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from Cherry Hill


October 2000

Making, Not Breaking
Trailering Your Horse
Horse Handling & Grooming
How To Think
Like A Horse
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill

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This newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.

My goal is to send you interesting stories and helpful seasonal tips for your
horse care, training, and riding.


    By far, the most common questions I receive at this web site and other web sites where I answer questions and at seminars and classes that I teach, are those involving vices and bad habits.  Some of the most common problems are biting, rearing, cribbing, wood chewing, horses that don't stand still for mounting, horses that won't load, horses that move too fast or too slow, horses that won't cross water and so on.  

    Although there are ways to change such behaviors, it is far easier, safer and more enjoyable to prevent them in the first place.  That's why I try to outline the basics of horse care, training, and management in ideal terms because the closer to the ideal that you can handle and care for your horse, the less likely he will develop vices and bad habits.    

    When you buy a horse that has been trained and handled by someone else, you might be purchasing some vices and bad habits that you did not cause.  And that's why I'm including information in this newsletter on dealing with two common problems, biting and rearing.  Also be sure to look in the New Postings on the Roundup Page section later in this newsletter for information on other problems: Fear of Water, Cribbing and Wood Chewing, and Speed Control.  

     With any problem, try to find the cause of the problem, don't just treat the symptom.  By this I mean, if your horse rears, don't immediately think "What should I do TO my horse when he rears?". Instead think, "Why is my horse rearing and what can I do to minimize his tendency to do that and what alternative behavior can I encourage?"  

Odds and Ends  

     Look for another installment in Sherlock's foal training and management section next month.  He's growing up to be quite the handsome gelding (yes, I did say gelding....more on that another time) and he will be weaned before the next newsletter.  

     I'm way behind on answering questions to Ask Cherry.  If you have sent me a question in September but have not heard from me, please be patient as I try to answer as many well-posed questions as I can.  I know we will be getting a rainy day (or another snow storm) sooner or later when I can catch up!  If you need help before I have the time to answer, be sure to read my suggestions on other places you can find help.  

    Thanks to those of you who have sent feedback to my webmaster, husband Richard Klimesh, related to links that don't work on our site or pictures that don't load up for your browser etc.  This feedback can help us keep this site working well and useful for YOU.  You can also let Richard or I know what you particularly like about our site by writing Richard at  To contact the manager of Cherry Hill Books or me, go to and follow the instructions on that page to be sure that your questions go to the right e-mail address.   



Vices and Bad Habits
How to Prevent Biting

New Department in Western Horseman Magazine - "The Fix-It Guy"

New Postings on the Roundup Page
Book News and Reviews
Our Recent Magazine Articles



     Horses, no matter what age, are constantly learning from their interactions with humans.  Whether or not you consider your interaction with your horse a "formal training session" or not, your horse is learning.  This is true whether you are longeing, riding, feeding, bathing, or just walking through your horse's stall or pasture.  Whenever the two of you are in the same space together, you horse is learning what he should and should not do and, in some cases, what he can or cannot get away with.  Your goal is to learn about horse behavior and plan your interactions carefully so you help your horse develop good habits.  It is the joy of owning horses to say "Good Boy!" or "Good Girl" and give your horse a pat when he or she does something well.  And it is your responsibility to learn how to say "No!" effectively with your body language to your horse when he does something unwanted or dangerous.   

     Bad habits usually result from a lack of the Basics. When a horse doesn't learn his ABC's, he must go back to the Basics and have a thorough and consistent review.  Your job is to let your horse know his behavior is not acceptable and to help him find a different way to behave so he is safer and more pleasant to handle.  

Vices and Bad Habits  

     Horses are some of the kindest, most generous and trainable animal partners you can find.  That's why when a horse does something "bad", it's usually due to poor management or training.  In order to deal with vices and bad habits, we need to understand what causes them.  THEN we can design our horse care and training to PREVENT them. 

   A vice is an abnormal behavior that usually shows up in the barn or stable environment that results from confinement, improper management (like overfeeding), or lack of exercise.  A vice can affect a horse's usefulness, dependability, and health.  Examples are cribbing, weaving, and self-mutilation.

   A bad habit is an undesirable behavior that occurs during training or handling and is usually a result of poor techniques and a lack of understanding of horse behavior.  Examples are rearing, halter pulling, striking and kicking.  

  Biting Prevention  

     Biting can be very dangerous.  I've seen a girl get her nose bitten badly when asking for a "horse kiss", I've seen a man get his abdominal muscles torn away from his rib cage by a horse he was petting over a fence, and a very good, experienced horse friend of mine got the end of her finger bitten off when she poked some hay back into a horse's hay feeder at a horse show.  Now that I've shared some of my biting horror stories, with you, let's get control of this bad habit.  I want you to be safe!  

     First of all, biting is normal behavior between horses.  If you watch horses play together, they often nip at each other, and buddies mutually groom each other with their teeth along their withers and back.  When fighting, horses use kicking and biting to assert their dominance over each other, often inflicting serious wounds.  

     You need to teach your horse, in no uncertain terms, that you are top on the pecking order when it comes to biting and that YOU make the rules. No biting, nipping, nuzzling of any kind period.   Teething has nothing to do with a horse biting people. 

     Teething might have something to do with a horse biting wood and other hard objects, but biting at people is totally a behavioral issue and one that has no "excuse".  

     When I am handling a horse that likes to nip or bite, I do one of two things.  If it is a foal or a horse that is just "testing" or if he is a horse that is just nuzzling or lipping me as I groom or lead him, then I stop what I am doing and firmly massage the end of his nose, upper lip, and lower lip for about 2-5 minutes.  I don't pinch or squeeze - I am not disciplining him - I just rub until I get the feeling he is sick of the attention.  Then I stop and usually the horse holds his head straight forward or turns his head away from me slightly which is what I want - GET YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY SPACE!  Each time a horse like that comes at me with his nose, whether is seems like a sweet nuzzle or not, he gets a nose massage.  Pretty soon, horses learn that they don't have to be so nosey - it is that simple.  

     By the way, while nuzzling is sweet, it often leads to nipping and then biting, so if you let your horse nuzzle you or your pockets, be aware of the danger.  Also, be aware that feeding treats from your hand often leads to nipping and biting.  It is best to never feed a horse a treat from your hand.  Instead, drop the treat on the ground when you unhalter him and turn him out, for example, as a treat for not racing off.  

     Now for the other type of horse, one that dives at you, often behind your back or when you just start to turn away. Whether or not this horse puts his ears back and looks mean or has his ears forward and looks pretty, if he dives at me with his mouth, he is going to get a BIG discouragement from me.  And with a horse like this, I AM ALWAYS ON ALERT.   

     WHERE you hit him is important - never around the eyes or ears but almost anywhere else is fair - it is a case of you defending yourself from attack.   

     WHEN you hit him is essential.  It must be within 2 seconds ("one thousand one, one thousand two") so he makes the connection that you are disciplining him for the biting.  Otherwise, if he bit at you and then moved away and was just standing there and you reprimanded him about 4-5 seconds later, you have punished him for standing there.  

     WHAT you hit him with is also important.  Never with your hand - you can't deliver a blow hard enough without hurting your hand, especially if you "smack" him on the "nose" - you would hurt your hand on his teeth.  And never with something that would hurt him. I often use either a rope, sending a wave to snap and pop him or a foam bat which makes more of a noise than anything.  

     HOW INTENSELY you hit him is the real key.  If you "cartoon" the situation and just dab at the end of a horse's nose, what do you think that would mean to him?  It would be an invitation to continue playing! He'd react by nipping back at you - he'd think you were playing a game of "bite me tag" with him - like he would with another horse.  Then think of the other extreme  - two wild stallions fighting over a mare.  In order win, one stallion has to kick and/or bite with an intensity to make an impression on the other stallion and drive him off.  You have to be as intense as the stallion in your message and your manner although you are not going to bite and kick your horse!  You will need to be very quick, stern, use forceful body language, add a menacing growl, and deliver a strategic blow.  Then go on with what you were doing as if nothing had happened.  Be tough, then go on.  

     If you follow these rules, you will only have to do this once or twice.  If you back off and moderate, you will have to pick at your horse for the rest of his life. You need to figure out how to be the right level of "gruff" with your horse.  


     There are two habits that I think require the assistance of a qualified professional horse trainer - rearing and kicking.  Both of these habits are very dangerous. If you have a horse that rears, you should be working with a qualified instructor who can help you diagnose this horse's problem in person.

     Even if a horse is not rearing very high, such behavior often gets worse rather than better.  The big risk, of course, is that when a horse rears, you can easily fall off, and often when a horse really gets into rearing, he can fall over backwards which can be deadly.

     But let's talk a little bit about what causes rearing and what you can SAFELY try to eliminate the bad habit.

     Rearing is an "avoidance behavior" - the horse is trying to avoid going forward.  This usually occurs when a horse has not learned that when you say go forward, he must go forward, so he is confused and needs progressive training and a review of the basics.

     OR it could be a horse that is becoming herd bound or barn sour and does not want to leave a certain area where he can see the barn or his buddies.  The horse is saying "NO".  This is more of a psychological problem.  The horse needs to develop security and confidence in the rider or handler.

     OR it could be a horse that has at one time or another has received a sharp jerk or rough handling when he DID go forward so now he is afraid of the consequences of going forward.  When a horse that tends to rear is switched from a curb bit to a snaffle and the rider is very good with her hands (following the horse's movement), the horse tends to move OUT (forward) rather than UP (rearing).  It is important that when you apply the leg cue for the horse to go forward, you don't pull on the bit as that would be conflicting signals which would confuse the horse.

     You can rule out physical causes by having a veterinarian check the horse's mouth and back to be sure there are no dental or spinal problems.

     You can also review "forward" lessons in in-hand work (walk out and trot out promptly when leading) and longeing, concentrating on the horse working in a long, low frame with lots of extended trot type work, rather than collected work.  Collecting a horse too soon or improperly can lead to rearing.

     If you feel unable to resolve this problem with the help of your instructor or trainer, then you should find another horse.  It is not worth the risk.


New Western Horseman Regular Feature -
"The Fix-It Guy"

     Beginning with the October 2000 issue, Western Horseman has started a new regular feature by my mate Richard Klimesh, "The Fix-It Guy".  You can read about it in Pat Close's opening editorial on page 12 and see the first installment, "Keeping Rubber Mats Together" on page 166.

     Western Horseman invites readers of their magazine to send in problems for "The Fix-It Guy":

If you have a question regarding stable maintenance, send it to:

The Fixit Guy
Box 7980
Colorado Springs CO 80933


New Postings on the Roundup Page

Speed Control

Speed Up

Slow Down

Fear of Water

Cribbing and Wood Chewing


Book News and Reviews

     Maximum Hoof Power  review in October 2000 Quarter Horse Journal on page 126.


Our Recent Magazine Articles

Here's a roundup of the most recent magazine articles by the "Klim-Team", Richard Klimesh and Cherry Hill

October 2000 Western Horseman
"Introducing the Fix-It Guy", p. 12
"The Fix-It Guy - "Keeping Rubber Mats Together", P. 166

September 2000 Western Horseman
"Selecting a Barn Site", p. 72
"The Klim Team", p. 102

October 2000 Horse & Rider
"Mouth Wash - Flushing the Mouth before Giving Oral Medication", p. 39
"Muckbusters - Cleaning a Stall and Manure Management", p. 44

September 2000 Horse & Rider
"Got Bots?", p. 37
"Horsekeeping on 2 Acres", p. 48
"The Cushion Question" (therapeutic saddle pads), p. 88

September 2000 Miniature Horse Voice
"Electric Fence - How it Works...How to Troubleshoot it"


Coming Attractions 

My training philosophies, catching a horse, winter riding, more foal training, and tips on buying and selling horses.


Cherry Hill doesn't do endorsements!

I don't accept payment to recommend or endorse any horse products in my articles, books or this newsletter.  I do, however, mention names of products that I am currently using and find satisfactory.  I do this to give you a starting point or help narrow the field.  Sometimes finding the right product or piece of tack is the beginning of the answer to a training or horsekeeping problem.

That's it for this month.

Keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side.

Before you copy or forward anything from this newsletter or Cherry Hill's Horse Information Roundup, please read this article!

Be sure to check the Horse Information Roundup at
to find information on training, horse care, grooming, health care, hoof care, facilities and more.

Browse the complete Cherry Hill Horse Book Library at

  2006 Cherry Hill 

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