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by Julia Debski

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Learning Way- Biting & Cribbing

Q. "Once a biter, always a biter." What do you believe on this subject?

Q. Other than lack of mental stimulation, do you believe there is more to cribbing?

Q. Biting, nipping, lipping, snapping the air. (Aggresive/Fear vs. Emotional release)


Ah, hah, the "biting syndrome". This one always makes me laugh. No, of course a horse is never ALWAYS  a "biter"! In fact, horses can't be described by one bad habit or stress outtake. The biting is not caused simply by a person... Biting is usually the horse showing that they are extremely unhappy with their life, and all of the small things within it. Each time that the person does something that the horse doesn't like, or the horse doesn't like something that is done to them or that they are put somewhere, they bite! It doesn't really matter what they bite - it's all biting. The horse starts out with biting when the person is pressured, when the horse is made to physically submit to something, when they are forced to stand... And it ends up at almost every single thing that is proclaiming their lack of independence. Pretty soon, horses will start biting each other over the stall wall, biting the stall wall, biting the bars, the buckets, and I've even seen them bite their own legs and shoulders when it just gets too far. So how do you "fix" biting? It's very simple actually, and something that most people would never think of. You give the horse its independence. You let them bite you, and instead of scolding them, you treat them as a horse would, stomp the ground, throw your head, and push them back with your self presence, energy, etc.You treat the horse like a horse, and you let them have full independence. You do NOT debilitate them, distort your emotions, you do NOT force them, make them submit, or even pull on their rope. You must put the utmost importance in the careful practice of not taking any tiny bit of independence from your horse. You must allow them to be their full self. Not only will the biting then stop, but so will all of the other stressful habits that you may or may not have noticed. If you give your horse full independence, full freedom, full expression, and have full play with you. You must be willing to listen to your horse and do everything that they truly wish for - all of the things that I have listed, and more. They've never wanted to be "ridden". They've wanted to connect with a human, with their true human rider, and to forge a bond so strong that it can never be separated. And what have humans given them in return? Well, you already know.

A horse is only a biter because he feels he has to be. It is his only way to grab onto anything that allows him to have independence. He has independence of biting - and once he is completely stripped of that, in the wrong way, he will die. When he has been stripped of the ability to fight back from what he is made to fight back from: stripping of his independence... his soul will die.

There is way more to cribbing. It is similar to biting, except for it is the next step. It is after a human has stripped the horse of the ability to bite or fight back, and then they will take to something where they may simply grab on for dear life and pull - literally and metaphorically. They suck in because there is no hope for anything else. They suck in to take it away, because it blurs everything. It is extremely depressing. But the more they crib, the more dead they are, but by the time they're cribbing,  they're already dead. 

Anything in aggression is not out of hate, but out of the wish for you to realize something. If the horse is acting aggressive toward you, ask yourself what they're trying to tell you. It could be anything... But most often, I've found that it's out of wish for more independence, out of wish to not be surpressed by the human. And you know what I give them when they act aggressively towards me? Well, first, I make myself safe... Often times, if you tell them that you feel unsafe and that they are scaring you when they act like that, they will apologize and stop... Maybe not the first or second time, but definitely after that. (nothing is fixed immediately. it is a journey, and it takes time.) And then I give them all the freedom possible.

Anything in fear is the same - it is not that they are absolutely terrified of you, it is that they are afraid of something though.... And it could be almost anything. It is, most often though, when the horse is afraid of losing its freedom.

And why do we continue to go back to freedom and independence? Because the horse's largest need is freedom, and the thing that humans most often want to take away from them is... freedom.

When things are done for the purpose of your emotional release, it means that the horse feels fairly comfortable in showing you what is wrong. They are trying to tell you something, as they always are when they nip, bite, lip, or snap at the air. That is the most important thing to remember - that they're always speaking to you, unless they're not, and it's better for them to speak to you than to ignore you or to be dead, so take everything they say as something that you can learn from. Even the things that hurt.

But don't let them trample you all the time - safety does matter - but they won't see the need to if you are in understanding with them, or even if you don't quite understand them, but if you are trying to listen.

Now. What does it mean? Is that what you wanted? If not, can you explain your question more?

Do you want what it is, why it is...............

Thank you to Kara Cumberton for her genius. is her blog link.

Next time: A Learning Way- Repetition with Horses

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