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Young stallion biting

Hi Franklin,

I recently purchased a yearling stallion. He seems to have a great calm disposition and I have owned him for about a week and a half. He was great at the breeders but after I brought him home he did get rather excited and anxious after realizing we also have two yearling fillies.

They can nuzzle noses over the top of the pasture gate since it is close to his paddock. He gets some social interaction with the girls but we have a solid wall to prevent unwanted breeding [ too young!!] I also have a very large paddock for him so he can move around a lot and get some exercise and have provided him with a jolly ball, a rope bone and a tarp to play with.

I gave him a few days to settle and just patted him when I fed him. A few days ago I decided to catch him and groom him. I had brushed him before loose and I could touch him anywhere and he stood nicely. I even did his feet. He is really easy to halter. He has been handled since birth and I thought it really showed until I put the lead on thats when 'it' started. I just clipped the lead on and turned to lead him off and he gave me a shove and a soft nip in the bottom. He wasn't directly behind me but he reached over of course I saw him but it was too late. I just said NO!! and then I carried on leading him. I tied him and groomed him and he was fine.

Then I thought I would lead him around and see how well he does with me because I'm new to him. Well he started nipping non stop and I must admit I have never had a nippy horse. I just kept saying NO and tried to resume leading but it wasn't working he persisted and was getting pushy so I waited for a split second break from him and took my que to let him go and go do some research.

I don't understand his motivation but I don't think it is an aggressive behavior. He also did this with my husband. First he would do well then the very persistent non stop nipping at the lead. Sometimes biting down on it shoving and pushing and trying to bite any part of us he can reach. I have noticed when my husband worked with him his ears aren't back when he is doing this but if you stop him and pat him then his ears will start to go back a little before he resumes his game again.

I clearly think this horse has no respect for me. The question is how do I change that? He was so indifferent towards me since he has arrived like: "Oh, Hi its you, Bye." And even when I groomed him he was rather indifferent. Now he just wants to bite everything. He is also crowding my space when I clean his stall. He bites the rake and puts his hoof in the wheel barrel when I am mucking out trying to tip it. I assume that is just curious behavior.

The biting is unacceptable though and the only solutions I know don't help and I don't want to use aggression but I can't let this get worse! I want to use natural horsemanship and earn his trust but how do I do that if I can't get him to focus on me and when he does its just to play his game. I need advice asap! I don't want to play games ... am I some how playing into his hands if so how can I change ?? How do I get his interest so I can earn his trust and how do I stop this bad behavior!

I don't want to geld first and stop it ... I think I need to handle this now ... and he is a breeding prospect. I have been around stallions and sometimes they were a bit pushy but never nippy. Mind you they were also older and more well trained. I have been looking for a professional but am not having luck so I need help. I tried some circle work but I don't think he gets it he has ever been lunged before and sending him out of my space is not working he just pushes back. I'm sure he is just being a stallion. The fillies don't help as he knows they are around even though I am one on one with him. The breeder says he never did that at home and that I should give him hell ... but what does that mean?

Well thanks for listening. I hope you can help,


Hi there,

First off, please realize that trying to teach these techniques with an email is like trying to teach someone to Tango in a letter. You really need to see it to get it. I use the word QUIT rather than NO for unwanted behavior. Mouthy behavior (being nippy, etc.) is normal and natural behavior for stallions. It can be trained out of them. A way to work with the horse w/o being so close is very desirable (a round pen is a wonderful tool). Being able to request movement w/o being within range of hooves or mouth is a terrific advantage. Initially, I handle stallions at liberty a lot. This allows me to establish appropriate leadership, boundaries and trust w/o putting myself in jeopardy. I use a flag as a tool frequently as it is efficient, non-abusive (never to hit the animal with as a whip can be) and offers lots interest for a horse as well as they respect it. Even a horse who is desensitized to a flag will respect it. I always immediately establish a boundary with any horse. I never allow the horse to get too close to me, unless I want and invite it to. Consistently maintaining a 3.5 foot boundary (using a flag softly and precisely as a communication tool) all around is appropriate for me. This setting of a boundary happens continuously and ... every moment I am with a horse I am aware of its position and movement and attitude. I tend to ask a horse to back up a few feet regularly (frequently correcting its position in relation to the boundary I have set). I have found that once my leadership is accepted (I am a calm and confident leader with horses and very precise in requests for movement), trust is developed and so is respect. Calm consistency cannot be over-emphasized. Over a bit of time (an hour or so) most nippy behavior subsides with me. I will lead the horse around at liberty (no ropes) for a bit once it is hooked on to be and licking and chewing with me. I will teach it to lunge and change directions smoothly, quietly, and be able to do this both facing me and facing away from me, all at liberty. I tend to desire slow, calm movement from a horse as opposed to have the animal trotting around a lot or cantering. I prefer one-step-at-a-time training done slowly, calmly and precisely. It is easy to speed a horse up. It is not so easy to slow/calm him down. I like teaching relaxed horses as I think they learn better. If a horse I am working with has so much energy it just wants to move, fine. I just let it move without trying to restrain it. It won't want to move forever. When he wants to stop I ask for a little more and then request (allow) him to stop. I do not believe in restraints. I want earned respect and trust, both ways. It is only after I feel I have a good connection, bond of trust and leadership established that I put a halter on the horse and teach it to lead from a rope and then I teach it to lunge on a line. All this is done in one session lasting about an hour.

Your skills at lungeing, horse handling, leadership, internal calm, confidence, conscious breathing, body language, and wisdom of horses, and a lot more come into play. Most stallions will come around through this sort of training quite well if there is no prior abuse, and you know what you are doing. I will, sometimes, POP a horse right on the end of its snout if it attempts to bite. This is done with my elbow or a gloved hand. I will sometimes set up the situation where I know the horse will try to bite and I am prepared. Controlled situation! I have a second to provide the POP right on target, and then forget about it and move on. Never punish a horse. Providing a consequence is done to teach, not to punish and the energy behind it and intention is different then with punishment. DON'T LISTEN TO THE BREED AND BE GIVING YOUR HORSE HELL! DO NOT PUNISH! HE IS NOT BEING BAD! He is just being a horse. He needs leadership to trust a human and show respect. He is responding to his environment and current handling practices. If you get better, so will your horse. The breeder is into force and punishment. Probably this is why the horse is the way he is currently. Old ways die hard for humans. It is easier with horses once you really gain the knowledge and skill. Wish I could show you some of the very high end Arabians stallions I have in training. You wouldn't believe how good they are and how gentlemanly they are. Yearling stallions up to four. Finely bred, and destined for the show ring and breeding. Anyway, good luck to you and please keep me posted....

Sincerely, Franklin

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