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Disciplining for mouthiness

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  • Disciplining for mouthiness

    What's the concensus re: what to do when a horse is mouthy with clothing, etc (as opposed to (threatening to) bite behavior.

  • #2
    Quietly, secretively, applying Binaca spray toward the muzzle as the mouth approaches the human You will puzzle the animal, and discourage them without hurting their wittle feewings.
    Make like a pepperminty skunk


    • #3
      I discipline them. Quick pop on the nose or something. Only when they are actually mouthing or chewing on clothes or helmets or what have you, not when they are just smelling or nuzzling, obviously.

      But I hate when horses are pushy/violate personal space on the ground. It is probably my #1 pet peeve.


      • #4
        Firm open-handed smack on the side of the face. I'm big on personal space too, especially when my mare developed a habit of smacking me on the head with hers, that HURTS!

        You can't get so aggressive you're going to make them head-shy but they also need to know they can't come into your space unless you invite them.
        Last edited by Nes; Mar. 11, 2011, 08:10 PM. Reason: What is a flap open-handed smack? :lol:
        "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
        Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
        Need You Now Equine


        • #5
          If a horse nibbles me or my clothing, I instantly make it uncomfortable for him with a finger poked in the palate, holding it there for a couple of seconds while he tries to spit it out - so he perceives the discomfort as being a direct result of his nibbling. No negative emotion while doing this, and afterwards carry on doing whatever I was doing as if nothing had happened. Three to five repeats, maybe repeated once or twice later, is enough to completely extinguish the behaviour, for good. 100% success rate with dozens of horses.


          • #6
            Posted by katarine:

            Quietly, secretively, applying Binaca spray toward the muzzle as the mouth approaches the human You will puzzle the animal, and discourage them without hurting their wittle feewings.
            Make like a pepperminty skunk


            • #7
              The horses here are all old and retired. A couple like to nibble or grab the string on my jacket. Crucify me now, but I don't discipline, I scratch their ears and tell them how great they are. You have to know your horse -- I am a very cautious person -- I don't let any horse get mouthy near my face; I don't let any horse I don't know really well get mouthy etc.

              But these guys are very affectionate, and very gentle. In my years of caring for them I have not once been accidentally (or intentionally) hurt by any of them.

              You have to know your horses. I have had a horse here that I wouldn't tolerate a hair out of place let alone a nibble. But he's gone now, and I only have old sweeties.
              Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


              • #8
                I call the dentist. Idjit gets mouthy when his teeth are bothering him.


                • #9
                  I used to groom for a trainer that would get a couple of TB studs in to train for the track every year. After being bitten a few times I learned to not let them start with the lipping of clothing.

                  Its like a shark investigating potential dinner. The quick drive-by bump, followed by a leg severing crunch.

                  I would either make a loud noise, slap on the neck, or drive backwards down the isleway, depending on the temperament of the horse and the severity of the bite. I dont tolerate biting in any way shape or form now.


                  • #10
                    Yeah, Chicken, I think my aversion to mouthiness came from working with weanlings. It's cute, and then it's a bite when you aren't watching. Big no no in my opinion.


                    • #11
                      Absolutely! The weanlings and long yearlings are horrible.
                      I was in the field with the yearlings one day, taking pictures for the barn owner and LittleCB had to fend them off with a stick. There was one little filly who was really sneaky about it too. She was the Stealth Biter. When we were done we gave them the stick to play with. They played tug-o-war and chased each other with it. Almost made me want to buy one of them. Almost.


                      • #12
                        Try rubbing the muzzle with both hands until he's get sick of it. Be peristent each time he's mouthy. Saw it work on a young gelding. It took a few days, but he backed off and behaved himself.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by KayBee View Post
                          What's the concensus re: what to do when a horse is mouthy with clothing, etc (as opposed to (threatening to) bite behavior.
                          Recognize that nuzzling/lipping clothing is the lower end of a continuum of behavior that has a high end of being a serious biter....and stop it before it escalates. You can rub both sides of the muzzle enough to annoy the horse into pulling back ...several sessions of this will usually discourage one just thinking about getting started using his mouth on people. If he's actually taking clothing into the mouth it is a very thin line to grabbing skin as well (and can be done entirely by accident but with serious results for the skin owner) so stopping it becomes very important. I react as if I were the herd boss mare and the horse had DARED to bite me....I IMMEDIATELY become as BIG as I can (stand tall, raised arms, head high, direct eye contact) and I go after him as if I intend to eat him for lunch right then and there...scare the bejesus out of him for daring to put a mouth on a human. If I have something non-lethal or non-damaging (guns, pitchforks, sharp shovels and nail studded 2 x 4's are no-no's, pretty much anything else is OK) in my hands I will use it on chest, neck, shoulders (I avoid the head, not for fear of making him headshy but because I don't want to inadvertantly injure an eye) and strike with real feeling (can't possibly do more damage with a coiled rope than the herd boss can with her teeth/hooves)....yell, scream, inform him that he will DIE on the spot if he EVER thinks of doing that again. Allowing nibbling on clothing puts the idea that lips or even teeth on humans is acceptable at some level...it is NOT. This behavior on my part is something horses understand on an instinctive level and it usually takes exactly one session for this lesson to stick.
                          Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                          Northern NV


                          • #14
                            It depends on why they are doing it. If it is a baby, or a horse with limited socialization, I just distract him or her. It generally isn't too difficult. I like to stick my elbow out so "accidentally" the baby gets a bit of a bump that wasn't really caused by me. Ok, it was, but the baby doesn't have to know it!

                            If it is an older horse for whom it has become a game -- well, I'm not as successful. I've tried a good slap, ignoring him (not the behavior, the horse, i.e. don't reward with attention), poking with sharp objects, etc.

                            The only thing that worked was selling him... Seriously, he was full of Appy-tude and drove me right round the bend. This is why I am very clear and quick about it with those babies!
                            Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.


                            • #15
                              I use lemon juice in a small squirt bottle and by the third time they are done. I like the Binaca idea too. I never hit the face,I think that can lead to shying away or being hard to bridle.


                              • #16
                                You learn not to put yourself in a situation where they can do wrong, including tasting you or your clothes.

                                Horses really should not be nuzzling you, unless is an old and dependable horse you know very well and can afford to let that horse have liberties with you without the common consequences of that horse getting more and more fresh with you.

                                Why let a horse start a bad behaviour you later have to punish the horse for?

                                Binaca works for those that chew leadropes and other stuff around them.
                                Honestly, horses in training, young horses and most horses really should not be playing with their humans in ways that may lead to misunderstandings and end up in pushing you around or biting.

                                Humans have a basic need to hug and stroke and have full contact when interacting with others.
                                Cats do to, dogs, not so much, ever seen a human hugging their dog and the dog's long suffering, eye rolling expression?
                                Horses don't need to have full contact with others either.
                                Horses will nuzzle another, but it is not that common, even for mares and foals.
                                When horses nuzzle each other, it is not just pleasurable, it is communicating a need, like "scratch me", or "may I nurse?", or "quit that or next I will bite".

                                Understanding that, we can teach our horses to accept our nuzzling and horses can learn to nuzzle humans that find pleasure in it, just be sure you are teaching bite inhibition also, set very clear limits to the nudging and tasting.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks for the replies.

                                  Horse is a mare/schoolie that had been a bit of a pain on cross-ties -- she has/had a cranky, "don't touch me" ear-pinning attitude (she would threaten to bite but has never connected -- or come close, really). Picks up her feet fine, stands on cross-ties fine, but really hated being groomed and girthed up.

                                  When I started riding her, I ignored the "mean faces." And, since her face was the one area she DID like to be groomed, made sure to give her lots of that. And then I discovered that she LOVES a jelly-scrubbie pretty much anywhere -- the faces are hilarious -- but hates it when pretty much every other brush in the known universe touches here beyond her shoulders.

                                  (Also, she seems to enjoy grooming much more post-ride than pre.)

                                  The mouthiness mostly seems to be in response to the face-grooming -- she's relaxed/ears floppy/eyes half-closed. I've been doing the finger in the palate thing but admit to sometimes ignoring it.

                                  I like the binaca idea.

                                  Mare, apparently, learned to intimidate people at her former barn and it seems to have got her what she wanted (to be left alone).

                                  Speaking of horses grabbing clothing, though -- one schoolie had a particular trick. After a ride (usually immediately after dismount but not always) he would reach around behind him, grab a TEENY section of your breeches in his teeth, pull, and let it snap back. He'd only ever do it once per ride, too and wasn't mouthy otherwise (and he never once caught skin).
                                  Always reminded me of the obnoxious boy trick of snapping a bra strap.


                                  • #18
                                    I punish mouthiness with a quick open-handed smack to the muzzle. Have never had a head shy horse in my life, and I've always done this. They're not idiots - they realize they are being smacked because of the mouthiness and understand that they won't be smacked when they are not being mouthy. Mouthiness/biting is the ONLY time I will EVER hit a horse in the face, however, so I make it a very clear line.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by KayBee View Post
                                      What's the concensus re: what to do when a horse is mouthy with clothing, etc (as opposed to (threatening to) bite behavior.
                                      Personally it's about the horse's overall level of respect. I allow a certain level of "mouthiness" in some (exceptionally polite) horses and absolutely none in others, depending on the individual horse and their current level of training/development/my relationship with them.

                                      Case in point: my main OTTB is allowed to gently rub his lips on my pockets in request for a treat, is allowed to gently nibble on my arm or back when I am grooming him, or is allowed to reach into a back pocket and pull out my keys or such. He's a playful 6yo so we have fun with it. He knows where to draw the line and reaches into my space when he reads it is okay. If he starts to be a little too persistent, I ask him to back out of my space using body language (ie, projecting assertiveness, doing the chicken wing thing for a half second, etc).

                                      My mom's OTTB is not allowed in my space whatsoever, unless explicitly invited - and then he is expected to be the model of perfect behaviour. Therefore, no mouthiness. He's not at a level where he is consistently polite and I am not the one who regularly works him (he's spoilt a bit - though not overly so - by two novices ).

                                      Generally, my rule is you stay out of my space until you've earned it. At that point, mouthiness is not an issue. I never hit with mouthiness, I just never need to regardless of whether it's a weanling or a youngster or a racehorse or what.
                                      Last edited by naturalequus; Mar. 12, 2011, 07:50 PM.
                                      ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                                      • #20
                                        My DH's gelding is a gentle, kind, pocket pest. DH indulged(s) him a leetle too much. He won't correct the gelding, but he'll do the Binaca b/c it doesn't hurt or startle, it's just an unpleasant result that Toppy finds occurs if he gets to sniffing pockets. It is cute to watch Toppy say what the heck?? but not in an upset or anxious way. He just goes back to being a horse.