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Two-year-old gelding starting to bite.

Hello Franklin,

We have a 2 and a half year old gelding that was born here and has been handled every day of his life. We bring the horses in every night during the winter months and put them back out in the morning after being fed. Wrangler has recently decided it is fun to try to bite whoever is nearby, horse or human. For instance, he is in a stall next to a wonderful, obedient, but dominant mare. When I am putting on her halter and lead to take her out of the barn he is constantly mouthing at me and sometimes makes contact and bites. I am usually in the barn alone doing these chores so I am constantly on the defense with him. When I am trying to put his halter and lead on, he wants to put it in his mouth and chew it. He was so good and now all of a sudden he has become crazy. He has also started rearing and striking at me after releasing him into his paddock. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. I take care of 6 horses by myself on a daily basis and don't want to lose this one to bad habits. Thank you for your help!
Sincerely, Dawn

Hi Dawn,

You say the horse has been "handled everyday" but does this mean really with training intention? Turn out and in again is definitely handling. But, not necessarily training to move off of pressure, longe, move forward, back, change direction, yield the hind quarters, lower head, been sacked out and all the things that initial training means? If these things have not been done, the behavior you are experiencing is perfectly normal and to be expected. Also, if he was never given a consequence for any unwanted behavior, he will definately attempt to 'run the show.' I do not believe in punishment. I am a big fan of consequences for unwanted behavior. It may be the same action, but the energy around a consequence is much different than punishment.

If I am working with a young horse that is starting to bite, I set up the situation where I know he will attempt to bite, so I can be prepared to provide the consequence. Setting it means I am wearing somewhat thick leather gloves, holding the leadline in my right hand with about 18 to 24 inches of slack in it. The rest of the line is ribbon-coiled in my left hand. I want the horse to my right side and not far off (a foot or so). I do not want it behind me or in front of me. I want to be at it's 'throatlatch.' I train horses to keep that exact position with me when being led (never allow the horse to get behind you or to be pulling you by being in front of you). A horse behind you can be very dangerous. This should never be allowed. Anyway, I set it all up like I have described. I keep my right hand below the horse's mouth about 8-10 inches or so, sort of offering my hand to be bitten if the horse is inclined. I watch the animal closely from the corner of my right eye. The instant he attempts to bite, my right hand becomes a fist, I bring it up with the speed of light (lol) forcefully and pop the horse right on the end of its snout. Thats it. I continue walking and nothing more. No threats. No big deal. No anger. No punishments and just keep moving forward like nothing happened. If you are consistent, skillful with good timing and patient as well as always reward immediately for all good effort and trying to comply with requests, things should begin to go much better with him. Do a lot of elementary training as I have described to get him used to compliance, trust and respect. Good Luck and keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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