Do Horses Bite & How to Prevent It

You have to admit that horses have some pretty large teeth and if they decide to bite you, those teeth could do some serious damage. 

 The question is, do they really bite?  Read on to find out the answer to this question.

Do Horses Bite?

You can ask anyone who has been around horses that they do bite but when they do bite, they seldom break the skin.  Yes, even with those big, strong-looking teeth, they will seldom break the skin, which is hard to believe.

A horse could break your skin easily with their bite though if they wanted to.

Reasons Why They Might Bite

Some horses try to bite because they feel they are being playful but there could be other reasons.

  • It could be because you did not give them a treat when they felt they deserved one or you forgot to do it.
  • The horse could also be in pain.  When the girth is fastened and the horse bites, it could be that they have a saddle that is not fitting right.  A change of girth might be helpful.
  • If you brush them under the belly and they try to bite, it could be that they are ticklish there and they are getting mad and want you to stop.
  • If it is a mare, it could be that she is in heat
  • Flies can also cause this, especially if you accidentally get between the head of the horse and the fly that is on their flank.
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horse biting hand e1590496988510

How to Prevent a Horse From Biting

1. Do Not Allow Nibbling

Many times a horse will nibble at their owner’s clothing or skin because horses are mutual groomers.  They are trying to groom their owners.  Although it is a friendly behavior, it can lead to biting.  Do not let your horse try to groom you.

Firmly but gently push your horse’s muzzle away but do not use aggressive correction.  The horse is just being nice and is doing what they would with another horse but they need to realize that you do not need to be groomed and do not appreciate it.  Also discourage your horse from chewing on your clothing, whips, or brushes.

2. Never Tolerate Biting From Your Horse

You should never tolerate a horse nipping or biting at anyone.  Any attempt to bite, no matter how playful, should not be tolerated.  Never hit a horse on the top of the head, near their ears, or eyes, or punch them in the nose.  The response when this happens should be to smack the horse on the end of their muzzle with an open hand, fingers up.  Only do it once and follow it up with a growl or verbal no.

Other ways that you can help prevent a horse from biting include:

  • Clicker training—with this type of training, you teach a horse to focus on an object.  A horse that habitually nips have very active minds so they need to be kept busy.  This method is a good way to do this.
  • For many horses, biting habits start when they are young.  The young horses like to explore the world with their mouths.  You need to teach the young horses that it is not acceptable for them to touch you with their mouths
  • Teach a horse to keep a respectable distance and not initiate contact with you.  This can mean that you do not feed them any treats by hand until they learn respect.
  • Horses are natural grazers and will use their mouths during most of the day to chew.  You need to make sure that they have enough hay or grass to keep their mouths occupied.
  • When working with a young horse, they are generally a bundle of energy when you take them out of the stall.  To keep them from jumping around, trying to nibble at you, give them one job after another to do.  In other words, put their restless energy to work.  You could have them walk forward, change direction, etc.
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biting horse

3. Managing a Chronic Biter

  • Never allow a child to handle a horse that is known to bite because, with a child, a bite can be very serious.  If their arms are small enough, a horse may be able to get their jaws around the bone.
  • If you run a riding stable or school, for liability reasons, have a known biter groomed and tacked by a family member of the owner, the owner, or an employee that is covered by workers’ compensation
  • Reduce the risk of the horse nipping you in the face or head by wearing a helmet with an attached visor when handling the horse.  You should also wear a long sleeve shirt.
  • Put the horse in cross-ties for any intensive handling, bathing, or grooming to reduce the range of motion of their head.
  • Buy a biting muzzle and put it on the horse in circumstances where it might bite.

Conclusion

  • If you do get bit by a horse, it feels more like a strong pinch that can leave a deep bruise.
  • If you or someone else gets bit, apply an ice pack because they seldom break the skin.  The ice pack will help to reduce the amount of bruising.
  • Stallions are known to become dangerous biters so many owners do not own them as they require knowledgeable, tactful handling.
  • If your horse is aggressive or continually wants to nip or bite, you may have to employ the services of a professional trainer.
  • If a horse nips or bites, it could be that they are being playful or trying to show dominance.
  • In a group of horses, once the pecking order is established and everyone has their own space, they will rarely bite each other.
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