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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Biting problem

Dear Mr. Levinson

I have read so much about you and I really admire your work. I hope I can see you in person when you will be in Greece this September.

My name is Maria-Lydia Mitritsas, I am 11 years old and live in Volos, Greece. I am an athlete in show jumping and I have a six and a half years old male horse, Dakar. We are a good team together, and it is the second year I am racing in the national championship ( 1m and 1.10m)

Dakar has a very good character, he's very sweet, calm, clever and co-operative. Very recently, he started up a bad habit, biting. Of course he is not doing it in an aggressive way, i.e. attacking without purpose.

Seems that he is doing it just for play, as most of the times while I am grooming him, he suddently " attacks" i.e. attempts to bite my hand ( most of the times he doesn't).

Other times, when I finish my daily training and grooming and leave the stable, he pulls his ears back and again attempts to bite.

I can't understand his behaviour and what has caused this change. Sometimes when he does this, I slap him on the nose ( not strongly of course ) and also raise my voice to show that what he is doing is not right. Yet I do not know if this is the right thing to do. Can you please advise me ??

With sincere regards, Maria-Lydia

Hello Maria Lydia,

Actually biting (nipping) is a very natural thing for a horse to do. If you watch horses in a pasture they are frequently jousting with their mouths. A sharp, quick (within 2 seconds of the offense), well aimed to the snout, pop and a "Quit!" is OK. It is important it is within a couple of seconds of the offense and well aimed (right on the snout). Do not say "No" as it sounds too much like "Whoa". Better to say "quit" as it sounds different and gets the horse's attention rather well.

If the horse nips during grooming, I would look at the way you are grooming him and the tools used. If it is in any way uncomfortable, too quick, brush is too stiff or hard, if you are using too much pressure with the grooming tools on his body, or in any way making it unpleasant for him, expect him to show displeasure by a nip. The nip at the end of the day is again showing some discomfort at something. He has been worked, is swetty and then cleaned/groomed again. I would look here as well for any discomfort that he is receiving from the grooming. His body has been swetty and perhaps his skin is even more sensitive than it was earlier. He is not being playful as playful mouth jousting would not accompany any grooming. He is responding to something being uncomfortable. Try softer brushes and going slower. It will take longer, but your horse will like it better. Expect your change in grooming habits to take a while for your horse to know it is no longer is uncomforatble. He is anticipating discomfort for now and it will be a while before he habituates to it not being uncomfortable.

I hope to see you in Greece in September....

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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