How to Stop a Horse From Biting (Nipping It in the Bud)

Updated on August 9, 2019
jenniferrpovey profile image

Jennifer specializes in articles about horse training, care, and purchasing.

Get advice on stopping a horse from biting, managing horses who bite too much, and providing first aid for horse bites.
Get advice on stopping a horse from biting, managing horses who bite too much, and providing first aid for horse bites. | Source

Do Horses Bite?

Anyone who is around horses knows they can and do bite people. Horses have either no canines or only vestigial ones, and they can only open their jaws so far. However, they do have very powerful jaws. The entire arrangement is designed for efficient grazing.

When a horse bites a human, he seldom breaks the skin. A horse does not normally tear into the flesh the way a dog does. Instead, a horse bite is a very strong pinch that can leave a deep bruise. (My worst horse bite took nine months to fully heal). If a horse can get its jaws around a limb, however, it can cause serious injuries. Due to the way a horses' jaws are designed, however, this is only a concern with children.

While a horse bite is not likely to result in a trip to the ER for an adult, it is still not something you want to have happen. Here are a few tips on keeping a horse from biting and on dealing with one that has the habit.

  1. Do Not Allow Nibbling
  2. Never Tolerate Biting
  3. Look for the Cause

1. Do Not Allow Nibbling

Many horses will nibble at their owner's skin or clothing. Horses are mutual groomers, and I have had many horses attempt to groom me back. This is friendly behavior, but it can graduate to biting.

I recommend not allowing your horse to groom you. Gently but firmly push the horse's muzzle away. Do not use aggressive correction—he is being nice, but he needs to realize that humans do not need to be groomed and really don't appreciate it.

On a similar note, discourage your horse from chewing on grooming brushes, whips, or your clothing (whether you are wearing it or not). Most people also recommend discouraging licking (some horses will lick, but most will not).

2. Never Tolerate Biting

Under no circumstances should you tolerate a horse biting or nipping at any human, any more than you would a dog. Any attempt to bite you—even if it's only an attempt, seems playful, or doesn't really hurt—should be immediately corrected.

The most effective response is to smack the animal on the end of the muzzle with an open hand, fingers upwards. Do not punch a horse in the nose, and never hit the top of the head or anywhere near the ears or eyes. Use the correction immediately and do not smack the horse more than once. Accompany it with a verbal 'No' or a growl.

Don't dismiss it as only a nip, and be consistent and firm. Biting is never allowed, under any circumstances.

3. Look for the Cause

Horses bite for a reason:

  • Sometimes, a horse may bite because you didn't give it a treat (I have seen this far too often).
  • However, the horse might be in pain. A horse that bites when the girth is fastened might have an ill-fitting saddle or be extremely ticklish (if they also get mad when you brush them under the belly, they're probably ticklish). A change of girth might be very helpful in this case.
  • Some mares get very snippish when in heat.
  • Flies can cause nipping, sometimes even by accident when you get between the horse's head and the fly on its flank.

Finding out why the horse is trying to bite you and dealing with the cause can help keep a horse from becoming a chronic biter.


How to Feed a Horse by Hand Without Getting Bitten

Hand-feeding a horse a treat is commonly done by most horse owners. However, I do not recommend hand-feeding a horse that has a history of biting. Children under the age of six or seven should not be allowed to hand-feed horses.

When you do hand-feed, always place the treat on the palm of your hand, then hold your hand out under the horse's muzzle with your hand completely flat and your fingers pointing towards the horse's chin (not to the side). In this position, it is literally impossible for a horse to accidentally bite.

Do not hand-feed a horse that is prone to trying to snatch treats from hands or pockets, and always discourage this behavior. Searching your pockets may be cute, but some horses will nip when they don't find anything.

How to Manage a Chronic Biter

I have rarely encountered a truly incurable biter, that is a horse that continues to go for people no matter what corrections are applied. But I have known chronic biters. In these cases, the following should be considered:

  • Never allow small children to handle a horse that is known to bite. Children have been maimed if their arms are small enough for the horse to get its jaws around the bone.
  • For liability reasons, it is best to have a known biter groomed and tacked up only by its owner, a family member of the owner, or an employee of the owner covered by workers' compensation.
  • Consider purchasing a biting muzzle (a grazing muzzle will work in a pinch) and putting it on the horse in circumstances in which it might bite. You can get muzzles that fit over bridles, if needed.
  • Reduce the risk of the horse nipping you in the head or face by wearing a helmet with a visor attachment at all times when handling a chronic biter. Also wear a long-sleeved top, which can lessen the damage if they get you in the arm (which, trust me, is normally where they nail you. That or the . . . uh . . . seat).
  • Always put the horse in cross-ties for grooming, bathing, or other intensive handling, so as to reduce the range of motion of the head as much as possible. You may want to tighten the cross-ties a little more than you normally would (of course, do not leave a horse in tight cross-ties for extended periods of time).

First Aid for Horse Bites

Horse bites are seldom serious. In most cases, the only first aid needed is the application of an ice pack.

If the bite does break the skin, make sure that the victim's tetanus vaccinations are up-to-date (all riders should be sure to get their tetanus booster on the regular ten year schedule). If they are not, you will have to take the person to the ER to get a shot.

All horses should be vaccinated against rabies, even if your state does not require it. (Note: Rabies does not generally cause extreme aggression in horses the same way it does in carnivores.)

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Paul Tomkins  

      17 months ago

      Please can anyone tell me what and why the two ponies we have are biting each other around the neck removing hair and not aggressive they do it together.

      We have separated them but as soon as our backs are turned they are at it again.

      Both are male

      Well looked after

      Well fed

      It's worries me

      Please let me know why and what to do with the pair of them

      Regards Paul Tomkins


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)