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Biting and Blocking

16 August 2011 No Comment

Biting and Blocking
We asked horse training expert Rhett Russell.
More on Rhett.

Any help would be appreciated in working with the following problems. I have a coming two-year-old gelding. He chews/nibbles on everything he can get his teeth on and any new item he is introduced too or any tool I’m using such as a lead or flag. Unfortunately this includes me as well. He never try’s a quick chomp. It always starts out with a sniff, nuzzle, lips and then teeth, often preceded by turning his head sideways and stretching his neck way out. He isn’t putting his ears back at all. He also pesters the daylights out of his paddock mate though she is clearly dominant. Of course I try to discourage this behavior by blocking him or letting him run in to what ever body part he is interested in but since he moves slow its hard to let him run in to something instead of me bumping him. So far, nothing I’ve done has discouraged him from this.

My other difficulty is that he always has the tendency to block me with his head particularly on his off side. When I move from in front of him to his off side he wants to swing his head around. He won’t move off or move his hindquarters away, just his head. If I wait he will straighten up. This is more pronounced when he is unsure of what I am doing. I try to block him with my arm but he tends to press against my arm and of course the more I push back the more he pushes back. He is comfortable with me handling him all over, picking up his feet etc.

Both these behaviors diminish when we are working on things in the round pen or while lounging and he has something to concentrate on. Other than these issues his ground manners are fine. I try to get four or five hours a week working with him.

Thanks for any pointers,
Jim Joyce
Mt Sterling WI

Hi Jim: You are working with some pretty common things with your young horse. I actually like to see a horse that is curious with his mouth. This tells you a lot about what’s going on in his head. This oral behavior is your horse’s way of testing the world. Use this to your advantage by showing him new things and experimenting new surroundings. You are right to be wary of the horse nibbling on you, but just be aware that this could happen and correct him immediately if he does.

The blocking with the head is very common and easy to deal with. Spend a lot of time switching sides of the horse. I like to stand on the left of the horse and move to the right side by putting the back of my hand under the horse’s lower lip and moving the head softly back behind my shoulder then walking through the front of the horse to the other side. I do this a lot just to get the horse used to the idea that I can and will go back and forth and it is no big deal. One of the best things that you can do is spend a lot of time grooming on the offside of the horse. There are a couple of things to look for with a horse that blocks with his body. Be aware that the jawbone and shoulder are the weapons of choice for a horse to use with another horse. If the horse swings the jawbone into your face, you are going to lose. Likewise the shoulder coming over signals that the horse is trying to yield you. Be aware of these signs and take appropriate action.

It sounds like everything else is going well for you, so keep up the good work!


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