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A Case of Biting

As featured in Welsh Rider Magazine.

Spot was a 15.1hh cob x gelding, brought in for the winter, stabled at night and turned out in the school for a few hours each day. His hay was rationed to prevent wastage. Spot was ridden daily and taken to riding club. Within weeks he began biting during rugging and saddling. He was corrected with a sharp word and a smack, but he got worse and started behaving aggressively whenever anyone approached the stable or went into the school.

Jenni Nellist Clinical Animal Behaviourist horse behaviour A case of biting

He’d never been a biter before so his owner had the vet out. Gastric ulcers were diagnosed and treatment began, but even after healing and being given more forage, Spot still bit. His owner received conflicting advice and sought veterinary referral to me.

Spot clearly associated people with rugs, saddles, pain and fighting. He defended himself aggressively, masking the fact he was also scared. Spot needed to feel safe and learn how to cope again. Behaviour and health often go together; relapses in behaviour can be medical so keeping in contact with the vet along with retraining was important.

Spot was moved to a quieter stable and a new routine for rugging and saddling introduced; starting with Spot’s calm expression. He touched a “target” for a food reward, followed by smooth, firm but gentle hand contact over his crest and shoulder; withdrawing before he got upset. This was repeated, phasing in stages of rug replacement and saddling. Starting the procedure with Spot touching the target made him comfortable. Knowing his owner withdrew for staying calm increased confidence, allowing quick, smooth progress.

Do you have a horse with behavioural issues? Contact me to arrange a consultation.

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