Training Tip with Clinton Anderson: Mouthy Horses

Written by Clinton Anderson

When a horse gets mouthy — he nips or nibbles shirt sleeves, jackets or the lead rope — the behavior is often brushed aside.

This is especially true with young horses, the most likely culprits of this behavior. A foal mouthing your shirt sleeve doesn’t seem like a big deal; in fact, a lot of people think it’s kind of cute. But the problem with this behavior is that if uncorrected it often turns into biting — a very dangerous vice.

The most effective correction you can do with a horse is to make him move his feet. Horses are basically lazy creatures that would rather stand around in the pasture daydreaming of their next meal than move their feet and work up a sweat. They’ll always choose the option with the least amount of work involved.

So if you’re standing next to your horse and he starts to lip your shirt, put his feet to work. Back him up, lunge him in a circle, sidepass him — anything you can think of to make him hustle his feet. Put his feet to work for five minutes, and then go back to what you were doing with him before he got mouthy. Act like it didn’t even happen. If he tries to mouth you again, you’ll make the same correction.

He can’t mouth on you and move his feet at the same time, especially if you make him hustle with energy and do a lot of changes of direction. If you’re consistent with this correction, it won’t take many repetitions for the horse to connect the two together: When he gets mouthy, he has to move his feet and sweat.

One of the most effective ways to stop a mouthy horse, and a horse that bites, is to back him up. Backing is a very humbling exercise for a horse to do. When a horse gets mouthy or tries to bite, it’s a very forward action — he’s invading your space and coming to get you. When you back him up, it’s the opposite — he’s being submissive to you by moving out of your space.


About Clinton Anderson:

Born and raised in Australia, Clinton grew up with a love of horses. Although he lived in the city with his father, Rob, mother, Cheryl, and sister, Andrea, he looked forward to the weekends he got to spend on his grandparent’s farm where his grandmother would give him rides on her old Thoroughbred mare. By the age of 12, he began playing polocrosse and was eventually chosen for a national team representing his state. 

In 2001, he became the first clinician to create a made-for-TV horse training program that aired on RFD-TV. The use of untrained horses and a variety of topics covering common problems faced by horse owners quickly made Downunder Horsemanship the network’s number one equine program. Nearly 15 years after establishing Downunder Horsemanship, Clinton continues to instruct horsemanship clinics, presents Walkabout Tours across the country, produces two television shows, hosts an internet TV website and is constantly creating comprehensive study kits and training tools to make learning horsemanship as accessible and easy as possible. Clinton and Downunder Horsemanship are recognized as world leaders in the equestrian industry and continue to offer the very best in innovation, inspiration and instruction.