Did your horse tell you today that he's going to bite you next week? Will you bet your finger on that? Or your daughter's arm? Do you even know the signals? When you cinch up your horse and he pins his ears or you ask him to move away and he "purses up" his lips like he's mad, he's sending you a message. The message is simple and it's one of two things. It's either "I am the boss. Who are you, mortal, to ask me to do a dang thing?" or "I'm planning on taking over; expect a coup next Thursday."
Biting is the single-most dangerous vice your horse can have. It's more dangerous than bucking, than rearing, kicking - or anything else you can name. A horse can take off a finger, an ear or objects I can't mention in this article in an instant. If your horse has developed that habit (or you fear that it might be about to), then nip it in the bud. Establish a tough zero tolerance policy and act aggressively.
But if your horse drops an ear - is he firing a first shot or flicking a fly? Should we haul off and belt him regardless, just to be sure?
How do you know the difference between a threat and an innocent stance? As you would expect, it's just common sense. A horse that's copping a bad attitude will couple his pinned ears with other facial features or body language that anyone (or thing) would recognize as a warning. Just look at the horse's features as a whole and simply ask yourself if you've been "dissed." Does he look mad, freeze up or otherwise look irritated? What's the little voice in your head say? Did you have any doubt the last time your mother got mad at you? Same thing.
But what about "mild irritation" vs all-out anger? Again, do we belt him either way "just in case"?
The answer is that when your horse disrespects you in any way, he's taken the first step toward his own little revolution. Act accordingly. Nature has programmed every horse to expect someone/thing to be a leader. Some horses want to be...
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A guide to round pen training and essential ground work for horses using the methods of John Lyons.