Question: I have had my horse for three months now and I can pretty much do all of the level one tasks without too much of a problem. The only problem is his biting, he was an avid biter before the last owner had him and she has apparently done a lot to stop him from doing it most of the time. I’m just not sure what the best method is, I have read all of Pat’s answers and other peoples suggestions -I guess I am just after conformation that it will stop in the future.
Heres my thoughts – 1) I need to get more Savvy – understood and will take some time obviously 2) Keep doing the blocks with the elbow or hand etc – his problem if he runs into it 3) don’t hit – easy 4) Disrespect – will hopefully improve over time, more time and more games etc. Is it something I really need to work on or will it just disappear when we start to have more of a partnership etc? Pat also suggests giving the mouth plenty of attention – that’s pretty hard when he is interested in biting, does this confuse them? Most of his general biting has improved significantly eg. when I am just patting him, brushing etc, it just seems to be the more disrespectful biting eg. lateral flexion (bites my foot), cranky with porcupine games etc. He also chews my 12 foot line and the carrot stick. Any ideas?
Answer: From what you’ve said, it sounds to me like your horse has learnt to use biting as a way of stopping something occuring – maybe because he perceived that something such as an unpleasant experience eg. girthing too quickly, brushing with a stiff brush on sensitive skin etc.
The problem will go away so long as you are consistant ie: provide negative reinforcement or activity for it EVERY time he does it. He’s had that program for a long time so it will take time to re-program him too.
Keep using the blocks with whatever part of your body he’s biting – eg. move your foot rhythmically to block him from biting with lateral flexion.
As you get better at challenging him with the games he will have less time to think about biting so try to make everything you do with him have a purpose.
Playing with his mouth has a purpose – to desensitise him to your fingers, the bit, worm paste tube, having his teeth done etc. You can use the carrot stick to start with so he doesn’t have the chance to get his teeth onto you – the main thing here is to keep going with active, rhythmic rubbing all around and in his mouth until he stops trying to bite. If he manages to latch onto your stick or rope just ignore it and play a game that gets his attention like the yo-yo, circling or squeeze game. He will find it hard to hold onto something while his feet are moving.
If you make a big deal of him biting he will continue to do it to take your attention off what you wanted to do, so just keep asking for what you wanted – use your phases and focus and he will eventually stop trying to distract you from your original task in mind.
Your thoughts are correct and I’m sure as you get more savvy and can play in more interesting ways, he will stop trying to play with you!