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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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My horse bit me hard

I recently purchased a 6 yo gelding. He has had quite a bit of training for a horse his age, well over 100 rides in the past 15 months. He was broke as a 3 yo and was a stallion until May 2009. He attempted to breed several times but could not maintain an erection and would get frustrated and then attempt to bite at handlers who were near him. Shortly thereafter, he was gelded.

A regime of working him followed to keep the swelling down and then riding him also began. He is a quiet horse overall and on the lazy side. I was told that he once bit a teenage boy on his back who was grooming him. It was thought that he was grooming him to hard.

Now about me - I agreed to purchase the gelding in May and went to ride him once a week for 6 weeks to learn how he rode and how to handle him. I thought this was good. I handled everything: getting him from his paddock; grooming him tied; tacking him up, leading him out; lunging him and riding him, cooling him down and putting him away. He was always a gentleman to work around. He was also being ridden a couple other times each week as well by the trainer/owner. 

I took delivery of him the end of July. The gelding is turned out daily with our 13 yo mare and is stalled across the hall (8ft) from him in our small barn. He has never tried to mount her nor does he appear interested in her she while she is in heat.

I did not have a saddle that fit him and was not able to ride him for 4 weeks but did lunge him a few times. I tried to spend some time in his stall grooming him and bonding with him a few nights a week. He was always untied in the stall.

He was always a gentleman and would just stand. I noticed that every time I groomed him he would drop down. When I was grooming his hind quarters his shaft would begin to slap his stomach. This has always happened. I know geldings will drop down and have seen others drop down while being groomed but not this. Incidently, he did not drop down while tied at the farm where I rode him. 

Last week I got my saddle, a real nice used Tucker and we saddled him up and lunged in the saddle just before dark. A few days later I was in his stall grooming him. My wife was across the hall grooming her mare. I asked her to come over and check out this odd behavior and the slapping sound from his shaft. As she came over to see she had a flake of hay and handed it to me. I turned and dropped it into the feeder and as I turned back he lunged forward and bit me so fast and then backed up with his ears back.

I was stunned and my wife grabbed me by the arm and pulled at me to come out. We looked at my arm where he bit my bicep quite bad I might add. I did not have a chance to correct him with a punch to the nose or any correction as I was simply stunned by this unexpected bite.

The next day I led him out to pasture in the morning and he was fine. That evening I led him back to his stall, grained both he and the mare a half-can and gave him hay. Later on I came out and put him on cross ties, groomed him (he did not drop down), tacked him up, lunged him for about 10 minutes and then rode him for another 15 minutes and put him away.

I am leery that this may happen again but am trying to pretend everything is alright. I do not go back into the stall and groom him. I do intend to carry on and cross tie groom him, saddle and lunge, then ride him.

Why do you think this happened? What do you think is going on? I am on the alert now and if he was to try this again, how should I attempt to correct this?


Hi Rob,

First off, let me thank you for your kind and generous donation. Its folks like you that help keep the free help center going. Many thanks.

Many geldings will drop/extend their penis when being groomed. It feels good and they respond. To get the kind of hard erection that allows him to exert muscle control to hit his belly with it is not quite normal, but not so abnormal. It does indicate some hormonal, residual testosterone in his system. I am not a veterinarian and cannot diagnose this horse as far as medical issues. There is something called "proud cut" when some testicle tissue remains in the testes and produces this hormone. A good possibility is that whoever did the 'operation' on him, didn't quite get it all. Again, I am not trying to make a medical diagnosis as I am not a vet. But, I have seen this sort of behavior quite a bit in other horses. Additionally, maybe only one testicle had dropped and he is still retaining one in his abdomen. So, there are several possibilities there. A blood test focusing on hormones in the horse's system might shed some light on this. His lack of interest in a mare in season is not necessarily indicative of his being totally castrated successfully. The fact that he was not a successful breeding stallion would suggest he may be able to be stimulated (which is what happened here) but not consummate the breeding process. Thus, no real interest in fully breeding, but can feel stimulated.

Suggestions as to dealing with the behavior would be to: first, do not turn your back to this horse especially when there is food around or it is feeding time. The bite is not necessarily indicative of stallion behavior as many horses get aggressive around their food. However, the bite and the hard erection combined would indicate hormonal involvement. Depending on the level of exercise, I would not feed this horse much in the way of gain ('hot' food, like corn and sweet feeds with molasses). Crimped oats might be OK. Although, hay and a few vitamins/minerals may be all he needs, especially if he is in anyway an 'easy' keeper. Give him lots of exercise. Time off will only make him more energetic and potentially feisty. If you cannot ride him, still handle him quite bit and allow him to get a bit of a sweat. You can always cool him down.

To train horses to not bite I set up a situation where I want the horse to try to bite me. I wear a thick heavy jacket and heavy gloves. This is a controlled training set up and I do not suggest it be attempted by someone who is not very experienced with horses. I create the circumstances when the animal will usually try to bite. I watch for the horse to bite and the instant it goes for me I am ready to give a firm, well placed, perfectly timed (within 2 seconds of the bite attempt) POP right on the end of the snout, with my closed fist or elbow. I don't want to knock its teeth out. But it is firm for sure. Then...forget about it and do something else. This process may have to be repeated. If this process is done correctly the horse will not run away, get head shy nor become afraid of you. It will, however, not attempt to bite you, especially if you pay attention to the animal and not be complacent around it, and especially when food is involved. If you present yourself as vulnerable, many horses will go after a vulnerable individual, horse, human, dog, chicken, whatever. So, be mindful always around a horse. Never take anything for granted, or assume anything. No matter now long you have had the animal, or how well you think you know it. I am 64 years old and have had horses all my life and been a professional for 43 years. I have learned to always pay attention and never to assume anything about a horse, as something can arise that you don't even see and WHAM, you are toast. If the horse gets in anyway aggressive around its food, I would set up a separate training where you set boundaries around the animal going to its food. I handle herds (groups) of horses sometimes and line them up and put the food down in front of them all. I then allow them to one-at-a-time approach the food, take a bite or two and then move back and allow another horse to come forward. Again this takes skill as a trainer. But I probably could talk you through it as you sound like you already have some good experience. Boundaries are very important. It is essential you maintain them with any horse. You might consider working with this one horse around boundary issues, especially where food is involved. But no matter, don't turn your back on the animal when food is around. You have not had this horse very long as yet. Be more careful.

Please keep me posted and thank you again for your generous donation. I hope I have offered some helpful insight and suggestions for you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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