Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Biting for no obvious reasons

Dear Franklin,

I have a Clyde mare that bites. When I say bites, I mean anything that moves on 2 legs. When we first bought her she was shy. Being a rescue horse I expected that. After 2 months of slowly gaining her trust, she was fine. We could brush her, even sit on her bare back. She has a problem with her left rear leg as far as having the farrier trim, but that we are still working on too. ANYWAYS, she recently started biting. We walk into the pasture, approach her, she is fine, stroke her nose, and for the first few minutes she is OK with it, but then the ears pin back and she really tries to take a chunk out of us. My 8 year old son was in the pasture with us, he was brushing his colt, and for no reason, she reached over the colts back, and fortunately I was able to move Nick, before she took hold of him, but not quick enough before she knocked him down trying to bite (I took that one, and I did react poorly by smacking her between the eyes which was all I could connect with at the angle we were dancing at). But she went for my son for no reason, she use to push all the other horses away & try to protect him when he was in the barn. I am at my wits end. I have worked with horses for 15 years, and I have never had one like this. For instance. I was in the stall with her brushing her down, my wife & I are the only ones that handle her with my daughter occasionally brushing her when she has time. For no reason (I looked for signs of injury after the incident) she tried to bite, kick and basically kill me, I had to try to keep this full grown Clyde mare from pinning me in the corner, and also had to keep her baby safe (he was in the stall as well, but on the opposite side of the mare). I grabbed her halter and took control of her head, but she was still kicking , finally I bent her around and made my way out the stall door and to safety, took a couple minutes to compose myself and went back in and continued to brush after looking for signs of injury, we had no problems after that. Sorry to get off on a rant, but this is really frustrating me. She is a good horse, she was well mannered and gentle, but she took a 180 and went a little crazy. HELP PLEASE !!!!! On a positive note, her foal ( my sons colt) is a wonderful horse, still stubborn, but learning slowly to trust us.

Thanks for any help you may be able to give, Jerry & Barb

Hi Jerry and Barb,

Frequently a mare with a relatively new foal will do a 180 degree turn in personality. It is not uncommon at all. Please give me more nformation such as when did she have the foal and is this her first baby? She may be overcompensating the protective aspects because of her experiences as a rescued horse. I would be very cautious about being in a confined space with her and the foal. I would keep your child away from her as well (for now). If you had a round pen I would gently work both the mare and foal softly in the pen together. Somehow I would figure a way to have some activity with this horse other than brushing and grooming, etc . Some mild activity will help set you up again as the mare's trusted leader. If you don't have some action with the mare and foal, it will take longer for all this to change. Try a 'flag' when working the mare. Also, try carrying a 'wand' (5 foot stock whip) when with the mare and foal all the time for a while. Activating the wand by raising it and shaking it appropriately, might help you fend the mare off more easily. With dangerous horses I carry a wand all the time. If I think the horse may ignore the wand, I carry a 'flag' (five foot wand with a piece of plastic shopping bag afixed to the end). Before you go into the stall with her, try to have some interaction like asking the mare to back a step away from the door before you get in there. Do not push it, just one little step back to set you up as the leader. IF she does it you should immediately back a step yourself and say Good Girl. Keep yourself safe. If the mare looks to charge you because you asked her to step back, stay out and reward even a little try to step back with a verbal "good girl". Try to dance with her a little befoe you get in with her. Speak to her like the great, confident, good leader parent. Be firm but not demanding of your four legged child. Stay safe but have a consequence for behavior you do not want. The consequence should be some sort of activity the horse gets put to. For lack of an appropriate action, at least make requests for small movement (a step forward, a step back). But be careful, she'll be resistant until she really trusts you won't be a threat to the foal.

Good Luck. Be Careful. Please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

She had her colt about 6 months ago. When she had the colt, she was fine, my 17 year old daughter AND my son could sit on her back and she would offer no resistance. As far as this being her first "child" I wish I could tell you. We know she was used in the hormone replacement program, so I assume she has had at least one other foal. She is approximatly 7-8, and being used in that program, they were inclinded to keep her pregnant for higher hormone production. We recently moved her from the "adoption" barn to a border where she has the run of the pasture with a shelter to get under in bad weather. She shares the pasture with another rescue clyde mare, her colt, and an arabian mare . The biting did'nt start until after we moved her, and I think that had something to do with it. As far as her colt goes, he is a big mellow baby with the normal " I don't WANT to be led around by a rope" attitude He halters well, and at 6 months, we put a english saddle with no stirrups on his back. He was a little surprised, but did not kick out of try to toss the saddle.

To get him to lead, I have blind folded him, and slowly led him from on pasture to the smaller exercise ring, and he did fine. I did work with the mare this past week, standing in front of her, and talking to her. She did fine when I would pet the sides of her muzzle, but when I went to pet her neck, she took a shot at me, and I yelled NO at her in a firm voice. Like i said in my previous letter. I have worked with some hard cases, but she is definitly the hardest yet. Do you have any suggestions on how to work with her one "bad" leg ? There is nothing wrong with it except when you want to pick it up, she wants to take your head off with it. Not in a vicious way, but in a please don't mess with THAT leg kind of way. But all in all, she did extremely well, this past week. She even followed me out to the hay when I walked out into the pasture, and she stayed with me and ate when the "herd" walked away. Which is another concern that I have. With her being with the others, will that make working with her harder ? The other clyde mare and she sometimes battle for the leadership position. So I feel like I am trying to become the leader between the 2 of them. Last but not least, there is also an Arabian stallion in the paddock next to the pasture. I have no control of him being there except when I am there feeding and working with our mare. When I am working with her, I lead the stud into a stall, and close the door so he is out of sight. He is easier than the mare 99% of the time. I sincerely appreciate your advice, and will keep in contact as we go through the slow relearning process. Hope the new year finds you & your in good health, and thank you again !

Sincerely, Jerry & Barb

Hi Jerry and Barb,

Rescued horses frequently are not socialized too well with humans. Your mare does not seem too bad actually. You need to be the leader of all your horses. This does not mean being a bully or 'in control'. It means being skillful and precise in your requests, being able to produce a reprocussions for non-compliance or behavior you do not want. I am all for a well timed and perfectly placed POP to the snout to any biting horse. There is only a 2 second window to do this. Beyond two seconds the horse does not know why it is being popped. Never hitting the horse in the head or abuse of any sort is paramount. Being able to put a horse to work doing hind end yields or tight circles is an appropriate consequence for unwanted behavior. This way you are not a diciplinarian. But rather, a leader and guide. The leg is probably hurting the horse and this is the reason she does not want to 'present' it to you. She may be anticipating or having some sort of discomfort when lifting the leg. You may be missing the horse trying to give you the leg when she abruptly lifts it a little and quickly puts it down. This is actually a 'try' and should be rewarded with a Good Girl. If repeated enough the mare may just keep the leg up at some point if you hold it properly and do not raise it too high. I have very good success with hard to handle horses with feet problems. I seem to be a le to recognise the horse trying to give the leg more than other trainers, I reward the try and quickly the horse trusts me enough to present the foot. It is hard to give this in an email. I offer you a telephone coaching session that would quickly have you on track with this particular issue (and others if you have them). Consider it as a convenient and easy to do possibility.

Anyway, I hope I have offered you some helpful suggestions. Please keep me posted.......Happy New Year to you as well.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: