Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Does your horse keep biting you? A horse’s slightest nip can cause serious injury. It can cause serious injury. It can also cause serious injuries. You don’t have to suffer from the pain of your horse biting you. We will discuss some reasons horses bite, and then give some suggestions for ways to get your horse to stop biting you (or others).
Why is my horse biting me?
Let’s look at some reasons your horse is biting you. You won’t be effective in solving the problem if you don’t know why your horse is biting.
- Sometimes horses bite to protect themselves and their horses. Your horse may bite if it feels threatened by you, or anyone else.
- Horses may bite if they feel uncomfortable.
- Horses might bite out of aggression. You might expect biting to be a sign of their spiritedness. If you buy a stallion, this is something you should look forward to.
- Horses can bite other horses to teach them a lesson. If a horse believes it is dominant over another, this will happen. You will hopefully not be the one who is affected by such behavior. If you are, it could mean that your horse doesn’t respect your authority and thinks you should be punished. This behavior may be more common if you have several horses. Horses may bite others to prove their authority. If your horse is busy establishing its position and believes you are beneath it, it might bite to prove you wrong.
- Horses can bite one another while grooming. These nips are most often directed at the neck and shoulders. You may feel that your horse thinks you need to be groomed every now and again. You should not allow this to happen, but failing to stop it could lead to horse bites.
- Horses might like to play with each other. This may be fun for your horse but it won’t be for you. Horses often don’t realize how hard they can bite and how little fun our frail human bodies can take.
- Territorial behavior. Horses require space just as you do. Sometimes they can even be protective of it. A small space may make it difficult for horses to be comfortable. Sometimes you might get a bit to warn you to back off.
- Biting may indicate sickness. Sometimes, horses that bite might be under the weather or have an infection. It is worth checking if your horse exhibits unusual behavior like biting, especially if there are other symptoms.
What to do if your horse bites you?
Now you are familiar with some reasons horses might bite. There are many reasons horses may bite. Your first step should be to determine the likely cause of your horse biting you. The next step is to take corrective action. Here are some solutions to different types of biting problems.
Stop your horse grooming you.
Most likely, your horse will try to groom you while you’re grooming it. It is a nice thought, right? It’s trying to do you favors. You must stop it.
You can push your horse’s head back if he tries to groom you. Do not be alarmed if your horse attempts to groom you. Be firm and go back to what you were doing. Your horse will eventually get the message.
Do not give treats to horses who are aggressive
Hand feeding your horse treats can be a great reward. It will also help to bond you two. If your horse is accustomed to nipping at your hand or invading your space during treat time, you should stop. You should immediately stop giving your horse treats if this happens. You are rewarding your horse for not respecting your space.
As your horse starts to stop biting you, it will become easier to reward him with treats from you by hand. Because they feel that the cycle is repeated, some people will never return to hand-feeding their horses treats. This may make some horses more stubborn than others, or less coordinated.
Even though it may know better, an excited horse could eat from your hand unintentionally. If you have persistent problems with this behavior, or don’t want it to happen, consider switching to hand-feeding and using a bucket for treats.
Stop food aggression.
During feeding, pay attention to the ears of your horse. Do they have their ears pinned back?
Case 1: Non-Aggressive Pinching
Uneasy is a horse that behaves in this way without showing any more aggressive behavior. If it is anxious, it might bite you. You can use the ear pin to guide your behavior. If your horse is tying its ears when you bring the food to him, don’t be surprised if it does.
Your horse will likely unpin his ears in response. Then you can continue to praise your horse verbally and move on. Continue to do this, making sure you only approach your horse when its ears are not pinched, and that you back off when they are. If all goes well, eventually your horse’s ears will stay unpinned if you are close enough to feed him.
Sometimes your horse might just keep re-pinching its ears. This can be frustrating. You might try to leave the horse for a while, then return and make another attempt. It will often go better the second time. Your horse may re-pin his ears if you take out the food. This is normal. It should stop at some point.
It might be tempting to wonder if it is worth trying again and again to feed your horse this way. The answer is yes! It shouldn’t take more that a few days for your horse start to learn the best way to get fed.
Case 2: Aggressive Pinching
What about horses that bite more often? Those that show aggression at mealtimes?
This aggression may be best trained outside. Place the food on the ground, and signal your horse to get up. A lead rope should be available. An aggressive horse may pin its ears and attempt to get close to the food bowl. This is unacceptable. You must stop your horse from trying to get close to the food bowl. Your horse should be able to back off.
If your horse continues to be aggressive on the next approach you should swing the rope. If necessary, you can step toward your horse but not towards him. Continue this process until your horse is able to stand near the bowl with his ears unpinned, calm demeanour and an open mind. Next, turn your horse away from the food.
There is a good chance that your horse will re-pin its ears at this point. While you don’t want it, you don’t want your horse to do that. Slowly and calmly show the rope to your horse. Once it has seen the rope, it will un-pin its ears. The horse can then eat. You can then let it eat.
You can burn excess energy.
A horse can get tired of sitting in his stall, especially when it’s young and full of energy. If your horse is young, you may notice a sudden increase in energy when it is released from its stall. How will it react if you ask it to stop?
It is possible that it will try and bite you. After all, it has so much energy.
Pre-emptively burning off extra energy is one way to fix this problem. Give your horse something to do. Even if it’s just moving around and following your instructions. After this, you can then let your horse stand still for a while and you will be able to continue with your normal routine.
These are just a few great ways to get your horse exercise. This is especially helpful when horses are being temperamental.
Your horse will need plenty of grass or hay.
Sometimes horses that bite are more inclined to do this because they don’t get enough chewing activity throughout the day. Your horse would graze a lot if it were to spend all its time outside. It expects to “graze” even when it’s in the stall.
It will bite you more often if it’s not able to do so because there isn’t enough hay or grass. It may also bite you or others. This is where the solution is quite simple: make sure you have enough hay and grass.
Do not encourage others to bite through your own cues and proximity.
Sometimes it can be easy for the horse to believe that it is always the owner who is too close. Sometimes it’s the owner. Are you prone to grazing your horse while you are doing other things?
You encourage more nudging when you do this. Horses can quickly turn to biting and nibbling when you nuzzle them. You can make the biggest mistake of thinking that it is “no big deal” if your horse starts to nibble at your clothes or you.
Your horse will repeat the behavior if you don’t let go. If you continue to petting your horse while he nibbles, you are actively encouraging it. To prevent this, you need to be aware of how your body and your proximity affect your horse. These are bad habits that you should not fall into. Be conscious of your horse’s response and pet it with intention.
Do not respond aggressively to your horse’s nudging. If you swat your horse, he will think “Yay, playtime!” and then you will be dealing with a frisky horse who is actually going in for a bite.
You can either 1-try to keep your distance from the horse calmly and see if it works or 2-engage with the horse in a way that your horse doesn’t expect. Here are some suggestions. Instead of scratching your horse’s nose with your fingers, you can rub it. This is something your horse will probably not mind if you do it in controlled bursts.
Do you remember owning a cat? Do you know how cats love to be petted and rubbed for a while but then become overwhelmed by sensory overload? The kitty may initially be happy to do the rubbing. Then, the kitty is bored and starts to run. A similar reaction should be elicited by rubbing your horse’s nose. Your horse may initially be happy about the positive attention. However, if it continues to receive it, it will feel annoyed.
The horse should then be able to withdraw its face and escape the endless rubbing.
When approaching a foal, you should halter a mare.
You will need to care for the foal if you have a mare and a foal. Your mare may try to bite or charge you. This problem is easily solved. It doesn’t take much time. You should see your mare settle down after a week.
You can’t wait for it to happen for a week, so what are you going to do? This is temporary so you don’t have to worry about training. However, you need to be cautious.
A halter will protect your mare from being bitten. If necessary, have a pole that you can attach to your halter. This will help you keep the foal from biting you when you approach her. You can also keep her from running at you.
After about a week, you should be able to take the halter off the foal and start approaching it without aggression. These notes on vocalization are important between mares and foals might be of interest to you.
Don’t crowd your horses.
Are there a lot of horses in one barn? You will see more aggressive and territorial behavior if you have a lot of horses living in close proximity to each other. Although your horses might direct most of their aggression at one another, they will also be directing it at you if you are present.
Your horses will be less aggressive if they have more space between them. You should be able to provide enough space for your horses if you have the money to care for them all. Consider expanding your barn or building another one.
Remodel your barn.
You might be able to give a territorial horse who is in a smaller stall more space. This applies regardless of whether or not other horses are in the barn. You might consider installing a screen or bars at the stall openings if you are unable to do so or if that doesn’t resolve the problem. This will ensure that your horse won’t bite you or anyone else.
These tips will help you create a comfortable environment for your horses. It is their home. It should be welcoming to them.
Do not adjust tack improperly (or pick the wrong tack).
Do your horses bite when you put on the tack? This could be a sign of a problem with the tack or the way you adjust it.
It is up to you to identify the problem. You will need to replace the tack if it is the tack itself. The horse should stop biting once you have done this. Try different adjustments to see if it stops biting. You could be adjusting the horse. Perhaps you’re too fast when tightening your saddle cinch.
The biting might stop if you move slower and more gently. Remember that horses can be conditioned to bite if they are dreading the idea of you putting on the tack. This can make it difficult to diagnose. This means that your horse may continue to bite even after you have fixed the problem. Your horse will eventually stop associating the tack and pain with discomfort.
Are you unsure if the problem is with your tack? These tips will help you determine if your tack is not working correctly. Unhappy horses can have a lot of problems with their tack, but it is often a simple problem to fix.
Do not allow young horses to develop a biteing habit.
Young horses can be expected to nibble or bite from the beginning. This is normal behavior for horses at this age. It can become a problem if it continues, which will make your horse more vulnerable as he gets older.
What can you do to stop it? A temporary use of a harness can help, in addition to the general training methods we will cover.
Your vet should be contacted if you suspect your horse is sick.
The best thing for your horse is to get treatment if you suspect that he may have a disease or sickness. While you can check your horse for signs of sickness and infection yourself, it is best to call your veterinarian. After treating a illness or injury, your horse will feel better and should stop biting.
These tips will ensure that you remain on the good side of your vet.
Do not ignore an aggressive series of interactions that begin with your horse.
It is crucial to learn to read your horse’s body language so that you can avoid getting bit. This is especially important if your horse has aggressive tendencies or is spirited. It is equally important to respond appropriately to your horse’s aggressive body language immediately, and not ignore it.
Aggressive behaviour can escalate if you don’t react, even if it started as something subtle. Let’s say that you’re going about your day and your horse suddenly starts to act aggressively.
Two common errors in responding to subtle aggressive cues are
- Horse owners may try to calm the horse’s aggression by giving them treats or petting him. This is a reward for the behavior and does not disrupt his aggressive thoughts. It is what we would do if we were horses, but an aggressive horse will not think like that.
- A horse’s owner places some distance between them and their horse. This could be because they are anxious, or because they just want to get on with their lives and try to ignore the situation and hope it will go away. Your horse will respond to this sign of submission as an increase in aggression. You might get a bite, or even a charge next time.
If you see subtle signs of aggression in your horse’s behavior, it is time to take control. Don’t provoke your horse. Make it clear that your horse is the one who will be resolute. You can direct your horse to do something or go somewhere else. Establishing dominance will allow you to control the interaction and end the aggressive behavior and thought patterns. This will hopefully prevent any biting or other potentially dangerous situations.
Tap on the legs.
We’ve covered a variety of ways to prevent horse biting, including specific situations like a new foal, tight spaces, feeding, and so on. Let’s now look at some general training tips to reduce horse biting.
Monty Roberts, a horse trainer, offers this method to teach a horse not to bite:
- Tap your horse’s shin as it comes in for a bite. Tap gently. Do not try to create a painful sensation.
- Keep doing the same thing as before, but pretend that nothing has changed.
At some point, your horse might try to bite you back again. It could happen in seconds, minutes, or even tomorrow.
If it happens again, you can repeat the steps. Tap on your shin.
Roberts says that it takes only 6-8 repetitions to disrupt the biting behavior. Roberts writes:
The horse will begin to bite, pause and then look at your leg. It is quite adorable to see their brains working.
This is an easy method that can be very effective.
Clicker training is a great option.
Another option is clicker training. This type of training is most commonly used with dogs but it can also be used with cats and horses.
A clicker, which you can use with your thumb to make a loud clicking sound, is a small device.
- Give your horse a treat, and let him make the “clicking” sound.
- Continue this process with some more treats.
- You can repeat the above steps in multiple sessions.
- Your horse will now think “treat” when it hears the click. You can direct your horse to behave in a way you prefer, such as moving its head or backing away. Click-treat immediately if it does so.
- Keep going with step 4, but click-treat later. When you first start it, you may do it as soon as your horse starts to move. But by the end you will only be doing it after it has completed its full motion. You can eventually wait for the horse to stop moving and then give the treat.
- If you don’t know how to tie, start.
You will eventually be able simply to give the command to the horse and click. The horse will then think “reward on its way!” and move their heads. Give the treat as quickly as possible every time. Try to be as consistent as possible.
We are trying to prevent biting by using clicker training. Therefore, treats should be given in a bucket and not out of your hands. It might seem odd that food is used for horse training.
The Willing Equine responds to this question.
Horses learn from negative reinforcement and pressure (negative reinforcement). However, they also learn from positive reinforcement and negative punishment. These are all forms operant conditioning. This is how animals learn.
You can reward them with praise, scratching, or petting if they don’t desire food. These tips for horse trainingg are helpful if you’re thinking of sending your horse for training.
Teach your horse to back off.
It doesn’t matter if you use clicker training or not, it makes sense to teach your horse how to stop niggling at you or smelling you. You can still give your horse a verbal cue and give it a treat when it follows the instructions and moves away from you. Although it may take a few repetitions to get the command down, once you have, it will become much easier to direct your horse to move its head.
The same method can be used to get your horse to move back from you using the verbal command. You want your horse to move back a few steps. If your horse is unable to reach forward to bite you that’s the ideal distance.
Do not be afraid to hire a professional trainer.
You can hopefully use some of these methods to reduce your horse’s tendency to bite. If you’re still having trouble, don’t try to do it all by yourself. Safety is the most important thing, so it may be necessary to have someone help you.
Elaine Heney offers horse courses
- Listening To the Horse – The Documentary By Elaine Heney and Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In-&Out Training to improve balance, bend and topline development with horses
- More than 110+ Polework Exercises and Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating a Connection with Your Horse (11 Lessons) – Grey Pony Films
Ask around in your local horse-training community for suggestions and help. But if this is not enough, you may need to consult a professional trainer. This will not only help ensure your safety but also allow you to learn valuable skills that will help you become a better trainer.
Sometimes you just need to know a little more about how your horse communicates with you. They are well-equipped for that.
What do you do in the moment of a bite?
Preventing horse biting is the best thing. We have discussed what you can do to prevent your horse from biting. What do you do when your horse bites you?
This situation is different for everyone. Sweating is something you shouldn’t do, and this is what a lot people do. We have already said that swatting at your horse’s nose when it attempts to bite you is a signal to play! You can bite me again! Please, make it more difficult next time!
These are some other ideas:
- A small bite (or a pinch on the lips) can often stop the behavior from going on.
- Your elbow should be raised so that the horse does not bite you when it comes in for the bite. The horse is not being hit. Its own movements backfire on it. It is therefore discouraged from continuing.
- You can use a light smack to get the job done, but be careful not to hit your neck or head. Instead, target the chest or shoulder. Keep in mind that your goal is not to harm your horse, but to get it out of its biting habit. A tap might be enough to get your horse started.
- If your horse is well trained, you might be able to push its head away by gently pushing it.
- If biting is particularly alarming, you can hop around and wave your arms while shouting loudly. You can smack your horse on the nose, but not on the face. Act like you’re insane and very dangerous. Your horse will likely stop doing it again and quickly back off. This is a good idea, but it’s best to not do it if your horse is tied.
No matter what you do, don’t try to punish your horse for the wrongs done. A horse will not understand your anger if it isn’t too long. You don’t want your horse to fear you if you shout, jump, or wave your arms. You must trust your horse.
Once your horse has stopped backing off, you should immediately restore your calm demeanour. Talk to your horse, and then pet him as you normally would.
Get on the ground quickly. Horse Bites Can Be Dangerous.
You shouldn’t allow your horse to bite, no matter what the reason. Although a small nip might not seem like much, if it becomes a regular occurrence, or if your horse underestimates your strength, it could spell doom for your horse’s health.
Don’t hesitate to stop your horse from biting. You can control your horse’s behavior faster, and it will be less likely to cause serious injuries to you or someone else.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!