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Mouthiness in young horses?

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  • Mouthiness in young horses?

    Are young horses often quite mouthy? My 3 year old seems to want to get her lips and teeth around everything. She has nipped me on several occasions and always gets a sharp slap on the neck for that as I won't tolerate it, but generally she also lips me or her leadrope, and she picks things up like crutches, buckets or a broom if they are lying- she also likes to take my keys out of my pocket and throw them around!

    Is this normal young horse behaviour or is she a bit orally fixated?!

    Her teeth were in dire need of doing when she came and have had them seen by a very good dentist (they were rasped about 2 wks ago now- I was appalled by the little sharp bits that came off!).
    Horse Selling Hell
    My Writing
    People who think they know everything about horses know nothing

  • #2
    I think it is. When I brought my first horse home as a 4 year old he would lip/nip at everything! Always had to have the cross ties in his mouth and actually never grew out of if. My current horse (5yo) also nips at everything, I find that he will do it more if I reprimand him. He will bite at my clothing but if he can see skin he generally leaves me alone. But brushes, especially rubber curies are all the fun.
    Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.


    • #3
      My guy did this when he was younger, and grew out of it. I bought him at 2 and a half, and he would nibble EVERYTHING - my shoulder, lead ropes, tack, etc. He never bit, just wanted to use his lips to play.

      He gradually grew out of it, and what really helped was having him turned out with three older geldings. They told him in no uncertain terms what was and wasn't acceptable! Within about two weeks he was noticeably less mouthy.

      It took him a few years to totally stop though. He's now almost six, and never tries to nibble me, ropes, etc. He'll still use his lips to check out new things, but has stopped picking up brushes, ropes, etc.


      • #4
        Umm, NO, young horses are not mouthy unless you LET them be mouthy. I have raised and trained a lot of youngsters, including stallions, from birth right on up. They learn very quickly here that they keep their mouth to themselves.

        Quick and hard is how it works, with a verbal command "NO". Most all get it the first maybe the second time. If they don't, I catch them just as they start the act and my hand is below their mouth, as they go to 'nip', my hand goes and slams them in the lips so their own lips hit their teeth. POW once and Hard! I have yet in years and years of having to ocassionally employ this method never had a horse cut his lip or tongue BUT it stops them right in their tracks, I then move in and make them move back quick and in a very meaningful way. They think long and hard about trying it again.

        The rule on my farm is "you bite me I bite back harder". No negotiating.


        • #5
          To be clear - my horse was never a biter. He liked to nibble, and pick things up (brushes, lead ropes, etc.) with his lips. I never made a big deal out of it, and he's outgrown it.


          • #6
            My mare is 4 and when she came to me late this summer, she was nibbly. Just wanted to explore everything with her mouth. I don't, however, let her put her mouth on me, any of my equipment, crossties, etc. I would flick her in the nose if she did, and that ended it very quickly.

            I do think a lot of it was insecurity and immaturity, and when she's nervous she will still occasionally get a little lippy. It is not aggressive or nasty on her part, but a quick flick to the nose usually make her quit.
            We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


            • #7
              Yes, this is normal.
              Pro Slaughter
              Anti Parelli


              • Original Poster

                Originally posted by GreyDes View Post
                My guy did this when he was younger, and grew out of it. I bought him at 2 and a half, and he would nibble EVERYTHING - my shoulder, lead ropes, tack, etc. He never bit, just wanted to use his lips to play.

                He gradually grew out of it, and what really helped was having him turned out with three older geldings. They told him in no uncertain terms what was and wasn't acceptable! Within about two weeks he was noticeably less mouthy.

                It took him a few years to totally stop though. He's now almost six, and never tries to nibble me, ropes, etc. He'll still use his lips to check out new things, but has stopped picking up brushes, ropes, etc.
                Interesting- my mare has only ever been allowed out alone before I got her, perhaps she has missed this little education.
                Horse Selling Hell
                My Writing
                People who think they know everything about horses know nothing


                • #9
                  Sigh, previously I have been lucky and my foals were fillies but this year Beeza had a colt. He wants to bite SOOOOO badly and she tolerates it. I've even seen him bite her EARS.

                  Every time he tries it with me I holler at him and get really big and nasty looking but it's only a temporary fix
                  I wasn't always a Smurf
                  Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                  "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                  The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                  • #10
                    My 10 month old was mouthy the first month of his life and was told that it was not acceptable under any circumstances. Now he is the best boy and doesn't put his mouth on anything at all.
                    Member of the Standardbreds with Saddles Clique!


                    • #11
                      Of course it's normal. It's how a young horse explores and learns about its environment.

                      That being said, there's a fine line between youthful exploration and down right biting for dominance. There comes a point where a youngster should know who you are and the need to mouth you is over.

                      I did own one horse that bit no matter what we (and trainers) did to stop the behavior. He was never viscious about it, he just nipped at everyone. He was a great horse in every other respect, so we just plain gave up and stayed away from his mouth.


                      • #12
                        One of mine is still that way at 17. It really doesn't matter how many times you correct the behavior with him. My others just quit after correction and when they grew up a bit, but the one who is mouthy just acts like a baby about everything. He bites cross ties, leads, reins, his stall door, buckets and tries to lick every person he comes in contact with. He doesn't try to bite but he just has to get his tongue on everything. It is really annoying. The other day he licked the farrier in the behind while he was trying to shoe him.


                        • #13
                          Mine used to be really mouthy on everything including me. What worked for me is always knowing that it might be coming, and having either a fist or an elbow ready. No, I never punched my horse but if my closed hand was there and he went to nip it, I would have afist ready for him to bop himself. Same with the elbow.

                          He doesn't nip me now but he is still mouthy. He reaches out of his stall at night and picks the halters off the wall and drops them, grabs the cross ties, etc. I had to put him in the stall with the stall guard for that reason.


                          • #14
                            Both my geldings were mouthy when they were younger. The younger of the two (rising 6 year old) has improved a lot this year and now just tastes things momentarily rather than devouring them and spitting out the remains. I still only get a few months out of lead ropes, but seeing as this horse would chew through one in 15 minutes, this is an improvement! He was gelded a little late-- he came off the track at 3 and was gelded then, which might have something to do with it. He does get corrected, especially when he tries to taste people but he are getting better. I now get stink eye when I tighten the girth rather than an actual bite attempt.