sneaky nipping

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sneaky nipping

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:41 am

Hello to you all!



I found some good advice about a nippy horse in your topic list, but my horse is a REAL sneak: I've had him since August 2009, a rescue 3 yo stallion, gelded in October 2009........he was abandoned in a Walking Horse facility by his owner, who walked away nearly 2 years before. This facility was kind enough to feed & water him, but no socialization & little attention until I bought him. He is an Arabian cross, near as I can tell. I took him from a box stall, to 9 acres, & he's so happy!



He absolutely insists on putting his mouth &/or teeth on me whenever he sees me, it's like an obsession. While I can use the "surprise counterattack" method on your forum when I see it coming, most of the bites are when I'm working on the fence or he's got his head down & I'm scratching his mane or talking to him. Any quick disclipine only encourages him. Nothing stops him!



I've often been working in the pasture, only to turn & find he has half my coat in his mouth, and has been chewing happily & silently for many minutes. He gets periously close to my ears from behind too, and has munched on my forearm leaving a bodacious bruise. He's a playful happy colt, loves to play tag & I know most of his nibs are fun loving, but I don't want that kind of fun from him. He is an only horse & will listen to me when I ask him to back up, or come, and will relinquish his hindquarters easily. He will stand tied just fine, but unties the rope if he can. He's halter broke only.



I want to use Paul's methods on him to gain more control as the weather gets warmer, but no doing now! lol Should I invest in a muzzle? I am an older person (56) so my reflexes aren't so great anymore in order to off his lip locks. Please advise, and edit this by all means if you post it!



Many thanks!



Sue G.
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Re: sneaky nipping

Post by Ed Dabney on Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:23 am

Hi Sue,

I would suggest you be more aware of your horse's position relative to your personal space. It seems you are allowing him to creep into your personal space and before you realize it he has already bitten you. When you are working on the fence or scratching his mane or are in his vicinity in any way be constantly aware of keeping him out of your space. I define my personal space by "arm's length" from me. You could tie a small plastic bag on the end of a four foot dressage whip and take that with you when you go work on the fence. If he comes too close to you just wave your "flag" a little to drive him off.



Instead of disciplining him for biting you, try to teach him not to bite you by teaching him to stay outside your personal space. One of my “written in stone” rules is that the horse is never allowed to touch me with any part of his body at any time. “Touch me” means coming within arms length of me. I want my horse to know that if he crowds into my space he will find that my personal space is a very uncomfortable place to be. He would not want to crowd a porcupine so think of your space as a porcupine. This does not mean I don’t love on and rub my horse. I do plenty of loving on my horse but I do it in his space on my terms, not the other way around. He doesn’t barge into me or crowd my space and get rewarded by being rubbed. Instead I drive him out of my space with rhythmic pressure by creating a commotion with my arms, elbows, rope, flag etc. then I go into his space to rub on him.

It is your responsibility as a horse owner to set boundaries for your horse and become a good leader for your horse. In the herd the leader is to be respected at all times and will make his boundaries clearly and quickly known to any horse that comes too close. You should have this same air of confident leadership and well established boundaries. I would not "play tag" with him. This teaches aggression and encourages him to charge into your space.



Along with what I’ve described above here is a plan to deal with a sneaky biting horse:

1. Awareness and positioning- When I am with any horse I am always aware of my position relative to their nose. I want the nose to stay straight ahead in a neutral position. If I let the nose swing over into my space then for all practical purposes the horse has already bitten me. I use the backing exercise, rhythmic open palms or elbows, jumping jacks or waving a rope, flag or crop to place the horse at a respectful distance from me. I insist on respect for my space at all times with every horse so I remove their temptation to nose around on me.



2. Attention- With a horse who really wants to have his nose in my space, I’ll drive him outside my space then go into his space and pay him lots of loving attention with both hands all around his head, stroking his cheeks, forelock, lips, nostrils, ears. I want to make sure I am meeting his needs for attention.



3. More Attention- When I step away if he moves his nose towards me I will give his nose more attention than he really wanted by rubbing his nose quickly but gently until he chooses to move his nose away. When he does I leave him alone. If his nose comes back into my space again I greet it with extra enthusiasm. After a few times repeating this process he will decide to leave his nose out of my space.



4. Get him busy- If he starts doing anything I don't like I will back him, circle him or do any of the other exercises until he settles and stands quietly.



Horses don't bite people they respect so work at establishing your solid relationship and leadership position with him.

Enjoy the journey,

Ed
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Re: sneaky nipping

Post by Paul Williamson on Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:49 pm

PAUL- Dear Sue,



First and foremost, I advice you to invest in and wear proper safety gear around your horse - if you not already are, of course. I'm referring to a helmet and a vest, maybe even steel toes. There's just no good reason to expose yourself to unnecessary injury when there are so many options out there to wear adequate protection and still look cool!



Secondly, your horse has had a looong time on his own to develop bad habits and dangerous behaviours with no one there to show him the way so his behaviour is understandable but not excusable so you need to stop it before he decides to take it a step further.



Ok, so rule number one is to wear safety gear so he won't be able to hurt you. Rule number two is no treats. Ever. And don't try to pick a fight with him unless you're absolutely confident that you can come out of it unharmed and with the other hand.



My advice would be to shower him with affection and rubs when he's behaving himself and either ignore or scold him for nipping depending on your temper. Make being a good boy worth his while and make sure he never gains anything even remotely positive from nipping. Also do some easy exercises with him to take his mind off things and keep his brain ticking. And don't overfeed him unless you're working him ok, he could also be acting out due to excess energy.



It sounds like he would benefit from the company of other horses - he shouldn't be attempting to play with you so the fact that he sees you as someone to "play tag with" is worrying. He should play tag with a grown-up paddock mate and be a grown up good boy around you.



Best of luck!
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