“Hi Stacy, again a very interesting podcast. I love how you break it down into parts. This makes is much easier to understand. I have a 4-year-old stallion in training, who was really disrespectful when I first started. Very pushy, using his shoulders to run right through me, not respecting my space at all. The owner had to use a whip when walking with him and they corrected him by using that whip. I have been working with him for a couple of months and he is doing very good… He is backing out of my space nicely, moving his shoulders and hips when I ask him to and he comes of pressure quite nicely. I´m pretty happy with the progress he has made in this time. But… he keeps on biting. Biting me, biting the rope, biting the fence. When he is backing up he tries to bite me, when I put on the halter he bites. Basically, whenever he can reach me, he bites. I tried your chicking wings, but he doesn’t care. It hurts me more then it hurts him. I tried a chain when I walk with him and tie him up, but again he doesn’t care. He keeps on biting the chain. I did make his feet move whenever he bites, but now he bites and starts lunging himself right away. Kind of like a kid grounding himself. The owner would hit hem whenever he would bite her. Now it is a game to him. Is he fast enough to bite us before we hit him? ( I don’t hit him. Let that be clear) The biting isn’t aggressive but it is a ‘playfull stallion behavior’. But he is weighing around 600KG ( he is nog a quarter horse) And I don’t like to play and be bitten by a stallion who weighs that much. All the other groundwork he is doing fine, but I feel that the biting issues is one of the things keeping us from graduating to college. Any suggestions on how to fix this? PS: His teeth were checked as well and all fine.” Samantha
Thanks for the question, Samantha. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
Habits and hormones.
Stallions with a very high drive to bite are a challenge with no easy answer. If they are corrected early on during all human interactions it can be slightly easier but the ones that choose to be mouthy, choose that as an expression of their desires. I have had amazing stallions that were very well behaved, decent stallions that were behaved most of the time and stallions that were always pushing the boundaries.
Good to Great.
When I trained for the public I dealt with all of them but as my business grew and my knowledge grew I started making different choices. In college (I went to an equine college) the vet had a saying, “A good stallion makes a great gelding”. He was noting that there was an improvement in some way when gelded.
Trainability vs performance…or both?
What does the industry value? In the reining industry, the stallions must be both athletic and highly trainable. Reining horses are required to reach a higher level of training than say a racehorse. Because of this, the horses are being bred to be both athletic and trainable. There are more and more stallions in the reining industry that are very trainable and easy to be around because of this. In other industries, the performance outweighs the level of ‘trainability’. This isn’t to say that a racehorse isn’t trainable but it does acknowledge that the ability to race fast is more highly prized. What is the goal with this stallion?
To Geld or not to Geld.
What is the long term plan for this horse? This is a conversation worth having with the owner. As a trainer, you don’t have the full say of what happens with the horse but you do have control of which horses you decide to train. You must decide what level of correction you are willing to use…but remember that the stallion might ‘ask’ for more. Think about the fights that stallions have with each other in the wild. Some will really turn up the pressure.
In my world, my answer would be to geld him. I know this because when Newt was just turning two he started getting mouthy. He had always played with other horses using his mouth but he started doing it more and more to people. The distraction in his mind that was driving this behavior would have also caused distractions in other areas of training. I gelded him. I chose it early because I didn’t want his hormones to create other bad habits and I knew the distraction level was going to change the training and require me to be harder on him. Gelding him took away the desire to bite and made his life around humans and other horses easier.
There are other industries that may overlook the behavior for other qualities but I’m only going to speak from what I have seen. Twenty plus years later I agree even more with the wise old vet from my college years. A good stallion makes a GREAT gelding.
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Stacy, I need help. I have lovely grade 16 year older, owned her since she was 4. Back in march I added a docile two year old filly to my herd of three. My mare is the dominant mare and was bonded with a gelding we had. Memorial weekend we sold the gelding and my mare went on the warpath, kicked holes in our barn and then went after the filly. The filly was injured and ended up with hemoabdomen and we were told she most likely wouldn’t survive the blood loss. Lots of different vets and thousands of dollars, the filly is now ok. We have the filly in a round pen in the pasture and my mare is still being aggressive. Showing teeth, charging the round pen and kicking. Do horses hold grudges? Will I always have to keep them separated? What can I do? For now, they are separated and they cant even be stalled together. We do start regumate next week
I’m open to any advive.
Just found this comment now, sorry for the long delay.
I don’t know the answer in your situation but YES, I do believe horses hold grudges.
I have a couple that are very strong willed and once they reached their ‘breaking point’ with another horse, I chose not to put them together any more.
I think that ‘in the wild’ they would naturally put large amounts of distance between each other but generally in confinement the space we offer isn’t enough for those who really clash for whatever reason.
I hope this helps!
Thank you for the answer. After another good talk with the owner and discussing your answer she finally decided to geld him!!! So for the horse this is the best outcome and I’m really happy that she made this decision.
However, I still wonder what is the best way to correct a horse that bites? Would you make him move his feet, or keep him out of your space and for how long? I tried all this with the stallion for months. It got a little bit better with the biting, but not much. I know he is not the best example for this, but he is not the only horse who bites. How would you correct this behavior to prevent the cycle of correcting-biting-correcting-biting ?
You could try my method with spray. Whenever he tries to bite, just spray a bit of water directing his muzzle. You can use spray for plants. Be careful to do not spray it in his eyes! The idea is that he associates biting with something unpleasant and not worth a risk. Very important is to don’t let him know that it is you controlling the spray, otherwise he will think it is again a game of “who is faster”.