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(non-aggressive) Nipping Stallion

The Morgan stallion we recently purchased has issues - he bites. He doesn't seem to be doing it out of aggression. If you turn your back on him in the round pen - he will bite you in the back. If you are leading him - he will reach down to try and bite you. If you are brushing him he may turn to bite you. Maybe bite isn't the right wording. It's more of a 'nip'.

I have tried to ask other people we associate with in the industry and they keep telling me it is a 'stud thing'. I find this hard to believe as I have worked with stallions in the past and have never run into this issue before. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Shannon Cox

Hi Shannon,

It is true that stallions are the most naturally aggressive of all Equines, but that doesn't meant that you should start popping him in the mouth because of his "nips", or that you just have to accept this behavior that may get worse over time.

First thing is your safety. Be extremely self aware and very mindful around him. Pay attention to his eyes all the time. He will look for you to be vulnerable. This is what they do. Does he free lunge well? If not, train him so he does. Set up a situation using the round pen where, if he nips he is sent away to work (trotting or cantering around the pen). After you see him looking for some relief from moving around the ring, offer him the chance to stand by you peacefully (he'll be breathing pretty good by this time and getting a sweat going). Stroke him and pet him a bit. Perhaps have a soft brush with you could very gently stroke him with. If he attempts to nip, send him away again. Have him move and go to work if he nips or even looks like he is going to nip and he will eventually begin to think twice before doing that.

You are making what he wants to do unpleasant and hard (not necessarily painful) for him and what you want him to do easy and peaceful (stand by your side and relax). This process does work and will modify his behavior.

It does take time and sometimes a lot of time. Maybe weeks or more depending on how often you can do it. Be consistent and stay with it. You will need to reinforce this frequently and do this even after you think he is over the behavior. Doing this regularly will help keep his attitude where you want it and make him much more user friendly. Most people are not consistent enough with this or drop it if they don't get immediate results. That is why many folks say there is nothing you can do.

It is up to you, not him. You are his leader, all the time. In the wild, young stallions consistently challenge their leader. This is why you must do this frequently, no matter what. If he had been imprinted and handled differently as a foal and yearling MAYBE you wouldn't have this problem. But you do, so you must take the path of the loving but firm leader for him all the time. If he were older it would be harder. But perhaps, at his age, you can get a handle on it before it escalates too much.

Aloha, Franklin Levinson

Thank you Franklin!

After I received your last e-mail that is exactly what I did. We went straight to the round pen. The first day it was about an hour and a half before he came around. I've been with him everyday since with the exception of last night (very close to snow here) and he has become wonderful.

Thank you again for your help and your wonderful advice. I have been working him in the pen as I stated and he is just a different horse. He's not invasive of my space or as rude as he was. I haven't been nipped since that day.

I agree with you when you say that if this had been done with him earlier I wouldn't have encountered this problem. It is such a shame that people believe a stallion is just for breeding. Unfortunately, that's what mine had thought and so when I expected more from him he was very confused and let's face it quite annoyed.

Now when you come out to get him to take him to the round pen he always greets you with a nicker and is eager to please. What a different horse. He is so talented and eager to please it just amazes me that he is even the same horse.

I have been in the industry many years and for part of it as a hired rider/trainer and during those years encountered some horses that just weren't enjoyable. After I retired from show jumping I swore I would never own a horse that I didn't truly enjoy being around and spending time with. I was so afraid I was going to have to part ways with Coolie (my stallion) but now I just can't believe the transformation in him.

I can't thank you enough for taking time from your schedule to aid a virtual stranger. It means so much to see that there are individuals out there like you making this industry even stronger.

Take care

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