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What It Means When
Horses Lick And Chew

The "bonder" herd dynamics procedure never fails me. I am so skilled and experienced in it it has become instinctive to me. I could probably do my taxes while doing it.

But it doesn't work that way for some. They "fail." (The bonder cannot "fail" because you always learn something from it.)

When it doesn't work for some it's usually because they don't understand the goal or the underlying concept...

The goal of the bonder is to get the horse acknowledging that you are the leader and that it is to look for you for direction.

The goal is NOT to get the horse to follow you. The goal is NOT to create some magical mind melding. The goal is NOT to get the horse to suddenly let you do whatever to, or with it.

The connection (looking to the leader for direction) the bonder produces can bring these things about and they often are a by-product of the bonder, but they are not the goal.

One of the most common things people tell me when they "fail" is that, "I got licking and chewing, but..." s/he wouldn't follow me, wouldn't let me touch it, wouldn't wall paper the bathroom, or what have you.

Licking and chewing ONLY indicates the horse is mentally processing what is happening at the moment. It's sorting out things - usually for the better - that is all it's doing. It can be saying, "Oh, I understand this." "How can I get around this?" "Let's see, I did this and this happened." Pretty much anything.

The main significance of the licking and chewing is there will be a change in the horse's actions or demeanor. Whenever I see a horse licking and chewing I try to back off and let the horse think. I try to not intrude on its thoughts.

If the horse reaches a good conclusion I'll see that conclusion in its efforts to understand what I'm doing. If it reaches a bad conclusion (Hmmm...I wonder what will happen if I just go by him and cowkick?) I will defeat that as well and he will likely "chew on that for awhile." A bad conclusion corrected or changed is a good conclusion.

Licking and chewing is nothing more than the mirror of a human thinking something over unaware that s/he is massaging their chin. Licking and chewing with horses is simply giving some thought.

The purpose of the bonder is to establish, or re-establish the leader follower relationship - that's it. It is the horse's responsibility to look to the leader. It is the leader's responsibility to lead.

Being a leader doesn't mean you're a good one. Even leaders back up once in awhile.

Success is determined by one thing - is the horse looking to you better after than it did before? If the answer is yes, it's a success. If it is not as good as you want keeping working at it - calm, cool, quietly. Not necessarily in the same session. Don't wear or frustrate yourself or the horse out.

If the horse won't follow you, for example, it is because 1: He doesn't know he's allowed to or 2: you aren't telling him to do it correctly or 3: he can't because of his position in relation to you.

Licking and chewing will have little to do with it.

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