Ouch, Chopper!


It’s hard to believe that Jazz — my positively placid Thoroughbred — who typically looks like this….



and like this….





…can inflict a bite that looks like this:



I’ve known that Jazz can appear snarky and menacing in his stall, but Sunday’s incident proved that he ain’t bluffing.

That afternoon he embedded his teeth into my outer arm (not visible here), leaving an open wound and a goose egg surrounded by an expanse of discolored skin. But the eye-popping bruise runs along the inside. And since I took the photo above, it has grown larger and more sharply defined. Day 3 post-trauma, the bruise looked like a tattoo of a vast, purple mountain range, peaked at my triceps and sloped beyond my elbow. 

Not only is it painful, but the visual evidence of this spreading hematoma — as blood seeps further into surrounding tissue — grosses me out. Yuck.

So, what prompted Jazz to inflict this vicious wound? Well, I was invading his space.

I was tacking him up in his stall, something I never do. Subconsciously, I knew to watch for flattened ears and other moody behavior. But I was exhausted, distracted by the kids, and hurried with the saddle and girth.

And when you’re around horses all the time, you get sloppy. You forget how fast they can lash out. In a fraction of a second.

Jazz swung his head and struck with the speed of a viper.

Over the course of the week, I’ve thought a lot about the event (my throbbing arm a constant reminder). I have to curb Jazz’s bad habit. 

But reconditioning a biter is no easy task. You can’t reason with him and there’s no equine time-out. Striking the horse after the fact rarely provides lasting results.

Years ago I interviewed a veterinarian on the subject and he suggested squirting lemon or lime juice into the horse’s mouth, any time he flattens his ears or exhibits a sulky expression.

Such correction requires dedicated observation and good timing to deliver the juice. But it’s worth a shot. (Note: I’ve tried this before with a horse who was simply mouthy. It had the reverse effect: Huck loved the tart taste and would suck the juice right from the bottle. So far Jazz does not find it delectable.)

If you readers have any other suggestions, I’m all ears.

In the meantime, I’m entering Chopper’s stall with my weapon drawn and ready to fire: