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Horse puts his ears back and nips
I have a horse that puts his ears back when I come around and on occasions has tried to bite me. He is a young (4) TB. How can I work with this behavior?
Lets see if I can offer a few suggestions. I want you to begin to carry a wand (short 3-4 foot stock whip) when you go to be with this horse. You need to set a boundary with him. The wand is not to hit him with. It will immediately give him a bit of respect for your presence near him if you merely raise it a bit and/or just squiggle it in front of him.
When you go into his stall, carry it with the rope and halter. Before you get in with him, while you are by the stall door, ask him to back up a step by using the wand somehow (tap the stall with the wand just enough to have him back a step) and then as soon as he backs just a bit, praise him and stop the tapping of the wand. This is not to threaten him, but merely as an attention getter. Remember, be sensitive, only use the wand just enough to get the desired response. Have him back up a step and wait away from the door until you get into the stall. That will immediately set you up as the leader of the dance. If he looks like he will nip at you, or tries to, raise the want in front of him and wave it a bit and say "NO!". That should back him off a bit. When he is doing what you want, like standing quietly w/o being nippy, praise him and make a little fuss over him briefly. If he looks nippy, tell him "NO" and raise the wand at the same time. Carry the wand when leading him around. Hold it in your left hand in kind of in a neutral position unless you need to activate it by raising it towards his head or chest if he gets too close or looks to nip. Set a boundary. Using the wand you can ask the horse to come only as close as you will allow. If you want him to stay 3 feet away, set the boundary using the wand. You can snake the lead rope under his chin also. This will move him away from you. I would practice having the horse back away from you by snaking the leadrope at him and asking him to back up. When you want him to stop say "HO!" and stop the wand action. Make everything you do with him a verbal request, even the simplest of moves, such as walking with you and stopping. When he does what you request, praise him. This set up a winning dynamic for the horse. You give him a simple request, he does it and gets rewarded with a "Good Boy".
Another thing to try is to send him around you in a small circle (first one direction and then the other at the end of the lead rope) if he looks to nip. He will soon understand that if he nips, he goes to work. If he stands with you quietly, it is peaceful and he gets a "good boy". By doing this you are making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.
Please let me know how it goes. I am interested. Thank you for the opportunity to offer suggestions. I hope I have been able to help.