By Keith Hosman, John Lyons Certified Trainer
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Here's how to make your horse quit biting using the methods of John Lyons.
Did your horse tell you today that he's going to bite you next week? Will you bet your finger on that? Or your daughter's arm? Do you even know the signals? When you cinch up your horse and he pins his ears or you ask him to move away and he "purses up" his lips like he's mad, he's sending you a message. The message is simple and it's one of two things. It's either "I am the boss. Who are you, mortal, to ask me to do a dang thing?" or "I'm planning on taking over; expect a coup next Thursday."
Biting is the single-most dangerous vice your horse can have. It's more dangerous than bucking, than rearing, kicking - or anything else you can name. A horse can take off a finger, an ear or objects I can't mention in this article in an instant. If your horse has developed that habit (or you fear that it might be about to), then nip it in the bud. Establish a tough zero tolerance policy and act aggressively.
But if your horse drops an ear - is he firing a first shot or flicking a fly? Should we haul off and belt him regardless, just to be sure?
How do you know the difference between a threat and an innocent stance? As you would expect, it's just common sense. A horse that's copping a bad attitude will couple his pinned ears with other facial features or body language that anyone (or thing) would recognize as a warning. Just look at the horse's features as a whole and simply ask yourself if you've been "dissed." Does he look mad, freeze up or otherwise look irritated? What's the little voice in your head say? Did you have any doubt the last time your mother got mad at you? Same thing.
But what about "mild irritation" vs all-out anger? Again, do we belt him either way "just in case"?
The answer is that when your horse disrespects you in any way, he's taken the first step toward his own little revolution. Act accordingly. Nature has programmed every horse to expect someone/thing to be a leader. Some horses want to be the boss, others accept the job begrudgingly - but all horses expect a leader to exist. If you act the role of subordinate the horse will view that as a call to take over.
Whether your horse already bites or has just signaled that he plans on starting, we need to establish a zero tolerance policy to squash the very thought. Of course, we can't read their minds, which leaves plenty of room for error. "Is he grouchy today or threatening to bite my head off?" "Did he just give me the evil eye - or simply twitch his ear?" If he bites you and takes a thumb with it, we've got a pretty good idea that he "did bite me." But guessing calls for mistakes while reacting to the horse biting (or near missing) puts us in the position of being reactive as opposed to active. In a horse's world being reactive marks you as second banana. Where does that put you, then, when you approach a horse with a reputation for biting and you move around him, "just waiting for it to happen," deflecting the horse's every move "just in case"? Answer: It makes you the banana.
To fix this issue, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. As stated above, horses that bite are either trying to take over or are convinced they're already the boss. There's far more to it than "he's just having a bad day." Think of it this way...
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| Meet the author:
John & Josh Lyons Certified
Clinician and Trainer
Utopia, TX (Hill Country of San Antonio)
Keith Hosman is based in San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, lessons and training. He frequently travels to Los Angeles, CA and Kansas City, MO where he partners with fellow clinician Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations. You can find him on Google+ and Reddit.
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Lyons Training 101: Issue Fourteen, Part 1
"Biting Horse: Biting Horses"
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