/ Halt the Progression /
Lipping leads to nipping, which leads to biting. All three steps of this
behavior’s progression should be considered the same behavior.
If your horse puts his lips on you, he will eventually nip. A nip is a
tiny little pinch. If a horse gets to this level of behavior, people usually
stop the behavior and admonish the horse. But if nipping goes unchecked, the horse will continue to nip with his teeth until he graduates
to a bite.
How do you avoid a bite? Keep your boundaries clear and keep his
nose away from you. If the horse isn’t allowed to turn his head into your
space, he will never learn that he can lip or nip.
/ The Strike Zone /
Horses don’t strike out of the blue. They strike because they are in pain
or are lashing out in anger.
You generally won’t be at risk of being in the strike zone unless you
are standing too close to your horse’s head. I have seen a horse strike at
a halter chain hurting his face and at a bee sting under his jaw.
A horse may also strike out if you correct him and he gets mad.
There’s usually some emotion behind it. If you have a horse that’s prone
to striking, you’ll know it right away, and it will be something that he
resorts to if he gets mad, frustrated or is in pain.
When foals get in trouble, they
will “chatter” to show the older
horses that they’re young and new
and submissive. They’ll lower their
head, open their lips and clack their
teeth together to show an older
horse that they are just a baby and
didn’t mean to cause a problem.
Foals and young horses want to
investigate the world with their
mouths. Make sure at this stage
that you don’t allow the horse put
his lips on you—you don’t want
to encourage the behavior and risk
having it turn into biting. Stop any
oral and lipping behaviors before
they can escalate.
Aggressive biting is a late-stage
behavior and the most dominant
behavior of horses. If your horse is
aggressively biting, things have been
going wrong for a long time.