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My gelding tries to put everything in his mouth. How can I stop this bad habit?

Pat and Linda Parelli discuss how to handle mouthy habits.

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Why your horse may like to have things in his or her mouthReader's Question: My gelding tries to put everything in his mouth. When I put on his halter or bridle, he usually grabs it with his mouth and doesn’t like to let go. How can I stop this bad habit?

Parellis' Answer:
This is the sign of a playful, curious horse that’s probably really bored! So everything becomes a game, even putting on the halter. The key to this horse is not punishment, but to play with him. Pretend to put the halter on his leg, rub him all over with the halter, play with his lips, give him treats, teach him to back away from you and to stand on things, even put the halter and the ropes into his mouth!

Think about how to become more interesting to him, to engage his mind with other things, so it’s not just the halter that looks like a toy. Horses with this much play drive often have an especially hard time being confined or isolated from other horses, so they really look to you to fulfill those needs. If you watch horses that live together, you’ll see that they spend a lot of time nuzzling, scratching, nipping, playing and moving around. The rest of the time they are eating or dozing. Our approach is heavily based on understanding a horse’s needs and what kind of “Horsenality” and energy level he has. Through understanding our horses in these manners, we can interact with them in meaningful and highly productive ways that are fulfilling for the horse.

One last important thought: Rather than seeing this behavior as a bad habit, think of it as a talent your horse has. One of our students actually taught her biting, mouthy, playful and curious horse to do things like pick up items off the ground, such as her cap, brushes, saddle pad, et cetera, and to give them to her! Much nicer than slapping him! With this kind of approach you get a horse that wants to be with you, even more than with other horses. More about Pat and Linda >>

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My gelding tries to put everything in his mouth. How can I stop this bad habit?

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Reader Comments

Norah    Madoc, ON

7/11/2012 8:54:03 AM

My 4 year old appaloosa who is just like this now fetches on command. She picks up things and hands them to me. If I throw it 10 feet away she will walk over and get it.

T    High Level, AB

11/12/2010 5:46:15 PM

Really good article, it exactly describes our horse. He chews on anything he can get his mouth on, and he chews the leadrope when I lead him.

Diana    Cedarville, NJ

4/3/2010 6:42:00 AM

What a neat article.

Ashlie    Eden, NC

3/9/2010 3:07:27 PM

I have the opposite problem.My horse hates his bit and is 25 years old.I don't if it is a good thing or a bad thing.There is also another problemmy horse acts like there is a boundary where he can't like there is an electric fence.What should I do???
PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!

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