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Horse Help Center

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Nipping & Biting Children and those who seem vulnerable only

Hi there. I read through almost all your information on biting, but I have a bit of a different problem. I have a 4 year old mare and a 10 year old gelding paint. My 10 year old paint we just purchased back in January. We belong to a riding club on a Military post so there are about 30 horses out in the pasture with mine.

When we first purchased our paint he tried nipping at us but a quick pop and he stopped. Now, my daughter and I have no problems with him (husband is deployed so we will have to see when he comes back). However, I have noticed that whenever someone inexperienced with horses or does not come on strong my horse will nip and/or bite at them. Especially children. A little boy was bit by my horse the other day. Of course he didn't help the situation by running up underneath him, but now I am nervous because SO many people and kids are around all these horses everyday.

If your horse is a "biter" you can be removed from the stables-which would be a huge problem for us. What would cause my horse to bite other people especially kids and what can I do about this behavior? If it helps he does not charge at people but he will sit there all sweet letting them pet him and then get grumpy all of a sudden pin his ears and bite.

Thanks! Jen

Hi Jen,

Truth is, many horses tend to go after those who appear vulnerable to them. This is to establish themselves higher on the pecking order, for self-protection and for perceived survival. Not all horses do this to children or those who are 'unconscious or unaware around them.' But many horses will. Once this becomes habitual behavior, it is difficult to modify. It generally stems from some abuse in the horse's history. I had a horse on Maui who had been chased and taunted by children. He would bite a child's face, or an adult's, if they were unconscious around him. If the person had any horse sense or real 'presence' (connection) with the horse, there was no problem. He was a terrific riding horse for children or adults. This horse eventually had several bouts of colic and passed away from the last bout. This showed the horse carried a hefty amount of stress. When the horse bit a child, you could see it actually knew it was not good behavior and that the horse felt bad about it. He could not change though and carried the conflict within him. I had the horse quite a while and tried various methods to rehabilitate him. Ultimately, I could not modify the behavior enough to make the horse completely safe for people to be around when on the ground with him. He simply would not bite anyone who was conscious, self-aware or had horse sense. But if a person was perceived as 'vulnerable' by the horse, he would bite. You could try setting up the situation where you feel fairly sure the horse will try to bite and provide a consequence or either work (movement backing firmly) or a pop to the snout. I tried that with my horse, but it never really solved the problem. Good Luck.....


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