How to stop a horse from biting

by Ditte Young

Updated on September 28, 2023
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes 

Biting is a normal part of horse behavior. In the wild, horses use their teeth for survival, including fighting. While they are herbivores, horses have powerful jaws and sharp incisors designed to tear through hardy vegetation. A bite from a horse can inflict serious damage, making it all the more important to teach our domestic horses not to bite.

In this article, I will cover the most common reasons horses bite and what to do if a horse bites you. I will also teach you six simple things you can do to stop your horse from biting you.

Table of Contents

Why do horses bite?

Horses bite for a variety of reasons. In the pasture, horses bite each other in play, to express irritation, to discipline a younger or lower-ranking horse, or to defend themselves, their offspring, or their food. Like human children, horses explore the world by using their mouths, biting, nipping, and tasting things to examine them.

Other reasons why horses bite include:

What to do if a horse bites you

Horse bites can be very dangerous. Horses have surprisingly sharp incisors and considerable strength in their jaws, and horse bites can also lead to bacterial infections.

If a horse bites you and it breaks the skin, clean the site thoroughly with warm tap water. Remove any objects from the bite, such as teeth, hair, or dirt, and cover the bite with a sterile dressing. Hold an ice pack or a cold compress over the bite to ease the pain and reduce swelling for ten minutes. If the bite has broken the skin, I recommend seeking medical advice, as antibiotics may be indicated.

If the bite has severed a body part — such as a finger or ear — wash it with tap water. Wrap the body part in a clean tissue and place it in a plastic bag surrounded by ice to transport it to the hospital. It may be possible to have the body part surgically reattached later on.

6 tips: How to stop a horse from biting

Horse bites can be very dangerous, making it essential to teach your horse not to bite. It’s important to note that by teaching, I do not mean that you should physically discipline your horse.

Not only is slapping or beating your horse wrong, it can also result in head shyness, and it can even escalate the problem by promoting an “I bite you, you slap me, I bite you harder”-mentality.

If you have a very aggressive horse prone to biting, you may need help to stop your horse from biting. In that case, I recommend you seek the advice of a professional who can help you understand why your horse is biting you and how to stop it. I will return to this option later.

That being said, here are six simple things you can do to stop your horse from biting:

1. Early schooling

I mentioned above that horses explore the world with their mouths. This is particularly true of young horses — especially colts.

Do not encourage your horse to nibble on your clothes or playfully bite you if you have a young horse. Teach your horse not to bite from a young age, and you will be less likely to experience problems with biting when your horse is grown.

2. Don’t feed by hand

Feeding your horse by hand can teach the horse to associate biting with receiving treats. Instead of providing your horse treats by hand, place them in a bucket and allow your horse to eat them there. This will also help teach your horse to keep a respectful distance from you and not initiate contact until allowed.

3. Clicker training and enrichment

Horses prone to biting tend to have very active minds that must be kept busy. Clicker training can be an excellent way to keep a busy mind occupied, as it teaches the horse to focus on an object instead of nipping for entertainment.

You should also ensure that your horse has plenty of enrichment — such as toys, pasture furniture, roughage, and grass — to keep it occupied and use its mouth throughout the day.

4. Head control

Another thing you can do to discourage biting is to train your horse to move their head away from you on command. Choose a simple, one-word command. Give the command, and wait for your horse to move their head away from you. Once your horse does, reward the horse with a treat (given from a bucket, not your hand).

Give the command again. Once your horse moves their head away from you, even in the slightest way, reward your horse with another treat. Repeat this until your horse understands the command.

5. Behavior habituation

If you have a young horse, there is a simple behavior habituation technique you can practice to teach your horse to stop biting.

To tell your horse that you will move if the horse does, tap your horse gently on the leg or hoof with your foot. Look straight ahead as if nothing happened. Repeat this action every time your horse bites.

Once the association is made, your horse will:

This will teach your horse that you are not angry but simply using body language to tell your horse to stop biting.

6. Learn to understand what your horse is telling you

Your horse is an intelligent animal. Your horse communicates how it feels through its behavior — feeling happy, frustrated, fearful, or in pain. Not only does your horse communicate how it is feeling, but it also responds to how you are feeling.

I mentioned above that if your horse is very aggressive, I recommend seeking professional help to understand why your horse is biting you. But even if your horse’s biting is not a sign of aggression, it is likely biting because it is trying to tell you how it feels.

If you do not understand how to communicate with your horse, a misunderstanding may arise between you. In short, the best thing you can do to find out why your horse is biting is to learn how to understand what your horse is telling you. An animal communicator can help you do just that.

An animal communicator, a horse whisperer, can help you understand what your horse is telling you. With help from an animal communicator, you can get to the root of your horse’s biting. This gives you the tools you need to stop your horse from biting and helps you get to know your horse better.

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Train your horse to stop biting with Ditte Young

I, Ditte Young, have been a spiritual coach, therapist, and clairvoyant for 25 years. I am the author of three books about animal communication and am known as the most recognized animal communicator and horse whisperer in Europe.

With my online course, “How to make durable horses,” you can learn exactly what you need to know to understand what your horse is telling you and stop your horse from biting you. In this course, you will also learn how to tell if your horse is in pain, how to stop your horse from bucking, and so much more.

Want to learn behavior techniques applicable to horses from Europe’s most recognized horse communicator? Now is your chance.

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