How does nipping start?
Nipping is a habit that can develop from your horse not having respect for your personal space. It can start with a nuzzle and a cuddle, and before you know it, your horse is starting to nip! It is not the same as having an aggressive horse. These horses will lunge and bite if they feel threatened, or want to assert their dominance over you. Instead, nipping is a way of your horse testing and playing; much like they would do with their field mates. Youngsters are more likely to nip, so it is important to keep reading the signs and prevent the habit from developing.
When our horse nips, our instinct is to push our horse’s head away from us. But, when you bring your arm back to your side, you actually invite your horse back into your space! The “game” for your horse continues!
How can we prevent or solve a nipping habit?
Instead, there are a couple of techniques you can use to help break the habit. The first is a “flick” of your fingers on the horse’s muzzle or chin. Your horse will get a little shock and won’t know where it has come from. He will soon learn to associate the feeling of the flick, which is like a fly bite, with the action of nipping. This video was taken from our 2022 Christmas Coffee Morning.
The second technique involves a little more training. When your horse goes to nip or steps into your space, move your horse’s feet away from you. Once they have moved away, let them rest with space between you.
It also helps to think of yourself as being “spiky”. For example, when you are tacking up, keep your elbow facing their head, so it is less inviting for your horse.
Improving Personal Space
Lastly, nipping is an extension of a horse’s lack of respect on the ground. Within Your Horsemanship, there are two Foundation Groundwork Courses that help you develop a respectful partnership with your horse. For example, the Personal Space video lesson within F1; Respect and Control on the Ground, and the Personal Space module within the problem solving Re-Education Library.