Juliane Dykiel's Horsemanship Blog

Got a Mouthy Horse?

By Hadrien Dykiel

Morab Stallion

Ice and Hadrien

Stallions are notorious for their mouthyness. “Fire & Ice” is a 7-year-old stallion I’ve been working with for the past few months and he is most definitely a nippy horse. During grooming, he munches on the cross ties. In the ring, he munches on my nice leather reins. And sometimes, he tries to nip me.

How do you deal with a horse who is nippy? With most horses, correcting them by giving them a good whack with a crop or backing them up assertively will get rid of the behavior. This is similar to a horse telling another horse that they are not in the mood to play. This method, however, does not always work, especially when it comes to stallions.

Biting Horse

Option 1: Tell the horse you are not playing. Photo by Anne Dykiel

I asked trainer Katie Weagley if she had any tips on how to deal with a mouthy stallion like Ice, who nips playfully and not aggressively. Katie recommended I figure out the reason why Ice is nippy.

To Ice, nipping and biting is just a game. I was cleaning Ice’s stall one day when all of a sudden I felt a pair of teeth in my arm. The only thing I had in my hands was a plastic pitchfork, so I took it and whacked him on the butt with it (which I do not recommend doing). He ran out of the stall shaking his head and 10 seconds later, he was back with a mischievous look on his face and tried nipping me again. Ice thought I was just playing with him.

Because Ice did not understand that I did not want to play with him, even after whacking him with my pitch fork, I decided to try a different strategy: to play his game. Now, when Ice goes to nip me playfully, I play back with him by pinching him on the nose. Only thing is, I make sure to be the most annoying person to play with in the world. Every time Ice tries to nip, I now annoy him as much as I can, usually by poking him in the nose 10 times.

Horses Playing

Option 2: Play along with the horse and be annoying. Photo by Anne Dykiel

This second option works well with horses who are more playful rather than aggressive, like Ice. Ice used to think playing with me was a great idea. Since I’ve started not being fun to play with, he now thinks twice about nipping me. I made it his idea to stop biting.


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5 thoughts on “Got a Mouthy Horse?

  1. Please don’t hit a horse for discipline: the horse will probably think you’re playing with him and will continue doing whatever it is that you’re trying to avoid. Also, hitting a horse could endanger you one day: the horse might get tired of being whacked and then whack you back. I’ve seen this happen too many times.

  2. Maria Pieropan on said:

    I found a very effective way to stop my mare from trying to nip/bite me. I squirted the juice from a plastic lemon toward her nose at the first hint of oral aggression and voila, no more teeth. The best part is that she doesn’t see me as counter-aggressive, so she’s not retaliatory. She’s also learned the word “lemon” and all I have to do is say “I’m going to get a lemon” and her demeanor changes.

  3. I may start carrying lemons to the barn. Lemons are non-personal, plus I’m sure it made it her idea to stop with the nipping!

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