Biting and the Young Horse

by Mariellen W. Keefe
July 31, 2014

Certainly, a horse that bites can be worrisome. Anyone that comes in contact with the horse could be at risk of harm, but what if the biting is just a nibble of the clothing and there is no aggression? There is a fine line between allowing a young horse to explore and communicate in the manner natural to them by nibbling, as well as preventing a harmful habit from forming.

According to the book, “How to Think Like a Horse” by Cherry Hill, young horses nibble with their lips and grab with their teeth out of playfulness and curiosity or they bite due to resentment or pain. She goes on to say that hand feeding treats or petting on the nose can encourage biting. The ASPCA article, “Teaching Your Horse Not to Bite” also adds that horses often nip when they are excited or have pent up energy. And of course, it cannot be ignored that biting is also a sign of aggression.

In her article, “Biting Their Way Into Your Heart?” Anna Twinney states that the more information you have about a behavior the better chances you have of changing it. The following is a case study based on the five days I spent with a horse that bites, in which I tried to figure why she behaved as such and find a way to make the biting stop.

Aria: Her Heart is Bigger Than Her Bite

DAY ONE: Aria is a 3-year-old, palomino Canadian Sports Horse/Draft cross. She is a Premarin foal that has been trained by Anna Twinney, founder of Reach Out to Horses (ROTH) and her trainers. Her biting was first noticed when she was several months old.

Read the full case study by clicking below

Biting and the Young Horse by Mariellen W. Keefe

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