Biting Horses! 3 Messages Your Biting Horse is Trying to Tell You, and What You Can Do To Avoid or Correct This Dangerous Behavior

by ValHeart on July 5, 2012


Horse BitingOn good days, your horse brings you so much joy, companionship and sense of partnership.  They make your heart sing.  There’s nothing like a horse – human relationship, nothing!

On bad days, they bite.  And it hurts!  You’ve got a big old painful multicolored bruise, maybe it even bleeds a little. 

Even worse, they can seriously injure you, or even cost you your life.  

If your stallion bites you, it’s time to get horse savvy now. You’re missing some fundamental rules of equine horsemanship.

What is your Stallion/horse trying to tell you when he or she bites the snot out of you? 

1) Play With Me!  Horses are playful creatures by nature.  They indulge in rough play with other horses, which often times includes head and body banging and biting.  Sometimes, your stallion/horse starts biting you because they think you are their equal, a playmate like another horse, and that they want you to play with them.  From your horse’s point of view, it’s really just good natured fun and can even become quite entertaining — for your horse.

What to do?  Tell them that even though you think they’re swell, but that you are not another stallion/horse and those games aren’t fun for you. 

Teach them to move around you and have them follow you instead of the other way around. Stallions/horses naturally respect and follow an alpha leader personality.  If you can direct their feet and make them move the way you want them to, while you stand still, they will give you more respect.  

Also, you can help your stallion/horse by playing games that will help them use their energy more positively.  Games that include oral interaction such as teaching him to pick up objects are good ways of managing and redirecting the habit. By playing games, you can also show him that you can have fun without having hurtful “horseplay”.

2)  Time For a Herd Reality Check – What’s Your Status in Your Herd?  There are important hierarchies in every herd.  Whether there are only 2 in the group or more, one will always be the leader and one (and the others) will follow. 

The dominant horse in the herd is known as the alpha horse.  Other horses in an established herd never bite the alpha horse.  They know that if they did, they would die a horrible painful death, or worse, be isolated from the group, because the alpha horse has the right of control, direction and punishment. 

Therefore, biting you may mean that your stallion/horse doesn’t consider you to be their alpha leader, and that their status is higher than yours.  That means they have the right to direct, control or punish you.  And you haven’t earned their respect.

What to do:  Many stallion/horse owners react by withdrawing in fear, and approaching their horse very cautiously.  After all, getting bit by a stallion/horse is a very painful experience.  Worse, a bad stallion/horse bite can be disfiguring or even endanger your life.

While understandable, this is not a healthy, pro-active approach and may cause your stallion/horse to become more disrespectful.  They could even escalate the bad behavior by kicking or striking out, running over you or body slamming you!

You need to reclaim your power and assert yourself.  I like the John Lyon 3 second “I’m Going To Kill You!” Rule.  You have 3 seconds to convince your stallion/horse they are going to die.  Make a lot of noise and get their attention any way you can.  After 3 seconds, walk away and take a time out.

When you come back, be sure they know you mean business and won’t tolerate their biting you ever again.  And start doing the things that earn your horses respect and trust.

3)  Hey – What You’re Doing Is Hurting Your Horse!  Other possible reasons for biting are pain related.  There may be something that is hurting them, such as a pinching girth, a sore mouth from a badly fitting or ill designed bit or bridle, a sticker or burr under their saddle pad that’s rubbing them the wrong way.  

They could also be trying to tell you they are uncomfortable, nervous or feeling bad that day. Mares are notorious for having bad days when in their cycle.  If that’s the case, it’s smart to take a day off and do something else that’s more fun for you both.  And for your mare, that might mean go away and leave me alone for awhile.

If you keep at it without acknowledging or correcting whatever is making them feel bad, then they have no choice but to either retaliate – or suppress their feelings and pain for as long as they can, until they can’t take it anymore and they lash out.  

What to do: It is always important to listen to your horse, assess the situation and find out why they’re doing what they do.  What they do makes perfect sense, from their viewpoint.

If you don’t know which one of the three causes of their biting are, then you can waste a lot of time, energy and money going off in the wrong direction.  Even worse, you’ll have lost even more of your horses’ respect, trust and affection, and their willingness to work with you.  And your relationships will be in serious trouble.

So how can you know precisely which of the three is driving your horse’s biting behaviour? 

It can be confusing to figure out exactly why your horse bites if you don’t get inside their head and listen to them first. 

Animal communication gives them a voice to tell you what they’re thinking, and gets you quickly to the cause of the biting. Once you know what’s wrong, you can establish a more respectful, happier and healthier relationship.

Bio:  Val Heart – Internationally known expert animal communicator, teacher, author & master healer, Val is called The Real Dr Doolittle, & Animal Communicator to the Stars.  Resolving behavior, training, performance, health, working with euthanasia. Free AnimalTalk QuickStart Course, The Real Dr Doolittle (podcast) Show now on iTunes!  For your Complimentary Happy Animal Assessment Session, call (210) 863-7928,  visit  http://www.valheart.comCopyright Val Heart & Friends, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  

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Anastasiya Day July 5, 2012 at 10:05 am

Lisa, I love reading your articles about horses. Every time I learn something new. I agree with you – Horses are playful creatures by nature and we have to look after them well. Thanks for your tips!

MarVeena July 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thanks for the really nice article! one thing I have found out after years of being with horses , is to always keep your mind in there with them and be reading their signs. Not a time to be an air head, or have your mind on some thing else.
I have used the 3 sec rule a few times! My herd respects me , but I earn it every day.
Thanks for sharing!

anna July 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Any ideas to help me read my horse are very welcome .
Many thanks.

Sharon O'Day July 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm

I have a friend in Belgium who does similar communication work with horses and I take my hat off to you.  Fascinating work, absolutely uncanny.  However, I know what my position would be in a herd of two, just a horse and me.  And it wouldn't be #1.   😉

maureen jackson October 6, 2014 at 2:42 pm

i would love that photo for above my living room couch  How can i purchase it?

Lisa Carter October 6, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hi Maureen,

You can contact Val using the contact information that she’s provided in the article.  She’s the one that provided both the article and photo and would be able to tell you how to obtain a copy of the photo. 



Anneliese May 13, 2015 at 5:54 am

hi Maureen did u manage to get this photo- as i would also like it- been lookign for it for months. Can you let me know please, thank you

Debbie November 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hi, I don't have quite the issue that the last lady had. I bought this horse in july of this year. I noticed that he has tried to bite me a few times especially while grooming, and occasionally while standing at the fence with him. I have learned to slap him and yell no and he usually does pretty well. He has never been able to actually bite me. On the other hand he has bitten my husband on 2 different ocassions. He is almost afraid to go around him anymore. Today I had my granddaughter out and he has only tried to nip at her in the past. But today she was on one side of him and I was on the other side of him, she started brushing him and next thing I know he bit through all of her clothes and had her off the ground hanging on to her back with his teeth. I literally had to keep beating him and yelling before he finally released her. I can't trust him with her anymore and now it it making me afraid to try and even handle him. He does fantastic under saddle. Lights up when he sees me bringing the saddle. He is almost 17 years old. The only background I have on him is he was a 4 – H horse in his younger years. I spoke with his last owner and she said she just never bonded with the horse. She had him approximately two years.  She sold him to another lady before myself and I understood he bit the lady and her daughter. She only had him for 2 months.  when I met him he seemed like a really nice horse. I rode him on two different ocassions before I decided to buy him. Like I said he is like dr. Jeckell and Mr.  Hyde, Jeckell under saddle and Hyde when sometimes being groomed.  Please help me get a handle on this. At this point I am ready to sell him. Thanks for listening. Debbie

Lisa Carter November 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

Hi Debbie,

I know exactly what you are going through!  My gelding, Tex, was EXACTLY the same way.  This is a VERY dangerous behavior and it is imperative to get a handle on it ASAP.  This is a leadership/respect issue and no matter how much you send him to other people, the problem will persist with each new person he encounters, as he will test the waters.  Respect doesn’t transfer to people, it is directly established by each person.  Tex bit my husband so hard in the back that it left marks for months and he bit my daughter right on the nose just for standing next to him.  He was a VERY dominant horse, but was not leader of the herd.  He was actually at the bottom of the herd.  But he didn’t see us as leaders and so he just did what he would do to test “lower” herd members.  First and foremost, always protect your personal space.  A lead mare would NEVER let a horse come into her personal space without doing something about it.  You can invite him in, but he can’t just come into your space.  If he’s out of your personal space, he can’t get close enough to bite.  When addressing a dominant horse, always address the front end.  Maybe whenever you are interacting with him for now, it would be best to always have him on a line with a strong heavy snap.  That way if he pins his ears at you or tries to bite/invade your space you can firmly bump his nose using the lead rope.  I would highly recommend that you find a Parelli instructor in your area to help you learn good solid leadership and communication skills with your horse while at the same time keeping you safe.  Christi Rains ( is my own Parelli instructor and has helped me SO much with my horses.  Tex was an extreme challenge, but after learning the proper skills and establishing how the leader of our herd was, he never offered to bite again and we had a great relationship…able to do wonderful things at Liberty in the pasture.  I hope this provides you with some insight of steps to take.  Most important of all is to keep you and your family safe! 



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