What to do with a biting horse is a common horse training issue. Because Parelli Natural Horsemanship always begins the process of solving a horse problem by first seeking to understand the horse’s behavior, we start by asking this question: Why Is the Horse Biting?
The Answer: Usually, a horse is biting for one of three reasons:
A Biting Horse Isn’t a Bad Horse
Horse biting is not a “bad habit” that your horse has. It is usually a very real response to something that is really worrying the horse. Either he’s reacting to something that is scaring or hurting him, or he’s telling you that you should move out of the way because he is the boss! Biting is a symptom, not a problem in itself. It’s feedback, really. The horse cannot speak to let you know that something is troubling him, so he kicks or bites or bucks.
Often people react to a biting horse by slapping the horse on the muzzle. This is not the least bit helpful. A horse is a prey animal and prey animals do not understand punishment. What is helpful when confronted with this problem is to figure out your horse’s personality, or Horsenality™. This will help you figure out which motivation is prompting the horse’s biting behavior. Understanding your horse’s Horsenality and behavior is the foundation of the Parellli Natural Horse Training Method and the basis for the natural horsemanship approach to solving horse problems. Once you’ve determined whether your horse has a Right-Brain or Left-Brain “Horsenality,” you will understand why he is biting. Right-Brain horses bite in defense when they are afraid or hurt. Left-Brain horses use biting to dominate. Each of these Horsenalities and reasons requires a different horse training approach to arrive at a humane, effective and lasting solution. In order to “cure” the problem, you have to first know where your horse is coming from. Then you can be appropriate in your response and preventative measures.
Keep Your Distance!
Whether your horse’s biting is motivated from fear or a desire to dominate, the number one rule with a horse that’s been known to bite is: Keep the Biting Horse at a Distance! Just because we love horses and seek to understand them doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the danger a biting horse presents. Until you’ve learned your horse’s Horsenality and what training method will get you the best and most lasting solution for that Horsenality, keeping your horse at a distance – and out of biting range – is a good interim solution. However, this means that you need to know how to skillfully back your horse up from a distance. For this, we recommend wiggling your rope using the one of the Parelli Seven Games called the Yo-Yo Game. Backing up your horse just a step or two may not be enough. You need to back him up until the look on his face changes. The Liberty & Horse Behavior home study program explains this in more detail.
The Seven Games is the best way we know of to do just that. It’s why we recommend them so often. Establishing a new relationship by learning to play with your horse changes the predator-prey relationship — and that changes everything. We also have a brand new – and quite inexpensive! – natural horse training Starter Kit that addresses horse biting problems specifically along with kicking and bucking and other reactive horse behaviors.
Parelli Members are invited to read Linda Parelli’s educational article on the topic of biting entitled: When You Get Bitten… Say “Ow” which gives a great natural horse training perspective on the problem of a biting horse.
Visit Parelli Connect for more educational articles and videos designed to inspire, empower and educate horse owners of all levels.