Why does a horse bite? My daughter's pony has recently started to nip quite hard when we go into her stable.
It also happens when I am leading her in from the field and I am worried about my daughter handling her as she is only 10 and it is starting to affect her confidence. We have been on our current yard for over a year with no problems and I thought maybe she was copying the biting from another horse?
I am thinking of selling her if this carries on as I don't know what to do. Kath
Thanks for your question Kath. This is quite a tricky problem isn't it. Many people think the answer is to hit the animal in response to a horse bite "to teach it a lesson it won't forget".
It would be a real shame to sell the pony if you have a good partnership and we would always encourage you to find the source of the problem before attempting to cure it.
Check for Pain First
The first area to consider is whether your pony is actually in any physical pain. We would advise that you get her checked over by a Vet to rule out pain being the motivation for the problem. Once this has been done, we suggest the following as a process of elimination.
Are You Training Your Horse To Bite?
Has anyone been feeding your horse treats while you are not on the yard?
Hand-feeding is one of the quickest ways to "teach your horse to bite" and develop a habit that's hard to break.
Often other people innocently feed horses with carrots or pony treats which as a one-off will not do any damage, but persistent treat feeding can encourage a horse to anticipate a treat and become quite objectionable when one is not given.
Politely but firmly ask other owners not to feed your horse at all.
Too Much Food - Too Little Freedom
Another cause may be the horse is bored and frustrated due to having large quantities of energy-rich foods with little or no turnout or exercise.
Always ensure your horse has time out of the stable to burn off excess energy. It can be likened to children kept indoors for a week with nowhere to run about.
They soon become difficult to deal with and demonstrate frustration with tantrums and attention-seeking behaviour.
Our Solution - It's Simpler Than You Think!
There is no doubt that no-one wants to be the owner of a animal that is a renowned biter. Biting is a nasty vice and one that should be dealt with immediately but we would not advocate physical punishment as this often results in the horse becoming more defensive and escalating the behaviour still further.
So how do you deal with a horse that bites? The longer the behaviour has been happening the greater the risk of it becoming a habit. Habits as we all know are extremely hard to break as the horse may even forget why they are doing it and just do it anyway.
Who's The Leader in "Your" Herd?
They are herd animals and will respect the leader of the herd out of a healthy regard for their own survival and because it is easier to go along with a good leader than strike out on your own.
You must therefore become "the leader" in your horse's eyes.
You must always show by your body language and your voice that you make the rules and putting up with horse bites is not acceptable in your "herd".
If you are expecting her to bite you, walk confidently into the stable staring her straight in the face (horses and ponies find this quite intimidating without causing any harm) and as soon as you sense a horse bite coming your way, throw your arms up in the air (as close to her as you can get but where she can clearly see you).
This will make you look much bigger to your pony than you actually are.
It helps if you make lots of unpleasant noise while you do this such as shouting at the top of your voice.
She will think you've completely lost the plot but the element of surprise and the fact that you've temporarily doubled in size should be enough to take her mind off the intended horse bite.
Even if she's a big, bold individual she won't want that performance again in a hurry. You can do the same when you are leading her in from the field.
Stop everytime she goes to bite you and she will tire more quickly than you when she realises dinner takes twice as long to arrive.
Keep doing it everytime she makes a move to inflict a horse bite and you should find an improvement very quickly.
You may need to warn those on the yard first so they don't have you taken off by a doctor! It may also be best for the time being if you handle the pony rather than your daughter. This way you can re-educate the pony using firm but consistent handling as described above.
Let us know how you get on.
Thanks from the team at Total Horse Expert.com