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Horse nipping and biting

Teach them about personal space

It’s a bad habit when horses nip at visitors. In the horse world, nipping and biting is how they play, groom, and investigate. But it's not good communication with humans.

Cherry Hill is a horse expert, and has written many books about them. She says to prevent nipping and biting, to teach the horse about personal space.

"You can do it very formally, by with actually letting the horse come in with a signal, or you can just do it with body language," says Hill. "But they should know that there's a certain bubble or personal space around you that they don't enter unless you allow them to. So even if you have them haltered and you're holding them with the halter and a lead rope or if they're free, they know that there's a certain space – and it could be a couple of feet or whatever – they don't just come in and dive-bomb in with their muzzle."

The other way to prevent nipping is to not feed a horse with your hands or touch him  on the muzzle. Some horses have ticklish spots on their bodies and if they're not routinely groomed and touched, they might react to it with a quick turn of the head and a bite.

Sometimes a horse will bite because he's bored or his diet isn't quite right. Check to make sure he's getting the right nutrition, plenty of exercise, and has something to do other than standing around all day. If he bumps you when you walk up to him, don't bump him back. He might see that as an invitation to play and become ornery.

If a horse is nipping repeatedly, Hill says to let the horse punish himself.

"You can do something like carry a stiff brush in that hand, or even I've had people tape a brush on the back of their glove or something so that when the horse dives at you, his muzzle hits those bristles," she says. "You're not doing anything, you're just being there, but he's punishing himself because he's going, "Whoa!  That wasn't fun". So he realizes now, I better stay out of that space because it's unpleasant."

If none of this works, call a professional trainer.

Find more tips to nip biting in the bud

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