Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

First Bite

with 2 comments

For the first time in my life, I have finally been bitten by a horse. It’s not an occasion people generally keep track of, unless they spend a fair amount of time around horses, I suppose. I have only been around horses for 5 or 6 years.

Our Thoroughbred mare, Mix bit me in the middle of my back yesterday morning. I yelped and cursed and all the horses startled. The other three didn’t know what had happened, but Mix knew. Cyndie responded by making sure Mix knew we were not accepting such behavior. She used her amped up energy and a boundary extension stick to move Mix to and fro around the paddock until the mare finally showed some sign of acquiescence by dropping her head.

In talking it over when we got back in the house, I came up with a possible theory for her behavior.

When the horses first arrived here, Mix, more than the other horses, showed aggressiveness around feeding times. It mostly manifests in her demonstrative body language, taking on stallion-like behaviors of pawing and snaking her neck. She might also chase away or attempt to bite the butts of other horses around her. When we bring out her pan of food, she doesn’t tend to act aggressively toward us.

Lately, when Cyndie or I move around her to scoop poop or hang hay nets while she is gobbling from her feed pan, Mix will sharply swish her tail or pin her ears back and swing her head in our direction to flaunt her command over her food. We have been verbally responding with our disapproval and carrying on with our task at hand to show her she does not direct our activity.

Yesterday, while she was eating and after I completed my scooping, I stood in her vicinity even though I wasn’t working anymore, thinking I might condition her to my unthreatening presence when she has food. When she gestured her displeasure, I calmly held my ground.

This lasted maybe a minute before I moved on to something else. The four horses were finishing the last of the pellets in their feed pans and basically chilling. Maybe moseying down to get a drink or nuzzle a hay net with half interest. I came out to tie up one of the last hay bags. Mix approached and nosed the bag, then lifted her head to inhale the scent of my breath. I tossed the bag over the fence and was tying it to the top board, losing sight of Mix as she moved behind me.

Bam! I felt a wicked pinch on my back and let out a shout. Was she maybe responding to my earlier posturing in her space while she had been eating? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Good thing I was wearing my “space suit” and escaped with nothing more than a tender bruise beneath all the layers.

By the afternoon, we were very pleased to see Mix remained pleasant as I was making two passes around her with the wheelbarrow while she was still eating. We are taking that as a good sign she received the message we were sending earlier that morning.



Written by johnwhays

February 10, 2022 at 7:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Hi John, I was wondering that rather than being ‘bitten’ you were ‘nipped’. This happened to Patricia a few years ago when she was taking Doll for a walk but got into a long conversation with Stephanie. Yes she had turned her back on her. Doll nipped her in shoulder, too, but we understood that she did it to get what she thought was deserved attention. Like you, Patricia yelled loudly! So what might have been innocent horse play is felt like threatening behaviour to us, perhaps. That said, keep in mind the horse ABC : Always Be Conscious. Anyway, I hope that yours was ‘just’ a love bite…

    Ian Rowcliffe

    February 11, 2022 at 5:29 am

    • I want to appreciate that she was treating me as one of the herd, as she regularly bites the two chestnuts in her passion to dominate all but the one horse, Swings, who is the top mare. However, she is not allowed to treat me like a horse as we need her to have safe manners around people. She has quickly responded favorably to my gestures of dominance as I interrupt her ill-mannered behavior in my presence with a tap of her legs to reset her intentions.
      It has been a good exercise for me to be more aware with intentional attention to each moment around them.


      February 11, 2022 at 12:16 pm

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