head like an anvil. A big anvil. He's 8 years old, He's a biter, when he's impatient, in cross ties, when he's being haltered. The first time really surprised me, the second time, I didn't just smack at him, I yelled, I kicked him square in his huge old chest, I backed him up and hit him with anyting and everything I could reach, he knew what he did, he knew it was wrong and the punishment was severe and instant. If that mouth comes open (and it's less and less now) I simply ignore him and stand out of his reach until he is quiet. Ignoring it, unless he's made contact, seems to be the most effective, he too enjoys the "play" and the reaction.
You need to have someone convince this horse that the next thing he's likely to see is God if he does it again.
My horse is NOT afraid of me, but he knows if he dares try that crap again I'm going to knock him into his next birthday with not one ounce of regret.
Next time, your horse might injure some little kids face that's in the way, it's not something to take lightly. He must realize that under NO circumstance is this behavior acceptable.
My 32 yr old has been like this all his life. Its as if he wished he had hands, he needs to touch and fondle everything, and so out of frustration he uses his mouth, and nips in sheer delight. He too would welcome punishment, and would nip to incite a reaction.
3 things helped, though he is not reformed, and I never expect him to be:
Moving him outdoors was a huge relief for him. Though he liked his stall, he was just too busy minded to deal with chronic boredom and would invent his own excitement through destruction and riling up the humans. Living outside melted away a LOT of the nipping.
No hand feeding. I am admittedly bad, he is my heart horse and the only biter I have ever handfed, but I can't stop myself. I did however once move him to a facility where he was to be stalled at night (against my better judgement). He almost immediately reverted to his old mouthy/nipping ways, so, frightened I'd just brought them the horse from hell to board, I stopped treats altogether. If he got a reward of anykind it was verbal or a scratch in an itchy spot. After 6 weeks his nipping was 90% gone! We only boarded at this place for 7-8 months, and when I moved him to an outdoor facility again, I went right back to hand feeding and he went right back to nipping
Having a personal bubble and keeping him out of nipping range at all times. He's a very cuddly horse that wants to be in your pocket, he wants to be groomed and loved on, loves to have his face snuggled, etc. Hard to resist, but keeping him at arms length all the time kept the nipping to a minimum by taking the fun out of it.
I have had other biters in the past though, and the best way to solve it has been a serious CTJ the instant they put their mouths on me... but my oldster is my first horse, the horse I made all my mistakes on, he owns my heart, and by the time I was knowledgeable enough to know how to correct this behavior, I'd already invented ways to live with him despite it. He knows it as well as I do. There is no way I could ever have a CTJ with this horse and mean it, he knows my heart too well.
All bets are off with all other horses though
“Let today be the day you stop being haunted by the ghosts from your past. What happened in the past is just one chapter in your story; don’t close the book, just turn the page.”
Do remember that mouthy horses are innately so; it's not that mouthiness is BAD or WRONG.
It's also true that mouthy horses have a high play drive, thus they enjoy making a game out of sneaking in for a bite, then getting a rise out of you; rather than think of your retaliations as punishment, they often think, "game on!"
So, another way to deal is to give his mouth the attention it craves, but YOU are controlling the situation: when he mouths you, rub his muzzle back, put your finger in the bit seat safely, even take hold of his tongue (don't pull it), all of which will satisfy him, then rub his muzzle a bit harder than he'd like, so it's HIS idea to quit. Then, in the rest of your time spent with him, you'll devise ways of allowing him more play & mouthiness with objects which YOU control.
The first time really surprised me, the second time, I didn't just smack at him, I yelled, I kicked him square in his huge old chest, I backed him up and hit him with anyting and everything I could reach, he knew what he did, he knew it was wrong and the punishment was severe and instant. If that mouth comes open (and it's less and less now) I simply ignore him and stand out of his reach until he is quiet. Ignoring it, unless he's made contact, seems to be the most effective, he too enjoys the "play" and the reaction.
Yeah, we have tried all of that in the two years I have had him. A lot. Doesn't make a damn bit of difference, unfortunately. On most horses, yes, the "come to Jesus" meeting can work. But some are just oblivious. The more you give it to them, the happier they are.
God I hate when people think it's okay to let them chew on stuff
Thoroughbred grooms are the worst offenders, they figure if that lead chain occupies them, it's all good.
I recently purchased a horse just like yours. Via internet, had NO idea he was a biter. Until he bit me, hard. He was in the cross ties and I was so stunned the first time, he didn't get much but a holler and a smack.
The difference is, my horse is a huge draft cross field hunter. With a head like an anvil. A big anvil. He's 8 years old and knows better.
The second time? I lit into him like the next thing he was going to see was God. Instantly and without one speck of guilt, I just about knocked him into his next birthday. I'm 5'4" this horse is 16.3 and probably weighs about 1500lbs.
He hasn't done it since. He does open his mouth like Jaws, and act like he's going to bite, and that is just bluff. He knows if he touches me again, that even Jesus won't be able to save him.
I don't give a damn how much money or how many ribbons a horse has won. That behavior is something that I refuse to tolerate, it's dangerous for you and for other people.
I've seen someone's lower lip get removed by a horse that everyone said was "just mouthy". Several surgeries later, it's still not pretty, and she was a very lovely girl.
Either discipline him, or get someone else to do it.
Linda Tellington Jones mouth work. It seemed to make the Fjordie pony more aware of sensation around his mouth and calm the urge to play. When we got him years ago, he thought it was a great game to play "nip, gotcha, you're it." (Found out when we visited former owner that they constantly carried treats and doled them out like an over active slot machine. No wonder, he thought it was fun to be constantly in any ones' space.)
Also, every time his nose invaded my or my kids space we'd put both hands around his muzzle and firmly rub, rub, rub, rub quickly back and forth until he wanted to turn or back away and then we'd rub just rub a little longer. Soon cured him of the "nippies." He's learned who is in control of the rubs (it's not him) and now he just carefully extends his muzzle and waits for a gentle rub. He's very expressive and tons of fun to be around, but is also so much more polite and safe now!
Consistency in expecting good behavior and treats only in the feed bowl make us all happy.
My young gelding is not quite as bad as some of the ones described here, but he is very active with his mouth. He will stand quietly for a certain amount of time, then he starts getting bored or anxious and finds comfort either by grabbing on to your shirt, a towel, lead rope, crunchy water bottle, rein, etc. and either holding it or playing with it (which can be disruptive to other horses in the area). The more you try to keep it away, the more adamant he is about putting something in his mouth, which makes him less careful about where he puts his teeth. Discipline doesn't work for him, either, and I am not sure about you, but I am not sure I want to give my horse a CTJ moment when standing ringside. Just.not.appropriate on many levels.
The thing that helps him the most is just taking him for a walk, which calms him and gives him something else to think about (as he as matured, he does stand quietly for much longer periods of time). The other thing I have done is take my hands and hold his lips closed with a little growl after he has tried to grab something until he gives in and relaxes. I've tried rubbing his nose until he gives up - its just another game for him and his lips never stop moving to find something to grab. He thinks ground work in a circle is another game.
If someone told me mine was gelded late, I'd believe it and will admit he needs constant reminders of his manners, so I am ever vigilent both at home and at shows and he gets constant tune ups on manners. You might also want to spent time practicing jogging manners at home. If we get there, I am sure I will have to establish jogging ground rules with mine before we attemt it at a show. Good luck and be safe!
Rico is a bit like this, cuddly and mouthy. He's also a bit chewer. Usually its obviously pacifier behaviour, but he'd also threaten to nip when he was impatient or annoyed.
I absolutely do not tolerate teeth on me, ever. He's nipped me 3 times in 8 years, and with the exception of the time the massage therapist was almost underneath him, I made him think he was about to meet his maker.
the last incident was in his stall when he wasn't tied and the door was open, so after the CTJ moment, I also chased him away from the barn and wouldn't let him come back to be with his herdmate for about 10 minutes. I think that must have finally given him the message that biting the boss mare meant isolation, and he hasn't even pinned an ear at me since.
I agree with poster who said that its definitely the wrong approach to give them a pacifier. The only thing mine is allowed to chew on in my presence without a reprimand is his stall chain.