I saw a video of a guy trying to pet a wild horse out west. He wound up getting bit, but wasn’t injured. I mean it looked like the horse didn’t even break the skin. It just kind of chomped down on his arm and released quickly, like it wasn’t trying to kill him.
It kind of reminded me of when I camped at Assateague Island with my parents as a kid. I was told to not try to pet them, so I didn’t get bit. But the horses there just walked right into and hung out in our campsite while we were all sitting there. They looked at us, but basically had no reaction.
Now as an adult, I pass by lots of horse farms while at work. My question is, leaving trespassing alone, what would happen to me if I wandered into their field? Would I be bit or ignored? I realize the horses I see now are domesticated, but I’ve seen two different reactions from ones that weren’t.
If you just wandered into their field, they would likely ignore you. Most horses in a pasture are accustomed to people. Of course, there’s the 1 in 100 shot that you stumble upon that horse that just has the devil in him and they can certainly put a hurting on you. I certainly wouldn’t approach or try to touch a horse I didn’t know. Cutting across their field though as a short cut I probably wouldn’t think too much of as long as I knew the landowner.
In trying to answer this question, I came up with one of my own, which I hope you don’t mind if I add here. Do horses have to close their teeth all the way down before they can release? I think a vet told me that.
Anyway, we do have a bitey (miniature) horse. She just wants your attention. Most horses I’ve met have been race horses, used to being handled, and not inclined to bite.
Horses who don’t know you are more likely to run away from you than march up and bite you. (as for hurting you, they don’t have fang teeth like a carnivore, they have flat teeth for grinding up grasses. The effect of their bites isn’t like a dog bite where they poke holes in you and tear bits off you.)
The very first thing you do with horses is train them to accept handling, which includes not biting or kicking. So it is unlikely that a handled, tame horse would bite or kick you for no reason. A handled horse is much more used to people being close to it than say a cow (especially one which is not a milking dairy cow). So, unlikely to run away either. If you were walking purposefully through a pasture on your way to somewhere else, most horses will look up, assess you are of no interest or danger, and go back to what they were doing.
If you stop, however, they will very likely come up to you to see what you are up to. Cows will do the same; they are curious creatures. I have caught wary horses by simply lying down on the ground – they can’t resist coming up to see why you are doing that.
There is significant danger to walking through a herd of loose horses, which is what I wanted to post about here. The danger is that a dominant horse will decide that a subordinate horse is too close to them (for example, if they are all attracted to you because they have been fed treats, and the dominant horse believes all the treats should be eaten by himself only). In this case, the dom horse may ‘tell’ another horse to back off, with a laid back ear, a glance, or other small signal you don’t catch, and the sub horse may wheel away to put distance between itself and the next thing that could happen, a bite or kick. If you are in the escape path of the sub horse you will be knocked over, and if you are in between the two you may be kicked by a blow meant for the sub horse. This is a common event, mainly because your presence has disrupted the delicate personal boundary system horse herds maintain.
If you spend time with loose horses in a field you must know horse body language, stay alert, and quite possibly carry something like a whip, which will command more attention from the herd.
Horses, even horses that are tame, are perfectly able of messing you up. In a field they are more likely to run, but if you approach one several things can happen: you might make a friend (head scratches human!), you might get knocked over accidentally, you might get knocked over on purpose, you might get bitten, you might get kicked or stepped upon, etc. Not every tame horse is nice, in other words.
Our very our **Scylla **once wrote a great article about breaking horses (though for the life of me I can’t find it now. Et tu, Google ?). One of the bits that stuck with me to this day was his twin principles to keep in mind at all times when dealing with horses :
in any direct conflict between man and horse the horse will win, full stop.
one must never, ever let the horse figure that out.
Anecdotally, I once knew a pony whose owners (well, their daughters anyway) had had the bright idea of somehow teaching him how to play tag. Only of course the poor dumb thing didn’t know when it was tag-playing time, so the result was that *whenever *he’d see somebody running within his field of view he’d chase them and bite them in the small of the back to signify “tag”. Not a mean clamp down, but still enough to leave bruises. Which is why that pony wound up in the rescue ranch where I met him…
My wife was kicked by a horse once. This was a very tame horse whom she’d ridden many times in the past and who knew her well. But she absentmindedly touched him on his hindquarters when she was behind him and he kicked out at her. Luckily he hit her in the leg; if he’d hit her head it could well have killed her. It didn’t quite break her leg but it left a ghastly bruise covering most of her thigh. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and took weeks to heal.
I rode a rental horse once who kept stopping to eat weeds. When I pulled her head up she turned around and tried to bite my foot. I kicked her in the mouth. This went on over and over for the entire ride.
On the other end of the horse injury spectrum, my uncle, a neurologist, once operated on a stablehand who was mucking out a stall and got kicked in the head, cracking open the skull and exposing the brain. I believe the patient lived though I don’t know if he suffered any deficits.
Oh, speaking of asshole horses, I knew a girl once who got somewhat badly hurt by a supposedly tame one, although everyone at the club knew he was a complete asshole. It’s just, so far they didn’t believe he was a *dangerous *asshole. Basically he was always agitated and kept kicking out his stall door but never tried to kick or bite people. What he did like to do however was, when he was being cleaned and groomed, he’d push people into the stall wall. The girl in question was being pushed hard and long enough that she couldn’t breathe, started panicking and pushed back with adrenaline strength ; at which point the horse violently pushed back *back *and crushed some of her ribs.
Thankfully a lad was there who immediately went apeshit on the horse and that startled it long enough for my friend to pick herself up, move out of the stall and collapse ; because adrenaline is a wonderful thing. I don’t know what happened to the horse after that, but here’s hoping nobody in the county had to worry about being short on glue for a while.
What you might notice about the horses in the bite videos is that most of them had their ears pinned back prior to the bite. That’s a simple thing to notice once you know what to look for. I tend to keep my distance from horses doing that. I’ve been bitten once while trying to put a lead line on a horse that didn’t want me to. It was more of a nip than an outright attack but it hurt more than a little. My daughter was kicked while receiving instruction along with several other kids. They were on the ground next to their horses when two of the horses had a disagreement. She was caught in the middle and not the intended target. She caught multiple kicks in the thigh (those things are fast!). Had it been her head or stomach, things could have been very serious.
When I was a youngster I spent a lot of time at a rental stable learning to ride. I really liked one horse, a cute little dark bay mare who had been treated with electric shocks all over her ass to change her over from a trotter to a pacer–apparently so she’d match a bunch of other horses in a parade. This kind of soured her temper a bit and left her with a bunch of very symmetrical scars all over her hindquarters. Anyway, most kids didn’t like riding her because she was the kind who’d test you over and over, especially in the stall–and we were expected to tack up our own horses as well as to brush them down after a lesson so stall manners were a big thing. She and I had an understanding after I smacked her on the nose a few times for trying to nip me but gave her some very nice treats for standing calmly and not giving me any shit. One day my mom showed up with my youngest sister, who was probably about six at the time. Mom was not riding herd on the kid and she was running up and down the aisle between the stalls and screeching as only a six year old girl is capable of. This was making my life difficult as the horse was not digging the noise at all and it was making her fractious and difficult to saddle. I repeatedly asked mom to take the brat outside but she was paying no attention to me. As I was going back to try to finish tacking up the horse, my sister ran screeching past me just a leeeeetle too close to the stall door and that mare just reached over, chomped down on her shoulder, lifted her right off the ground and shook her hard then dropped her. Sobbing ensued, mom came running up to find out what happened to her bebeh and I told them both that she deserved all that and more for being such a fucking idiot in a stable–and would they both kindly go outside so I could finish saddling my horse with less risk of me catching a hoof in the kishkas. As they left I reached in my pocket and gave that cranky little mare every yummy treat I had and told her what a good girl she was. On the plus side, that was the last time I ever saw my bratty sister act up and screech around horses–probably the only lesson strong enough to make an impression on her!
So yeah, don’t make a lot of sudden random moves or loud noises around horses–they’re prey animals and it’s likely to make them much more unpredictable than usual.
They are quite used to humans around there, and camping. They’ve learned that humans are not predators they have to fear; in fact, many will offer carrots or other treats. And they have nice warm campfires – it gets cold at night there.
Any horses you see out in pastures like that are quite used to humans – they see them morning & night when they go into the barn, and get fed by the humans. They aren’t scared of humans, even strangers. So they aren’t likely to run away from you. Most will look at you, and then ignore you in favor of continuing to eat the tasty grass. Curious ones, especially young horses, might come up to investigate you, and see if you are interesting, like having treats or willing to pet them or give scritches.
No, not at all true. Most horse bites, even to other horses, are mostly just nips, not full bites at all.
Did it cure her of dumb actions like coming up behind a horse and touching him unexpectedly?
This is a bad & dangerous habit. It should have been dealt with much earlier. But the girl should have responded immediately by yelling angrily & pushing him away, even poking him with anything sharp she had. Or by kneeing him sharply in his belly.
The problem here is that this horse has no respect for her space. In the herd, he would get severely reprimanded if he tried this on any horse higher than him in the pecking order. Clearly, he thinks he is dominant over this girl (and he’s right). That should have been corrected long ago.
Several signals are given before they ever try to bite: pinned ears, a lowered neck, angry tail, etc. Another horse, or an experienced horseman, would have noticed these & responded.
The problem here is that they were ids lined up too close together. The kids wouldn’t know better, but that instructor should have.
Especially because it doesn’t really work. Horses are either natural pacers or trotters, and it’s just like left- or right-handed humans – trying to change that does damage, and doesn’t work long-term.
oh yes, the OP had remarked that what he’d seen didn’t seem to break the skin. You might not expect it to, you’d end up with a huge haematoma from the clamping of the flat teeth rather than torn skin like you would with a different “critter” with “tearing type” teeth.
The story about the little kid getting grabbed and lifted reminded me of a time when I went to the Royal Agricultural Show here. Previously, visitors could walk around the stables and go past all the stalls (now they are all blocked off, and the public can’t go in there, only the entrants). We were going along patting the horses (yes, seriously, you could pat strange horses back then). I patted one and said “see you later, on to the next” and after I’d turned I got grabbed by my jumper (sweater) and pulled back. The horse didn’t want me going on to any other horse, apparently… It gave me a shock at the time.
I don’t touch ANY animal I don’t know, unless the owner is there and gives permission. I’m an “animal person” and a “dog person” and I won’t even pet a strange chihuahua unless invited. Many animals don’t like being manhandled by strangers, even by “nice” ones who know what they are doing. “leave them be” is my motto. I’ll just talk to them from a distance and keep my mitts off.
If you’re an observant person and you’re paying attention you’d recognise the posture and “oh-oh, this isn’t good”. Watching those videos, the warning seems pretty obvious (but it all seems to have happened quickly, so probably no time to react/withdraw).