Horse Bites: What to Do About It

If a horse suspects a treat in your pocket or nudges you playfully, you usually have to smile and think that’s cute. Usually, this is not a cause for concern, but actually a harmless but demanding gesture. But what if this behavior intensifies, the horse pinches or it really hurts? If a horse bites, great caution is advised, because the long teeth and the strong jaw can cause bruises as well as more serious injuries.

Where Does Aggressive Behavior Come From?

Basically, it can be stated that aggressive behavior is rarely actually inherited, but primarily a lack of upbringing, undiscovered pain or an unclear hierarchy are the causes. It is quite normal that horses like to test themselves and test their limits as foals and yearlings. Cheeky, impetuous behavior is not only part of growing up with dogs or humans, but also with horses. It is all the more important than the “family association”, in the case of children it is the parents and close family members, in the case of dogs the mother bitch, and in the case of horses above all other foals and mothers in a herd, clearly sets limits. If the young animals become too wild and cocky, they are reprimanded accordingly by their conspecifics.

In the best case, horses learn the ABC of foals at an early age, which includes putting on a halter or being touched by humans, as well as giving hooves and following the rope. When the young horse finally comes to a riding stable, where it gets to know everyday life in the stable and is also used to working with people, then the upbringing must not be allowed to drag on. Of course, the horse should above all positively link its new everyday life and feel good, but disrespectful behavior towards people should be prevented from the start in order to be able to guarantee safe handling at all times. Especially in riding stables, there are always many children out and about who, with good intentions, stroke the many noses through the bars or even hand out a treat. A biting or difficult to assess horse would quickly become a danger here, considering the size and weight of a fully grown horse or pony.

Is Everything Okay With Your Horse’s Health?

It is entirely possible that the aggression is not caused by a parenting problem, but rather that it is caused by pain. The causes can be varied and should in any case be clarified in all directions.

So before you start working on the behavior, make sure you have ruled out a health problem. Present your horse to your vet and/or an osteopath to make sure that your four-legged friend is not in pain, which is the reason for the aggressive behavior.

What Can You Do If a Horse Bites?

If a horse bites, you must first ensure that it cannot endanger anyone. It makes sense, for example, to have a closed window in the direction of the stable alley and a notice on the stable box. Your own safety also comes first if you are working with a four-legged friend who unfortunately does not always display good manners. You have probably already known the horse for a long time and can assess it quite well in which situations it is aggressive. Always keep these situations in mind and be vigilant. If you are a little ahead of your horse, you can put it in its place with good timing and, for example, energetically and firmly say “No” and hold your flat hand between you so that your horse backs away and has clearly perceived the limit. To feel more confident, you can take a crop with you when you work on the ground, for example, to make it easier to create a certain distance. The crop only acts as an extension of your arm.

Training and Root Cause Research

In order to get rid of aggressive behavior in the long term, intensive training and strengthening of your relationship and ranking are essential. Your horse should accept newly established boundaries and rules that you convey to him. At no point during your work should you put yourself in danger? The best thing to do is to find out about trainers in your area who have experience with behavior problems in horses and then work with professional support on the “construction site” of your four-legged friend. Even if you know your horse best, of course, a trainer can uncover any background and watch you interact with each other.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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