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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Horse Bites When Desensitized

Question: Is it OK to reprimand a horse for trying to bite you when you are desensitizing? I’m working with a colt that is almost 4 months old. When I would touch a certain part of his chest, he would try to bite me—not my hand, me. I would reprimand him and then go straight back to touching that area until he no longer tried this. Was it technically OK to do this, or should I have done something different? – Sierra Burnett

Clinton’s Answer: Anytime your horse is disrespectful to you, no matter what you’re doing with him, you need to correct him. This is especially true of biting—it’s a very dangerous behavior that can turn deadly, no matter how innocent it seems to be with young horses. How you handled the situation is what I would have done.

Biting is a very forward action— the horse is coming at you with the goal of getting you to move your feet. It’s how horses communicate with each other in a herd and get other horses to move their feet. Remember, because horses are a herd animal, everything in their life revolves around herd dynamics. The number one horse in a herd earned his position by proving to all of the other horses that he could move their feet. Whoever moves first, loses. Even if a horse is a cute and fuzzy 4-month-old foal, he knows what he’s doing and his behavior needs to be nipped in the bud fast.

On a side note, when I get asked questions the way you presented yours, where you had a problem, came up with the solution and got the result you were looking for and then wanted to know if you did the right thing, it always slightly amuses me. I’m not poking fun at you, so don’t take this the wrong way, but if your solution took care of the problem, don’t worry about it being what I would have done or any other horseman would have done. If it worked, it worked. End of story. Part of being a great horseman is learning how to think on your feet. Have confidence in yourself.