How do I stop my horse from scratching or biting me when I am grooming him?

“I have a yearling that loves being brushed and itched on. When he starts enjoying it he tries to start itching me with those lovely teeth. My question is how do I stop this behavior without harming him. There has to be a better way than just bopping him in the nose. Thanks for your time.” -Kristi G

I wrote a blog titled, “Horses mutually grooming each other…do you let your horse groom you?” that received many comments. Some people allow their horses to scratch but don’t allow teeth, others have horses that have always been respectful, and some don’t allow it at all. In my previous blog I stated that I don’t let Newt (the horse in the videos below) groom people but I wasn’t clear on how I discourage the behavior.

I don’t allow Newt to scratch humans because he is around lots of people while we travel as well as with my kids (as you can see in the video). It is easier for me to discourage potential biting because I also do not allow Newt to scratch me. Both your horse and Newt are not trying to be ‘bad’. They think it is only polite to return the favor when someone scratches them. It is my job to convince my horse that it is O.K. to just receive the scratching and enjoy it…no need to return the favor. I know that Newt, as well as most horses, like to ‘return the favor’ so I make a plan ahead of time.

When I am grooming or saddling my horses I require them to keep their heads straight. By simply keeping the horse straight I prevent possible mouth issues such as scratching or biting. In the video you can see that Newt doesn’t consider turning his head to scratch us. To train the horse to stay straight I simply push the horses head straight. I teach this during grooming, saddling or ground tying.

When you are grooming your horse I suggest taking the time to work on a version of ground tying where you hold the lead rope with slack. Move your horse back into the same spot if he moves and straighten his head if he turns to visit with you. I prefer using this method because it removes the need to ‘bop’ the horse which tends to lead to the horses tossing their heads. This is one area where prevention, preventing the horse from turning his head, will stop the need for more assertive correction.

This video show why Newt has the urge to scratch:

This video shows Newt using teeth while scratching:



  1. Elizabeth Cowling-Jones on November 16, 2014 at 4:57 am

    I have a mare that does this… if she has nothing in front of her she will try to groom me. I use a hay net then we are both happy/

  2. Kim on November 15, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    You can always use cross ties!

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