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Two year old biting gelding


We are now the proud owners of a 3-year-old gelding quarter horse. We have had him for a week and have already fallen in love with him. This is the first horse that our family has owned. We don't know a lot about horses, but are trying to learn all we can. He seems to be a very gentle and loving horse. He walks on a lead rope very well and seems to mind well with verbal commands.

I have three questions that I need answered.

(1) The other day my 15-year-old daughter was brushing him and he turned his head and tried to bite her on the shoulder. Luckily she dodged him. He has tried to bite or nibble at our hands several times since this incident. He also tries to bite my bullmastiff on the neck without being provoked... he doesn't like the dog very much anyway. Both of my daughters allowed him to lick their hands and fed him snacks from their hands... until I did a little research and now know better. Could this have caused him to start biting and how do we correct this behavior?

(2) He does a funny thing with his mouth and I have also done some research on this. He lifts his head and stretches his neck and opens his lips and teeth and acts as if he is trying to get peanut butter out of the top of his mouth. He doesn't act aggressive when he does this. Could you tell me what he is doing and is this aggressive behavior?

(3) Sometimes he gets a drink of water and holds it in his mouth for a few seconds then spits it out. Is this normal and why is he doing this?

Thanks in advance, Debbie

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for your question. One thing I would like to know is whether or not the horse is kept alone? They are so very social and crave herd mates. Are there Equine friends for him?

You have learned it is not good to feed treats from the hand. Also allowing a horse to put his mouth on you even to lick your hand is not good. These things have contributed to the horse getting nippy. Horses use their mouths anyway a lot. This is normal. I want to quickly set appropriate boundaries with horses and stick to them by being consistent. Generally I can wave a horse's mouth away from me by shaking my gloves at their mouth and firmly saying "NO!" If a horse gets nippy with me I also bend them around me in tight circles in both directions. This immediately modifies behavior I do not want as the horse can only think of one thing at a time. So if I put him to work circling, he doesn€št think of biting. They will also associate that if they bite they go to work. I will also jab a horse right on his upper lip in front of his upper teeth if he bites me. This is really the only time I pop a horse. You have only 2 seconds to do this if the horse bites. If you hesitate longer than 2 seconds the horse does not know what he is popped for. Play a lot of ground games with the horse; lots of circles, ground driving, sending the horse places at the end of a line. This is where you bond is first formed. It has little to do with grooming and feeding which are nice and pleasurable for the horse, but do not forge the bond or develop much respect or trust. This is accomplished by right and appropriate action. The horse is attracted to and always looking for the great leader. The skillful, confident, compassionate, quietly strong, knowledgeable leader is who your horse wants you to be. This is why I teach success with horses as life enrichment.

The display you are seeing when he stretches his neck up and lifts his upper lip is a natural display in response to some sort of stimulating smell. Stallions do it when they smell a mare in heat. Other horses do it when stimulated through their sense of smell as well. It could be another horse's urine that triggers this automatic response. It is call the
Flemin Response
. When your horse slobbers water, it is another normal thing. The horse's mouth should always be moist. Many bits have copper inlaid into the mouthpiece to help the horse salivate more. If the horse's mouth is a bit dry they will slobber some water to cleanse, refresh and moisten their mouths.

I hope I have been able to offer some good suggestions. Let me know how it all goes. Thank you for your questions. I am available to on-line or telephone horsemanship and training coaching. If you have any interest please let me know. I also have tapes on my philosophies and training techniques becoming available this summer. Please check the website for updated information on these offerings.

Sincerely, Franklin

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