10 tips for addressing nipping behaviour

Stallions and geldings may be more prone to it than mares; nipping behaviour. Horses playing is a wonderful sight to behold, but if that same playful biting behaviour is directed towards people, it becomes less fun… Below we give you 10 tips for addressing nipping behaviour in your horse. 


1. Find out where it comes from

Horses nip for a reason, this reason could be play, dominance or taking over leadership, but the horse could also be in pain. It’s important to rule out the latter before you start addressing the behaviour. A horse in pain cannot be trained. It is also easier to train the behaviour in a targeted manner when you know the cause. 


2. Do not handfeed your horse food (anymore).

By hand-feeding, your horse associates your hand with food. This can lead to biting behaviour more quickly. To reward the horse in training, you can feed them from a bucket or food bowl. It may also help to hang or put down your hay in the stable when the horse is not in the stable.  


3. While training a nipping horse, their head should not come into your personal space

 Also make sure that your hands are not too close to the horse’s mouth. The best way to reward is by patting the neck, withers or forehead, but not their nose.  


4. If the horse shows extreme biting behaviour when you’re leading them, it could useful to have a second person walk with you

They can ensure that the head does not come close to the handler. Every time the horse tries to bite there is someone who can correct him without it becoming dangerous. Do not forget to release immediately if the horse is following you calmly again. 


5. Stay out of your horse’s bite zone

if the horse tries to nip when you want to put on a rug, the saddle or girth. Turning your back to your horse makes it easier for the horse to nip you. When the nipping increases when putting on or tightening a girth or saddle, it is also possible that your horse has back or stomach issues and it is important to have your horse checked by a vet.  


6. Clip your line on the other side of the horse’s neck

if they nip when you want to pick up their feet. This allows you to tip the horse’s head the other way when you bend over to pick up their feet. This also works for nipping during rugging or saddling.  


7. Do not give your horse a corrective tap on the nose.

This is only counterproductive and your horse may develop the tendency to nip and then quickly draw away, because they expect a whack. When this happens you will not be able to be quick enough to correct the horse. 


9. Being consistent is very important with a nipping horse.

If the horse is allowed to nip one moment but not the next, the horse will be less likely to pick up and understand your intention. If different people train the horse, it is therefore important for everyone to be just as consistent with the horse.  


10. Close the top window of the nipping horse’s stable

This will break the behavioural pattern faster because they can no longer nip at people walking by. 


  1.  Keep holding on! It is important to stick to these tips for a longer period of time, because behavioural changes take time and perseverance. 


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