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Telltale Bite Marks

The appearance of bite marks on your horse may be a sign of unrest in the herd. Try these tips to keep the peace.
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While grooming your gelding, you notice long, parallel scabs running along the length of his rump, each with a papery surface that flakes away as you curry. These superficial wounds don’t pose a health risk, but they are a sign of unrest in your herd that you’ll want to address.

A bay horse baring his teeth at the hindquarters of another two horses.

Strive in a herd can be the result of many factors, including scarce resources and personality clashes.

Long, thin, shallow wounds on rumps are usually made by the teeth of another horse. During a pasture skirmish, the more aggressive animal bites the rump of the less dominant one. When the victim runs away, the bully’s teeth scrape along the body, stripping away hair and the top layer of skin. These wounds typically don’t bleed much, if at all, and will develop thin tissue-like scabs that peel away easily.

When you notice these wounds, you’ll want to take a close look at your herd dynamics to see what could be instigating these altercations.

Click here to learn how to read equine body language.

• Have you recently added or removed a herd member?
Any change in the population can trigger a reordering of the hierarchy. After a few days the horses will probably settle down, but keep a close eye on them as they do.

• Are resources scarce?
When food, water or shelter is in limited supply horses will fight for them. Make sure there is enough of everything to go around and divide the areas where food and water are offered so one horse can’t monopolize those resources.

• Is there a personality clash?
Sometimes, even in a stable herd with plenty of resources, two horses just won’t get along. In these instances you may need to separate the two or add another horse to the mix to change the dynamic. 

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