Monday, January 5, 2009

Herd Aggression

This is an abreviated version of a question that I thought needed to be addressed. It sounded potentially dangerous in too many directions to let it lie. Ezra, I swear, I'm working on your lead deal.

Jonas said>> I have a question about my mare. She doesn't go into heat often, though people do say she is “mareish”. She has a terrible attitude towards other horses.
She likes having a herd, but she hates other horses. She charges through the fence at them and throws up a ruckus if I give other horses attention.
She acts bossy with people, too. She struck at me once, I backed her down the driveway, which is quite long and she is respectful with me. But she still is crazy when it comes to other horses. She also seems to have an influence on other horses, after they are kept with her they lose all their manners and are aggressive toward other horses.
She never used to be like this. I don't understand why she is so "mareish" now. It's all the time and she has no respect for anyone but me.
So if you have any suggestions on how to deal with her behavioral/jealousy issues, I'd love to hear them.<<

And people think studs are tough! In a natural herd situation there is always the “boss” mare. Sometimes they’re called the “alpha” mare or the “bell” mare.

The boss mare is vital to the survival of the herd. She will tell the herd where to go, when to eat and drink, when to run, in general tell them what to do all the time. She gets to decide when to accept a new herd member or when to run somebody off. In exchange for this privilege she gets to eat the best grass, drink the freshest water and live in the middle of the herd where it’s safest. Her babies get the privilege of her status, so they grow up safe and strong.
This is a coveted position in the herd. The way horses work is the boss mare stays in charge, her second-in-command (and favorite herd buddy) gets to help her boss the other horses around, then there’s third, fourth and so on down to the last sorry little horse that’s the bottom of the heap.

The boss mare is savvy and aggressive. She becomes boss by beating the crap out of everybody beneath her. It’s vital to the safety of the herd.

Jonas, I’m sorry, but you have a boss mare. Unfortunately she is not in a natural setting. She can’t get at the horses on the other side of the fence to prove her dominance. She feels they are a threat to her herd, even if her herd consists of you and a goat. So she lives in perpetual agitation, thinking she has to resolve the situation.

You can’t change who she is. You can change her understanding of how she should behave.
You already have made a good start by making her respect you. If I was in this situation I would want to take it a step farther. I would want my mare to understand she can’t behave aggressively towards other horses when I’m around. I would regularly go out into the pasture and drive my mare away from the rest of the herd. I’d do this by swinging a lead rope at her haunches until she skittered off. If I had to whack her a few times I would. If I had to really thump on her I would. I would do this over and over until she understood I had sent her away. Eventually she would stand away from the group, staring at me with her ears pricked. She would probably look sad and confused, but I’d stay tough and ignore her crybaby little self. I would pet the other horses. I would stand in the middle of the group and make her stay out.

Eventually my aggressive mare will begin to graze and act like she’s ignoring me. Then I would relax and let her wander back into the group.

What would happen is I would shift the dynamics of the herd. The other horses would understand I can drive the boss mare away. They would understand I was her boss. She would quit trying to attack them while I was out there.

When I had this mare out to ride or anywhere she is under my control I would discipline her for aggression towards other horses as if she was being aggressive towards me. I would be fair and consistent, but I would make sure she understood I am the one in charge.

You can’t change who your mare is, but you can change how she treats horses around you. She will still be boss mare when you aren’t there, but once a mare proves her dominance things usually settle down.
I hope this helps. Be careful, be firm.


  1. I use that exact same approach soooo many times. Works especially good on horses that are aggressive towards humans when in the paddock.

    The opposite is a horse on the bottom of the pecking order always wanting to run. My mare Indigo is near the bottom. She loves to be around me and comes running when I call her name without fail every time.
    The other horses are also curious of me and she does not feel safe to be around me when they are near so she runs and almost bowled me over in a panic to not get cornered one day.
    So I drive them away. Each horse has learned that when I am with another horse they damn well wait their turn. Dangerous not to teach them this because mine live outside 24/7 and if I have to go out and get them or do something in the paddock I don't want them fighting around me.
    The end result is Indigo feels safest when I am around. She even took a bite at the boss mare the other day and boss mare didn't correct her :o!

    However I must disagree. I spend a lot of time watching horses be horses. Best way to learn. Pecking orders are not 100% linear. For example my mare Indigo (bottom of the totem pole) and the BIG lead mare who scares the bejeebus out of every other horse, eat and sleep together. No one else, even the second in command can eat or share the good shed with the boss mare but Indigo.

  2. Oops, I'm writing again...dammit, hang on!

  3. (If Mugwump talked about this, my apologies. For some reason, only part of her post came up for me.)I believe that you said that she did not used to be this way. Have you had a good vet check her? This could be an ovarian tumor or other hormone problem. If she checks out ok physically, then you can do the behavioral training.
    I had a mare once start mounting other mares in heat and behaving like a stallion. My vet said that an ovarian tumor, depending on which hormone it puts out will make a mare more mareish or more studdish. Everyone was much happier after her surgery!

    And observation of my own herds over the years have shown me that the "pecking order" is indeed not always a straight line. For a while, I had a group in which every horse in there had at least one horse they could move around. There was no absolute bottom horse.

  4. Good grief you guys. How literal are you going to be? I didn't need to go into a detailed explanation of herd pecking orders in order to get to the root of the problem, which was an aggressive mare, so I didn't.Give me a break. Now I'm really cranky. I'm going to bare my teeth, pin my ears and go home.

  5. I use a similar approach , I treat it like she may be boss mare ,but I am the ultimate BOSS. All my horses understand that there will be no pissing around when I am in the herd. I had a young gelding that I had put out with the group after a adjustment period, unfortunately not a long enough period and the rest of the geldings teamed up and had him cornered. I walked in growled "back the F** off and they parted like the red sea, walked that little dude across a 25 acre pasture the rest followed but not closer than 20 feet when I put him back in later he stayed at the bottom of the heap ,but no fighting or real aggression

  6. I was just stating, cause almost every book I have on horses states about pecking orders being linear when they aren't. Just seemed to fit with the topic :S

  7. That's OK, mugwump, we all know you're the alpha mare around here. We'll be good. You don't need to bite us. Cheers. I'm toasting you with my margarita right now.

  8. As someone who owns a major alpha mare, loves her herd but pity the poor fool who decides ignore her demands, this was an excellent read Mugwump.

    Now my dear Buttercup is pastured with our herd bull and it is rather amusing to watch them interact. Tex, the bull, is the only creature I have ever seen peacefully coexist with her. They have seemed to reach an agreement with none of the mareish behavior and general snottiness she displays around other horses in the pasture. Note I said in the pasture...

    We absolutely do not tolerate mareishness on the ground or under saddle. One we set the rules she recognized us as alpha and haven't had any problems.

    I will keep your tip in mind should more horses move onto our property

  9. Thanks so much, Mugwump. Hopefully it isn't a hormonal problem, like an ovarian tumor! That would be terrible. She didn't used to be like this because the other mare I had was her boss. But when I rehomed her, she was left with herself and my filly; and they got along quite well. They ate together and everything, and then I sent her to my friend's house for a bit, but had to bring her home because she was biting at my friend through the fence at feeding time! I told her to not feed her if she was going to act like that, but she wouldn't listen, so she got away with having a really ugly attitude towards other people. This, incidently, was also the place where she struck at me after I tried to take her away from the gelding my friend stuck her with. She claimed my mare made her gelding try to kick her head off. Anyways, after I got my horse home, she suddenly was extremely vicious during feeding time; much like my old mare. With whom I figured out the whole chasing them away... Except I chased her away from her food because I didn't like her beating up my other horses. I never thought to chase them away from their actual herd.. My friend then brought a gelding over to keep in my pasture for a bit and she went ballistic; extremely unusual for her because she never was the squealing type. So, yeah... I don't know if the change is hormonal, or if she was extremely upset about losing her boss mare and then being sent to a new home for a bit. She is an appaloosa, so maybe she is just showing some appytude? ^.~

  10. jonas- now this is becoming more interesting.
    I can't guess what happened at you're friends, but I'm betting something did. It sounds to me as if your mare scared your friend and somehow it escalated. My guess is now you're back in control and things will calm down. The bad behavior at her new place is an offshoot of what happened.
    I would look at outside circumstances as the probable reason for her behavior.

  11. this topic is interesting. I had a mare that was the "Wicked Witch of the West" when it came to being with other mares. She was fine when I was around, but she was definatly the "ALPHA" mare when there was no human around.
    But this chasing them off while you are out there...I just might have to try that with a mare that I have at my house. One day I was out with the horse shoer and I was holding another mare and the shoer was holding up a hind foot when all of a sudden this other mare came from the middle of the pasture with her ears flat back and mouth wide open at a dead run towards the shoer and I. I yelled at the shoer to get out of there, I dropped the mare I was holding and started yelling at the mare that was coming at us. She ran away, then about 5 minutes later tried to come at us again! We ended up tying her up and leaving her there the rest of the time we were trimming. We now call her the "Baracuda"
    Another thing came to mind also that I found that helps to catch horses. One mare is very hard to catch, but she always runs in circles around you and ends up with her buddies, so I started to allow her to run around me, then when she got over with her buddies, I would swing the rope at her and make her run again...let her come back to where SHE wanted to be and chased her off again. IF she stopped away from her buddies, I would stand there and let her think...then would try to approach her. If she ran to her buddies again, I would chase her off and start the routine over again. The first time that I did this, it took me about 20 minutes. she then allowed me to walk right up to her and catch her and she acted like nothing ever happend(Other than she was a little out of air)The second day I went out there to catch her and she started the running around thing I started the whole routine..but this time it only took 10 minutes to catch her. the third time, it only took 5 minutes to catch when I go out there, I just follow her around for about 2 minutes and then she lets me catch her...she always has to play the hard to catch I NEVER go out to catch her if I am in a hurry...otherwise I will NOT catch her.
    PS: Mugwump, I ran my dog in agility yesterday...WON both classes!! He was great!!

  12. I had a similar situation with a gelding that wanted to be with his buddies.

    My gelding was 16.3 and "bossy". He would try to intimidate you. You said "boo!" and everything was good. Unfortunately we ended up with a situation where nobody would say "boo!". He was literally DRAGGING people out to the pasture and then ripping the lines out of their hands to bolt off with his friends!

    I spent the next week turning him out every day. First I turned up intentionally late so he got more and more riled as everyone else went out. Then I put his halter on and let him out with a stud chain on his nose. If he bolted on me he got a yank on his nose, turned around and put right back inside to think about it for a few minutes! After a day or so he'd walk out just fine the first try.

    Now I had to deal with the bolting just inside the gate business. For this I would put him inside the gate and brace the rope on a post. He'd snap himself in the face and we'd stand there for a while. After he stood quietly for a minute I let him go BUT held onto his halter. He learned not to go until I said it was OK. "Ok go! *flips hand*" You've never seen a horse run so fast as when he was verbally 'released'. Hunkered/squatting down and all 4 legs literally DIGGING in to blast to the pasture!

  13. I agree with Mugwump that irregardless of circumbstances, any horse that acts aggressively toward a person needs to be quickly and meaningfully reprimanded. But I would also have to suspect a hormanal imbalance and/or ulcers(worst case scenario-the possibility of ovarian tumors as OldMorgans suggested) as another possible root cause for this mare to become so aggressive toward not just other horses but people too.

    We had a similar case with one of our mares-she was very aggressive with other horses, but a nervous wreck if she was left alone. She kept all of the geldings in an uproar, but she would actually fight them if they got near her. We put her on a thyroid balancing supplement for a couple of months and the behavior disappeared. She now runs with the rest of the herd. We used the same supplement on my barrel horse when he got to pacing his pen at feeding time-one month and he settled down again.

    The mare never was an alpha mare and is back to her meek and mild nature. The gelding is an alpha horse(or so he thinks) and still has a tendency to aggravate anyone he can, but he is not acting irrational or leaving his feed to patrol the fenceline. The thing they had in common when their thyroids were out of whack was that they both acted angry and resentful(ears pinned, glaring looks in their eyes, trying to turn butts to the offender and just generally grouchy) of anyone or anything that came into their space-not normal for either of them.

  14. Oh, interesting. I too was going to suggest the possibility of ovarian tumours, even a brain injury, but with the additional info in the comments - I'd say more likely it being dominance behaviour.
    (Ovarian cysts are very common in my experience, it's usually only if there is an associated pain issue that they become a problem.)

    I think it's key that the behaviours started when the original boss mare was taken out of the herd and she moved up in status and was moved away from a familiar environment and handler.

    I have had similar things happen before - livery / training yards are a prime environment for this - you get a horse who is not particularly naturally dominant, and you put them in a position where they HAVE to be a top dog, and you get all sorts of problems. I suspect it's because they are actually insecure as dominant, and so overreact.
    Sounds like once you re-establish yourself as 'boss' it'll take some of the pressure off've her and she can relax.

    Incidentally, I have seen a brain injury cause aggression in horses - my boss bought a mare with a 9 month foal at foot to add to her breeding herd. The foal was a scrub and a two-fer (fortunately the mare turned out not to be bred back).

    There was a minor accident while they were being 3rd party transported to the farm, and when they arrived, the foal was bleeding from one nostril, with a small cut over one eye, and was somewhat staggery. Vet determined no fractures, said maybe minor concussion. Kept them in a quiet dark stable for a day or so, then vet ok'd them for normal isolation turnout.

    After about a month I noticed the foal was would very now and then have a sort momentary staggery fit, and act disoriented. Vet didn't seem to think much of it, didn't fit wobblers profile or anything else neurological.
    Time passed, foal was a short yearling, and out with the other yearlings. Still having odd fits, and then he started to do odd, obsessive things - he'd stand and dig in his pasture for hours, or rub himself raw against the fence, or walk in a circle one way over and over and over until he fell over. Between fits he seemed perfectly normal.
    By this point we were seriously alarmed and we got the vet out again. There appeared to be nothing wrong with him and vet was clearly thinking we were wacko - then he started banging his head against the wall.

    So, lots of fairly expensive investigation ensued, but nothing specific was found.
    He got worse and worse and dangerously unpredictable to handle - he'd have perfectly normal baby moments and then would suddenly throw himself into a wall attacking his own shadow. He started biting at his own chest and legs. One minute he'd be climbing over his door to attack a passing person / horse, the next he'd be standing droopy lipped. There was no rhyme or reason or apparent trigger for the fits. He was too dangerous to turn out anymore - and on his own he only hurt himself.
    Eventually with no ideas other than maybe a brain tumour or some other abnormality, we had him put down.

    When they autopsied him, they found a mushy hole in the behaviour centres of his brain. There was blood vessel with a tear in it, and what they decided had happened, was that first blow to the head had caused bleeding, which started the damage. It's possible he had an inherent weakness in the blood vessel. Every bit of further concussion caused further bleeding, and further brain damage. The only reason he'd not died was the bleeding was not in an area which controlled body systems, but they estimated it would have started affecting those soon, given how uncoordinated he'd gotten.

    It was sad, but I have to say I was actually relieved - he just didn't make "sense" you know? Made you doubt yourself as a handler. I'm glad to have had the experience, as I think I'd recognise a similar issue again now.

  15. I have the boss mare of all boss mares. I admit I am not trying to change her. She is actually not what is dangerous in her pasture. The danger is that OTHER horses will run me over to get away from HER.

    Before I owned her, I saw her chase a grown man out of her pasture. She figures people out really quickly. She snarled at me once early on and I smacked her in the head with the hay flake I was holding and we have been friends ever since.

    I appreciate her personality and intelligence, and that my two year old orphan has NO bad orphan habits thanks to her (she adopted him and nipped the shit out of him on a regular basis - he ate milk replacer via a creep).

  16. I have a question about the other end of this topic? What about the "bottom of the pecking order" horse? My barrel horse is a big baby. He gets the crap beat out of him all the time. He is afraid to lay down or even pee. He stands away for the others at all times. I finally seperated him but he hates to be alone, naturally he would rather be with teh herd. Any suggestions? The other horses done't beat him up while I'm out there. They all respect me, but I can't be there all the time.

  17. lol. My mare's a strange one too. She's not super overly agressive unless you are trying to over power her unnecessarily. The chiro that came out showed us her canine's (supposedly less than 25% of mares have them). He said that is what makes her somewhat more agressive on some stuff because it gives her an added bit of testosterone, so she's more willing to fight if she thinks she has to. He also said he could tell she's got serious heat issues (trainer already had told us that, but he reaffirmed). So we are going to try a supplement and if in two months that doesn't work, we're going to have the vet out to see about cysts or anything internal going on. She's is actually better since he's came out. She hasn't been throwing herself against the sides of the stall anymore either.

    We had some major brawls in the mare's pasture ( only containing three mares) last summer. Unfortunately it was only between our two girls and I joked saying they were trying to figure out who's dominate by asking age or beauty? lol I think (and hope) they finally figured it out though and we've never had problems with them trying to show US who they think is boss.

    She also had a problem with other horses in the stall next to her and since we've been at this barn, he's kept her with an empty stall next to her because she'd kick the crap out of the stall and squeal (very high pitched) no matter who was there, even other geldings who paid no attention to her. We think it was a food issue because of her first barn before we had her. Now, as space is dwindling, there's a new cute young gelding there that she seems ok with, only minor hissy fits, probably because he was scared out of his mind and just cowered in his stall for the first week, and they are kind of boyfriend/girlfriend. lol just kidding. He does whinney when she's gone though, but not for the mare on his other side. :)

  18. Browneyed Cowgirl-What is the thyroid supplement you're talking about? I've never heard of that one. How was it diagnosed? Does it cause weight issues?
    FD- I'm still in the same place as FD though. I really think this is a behavioral issue. I am very slow to jump to chemical explanations when the horse is more than likely being a dumbass. Think Sonita guys, it' all hormonal with her, yet she's 100% healthy. So I have to address the behavior.
    t_orchosky- The only way to get a horse out of the bottom of the pile is add a new herd member who he can beat up on. His status will rise if he gets to be dominant over something. My biggest question is, how beat up is he? If he is getting chased around, but no longer getting the crap kicked out of him, I wouldn't worry about it. It's simply his station in life and he's more OK with it than you think. If it only goes on when you're out there, then become aggressive and drive everybody off when you're in the field with him. He'll be hiding behind you in no time, trust me.
    If he's getting torn up even after two or three weeks and your afraid he'll be injured, then you'll have to keep him seperate. Sometimes it is what it is.

  19. I had a mare that was food agressive and would kick at people as well as horses. The problem was that she never did it to myself or the barn owner, she respected us, but she would turn and kick any of the barn workers who were feeding her (she lived out in a pasture with other horses 24/7). It was pretty difficult for us to correct because the barn workers would drop the grain and then run- instant reward for bad behavior. We kept telling them that if they ran, they needed to take the food with them! :)

    Of course we eventually ended up having everyone who fed her go out to the pasture with a whip and we only let certain people feed her. The behavior got better, but she was never completely trustworthy. When I sold her I made the biggest point to the new owner about this, warned her over and over not even to bring treats out to the pasture. I learned the hard way on that one, I was feeding her treats and another horse came up behind me. My mare turned and kicked at the horse. Unfortunately, I was in the way. She got me full force in the quad muscle, ouch :(

    Hey Laura, I stayed up til 2 last night finishing Cutter! I just couldn't put it down until I was done, man am I tired, but it was great fun, thanks!

  20. Thanks Mugwump. I guess it's his lot in life to be seperated. I have had the same horses for over a year now and the situation hasn't gotten any better. I keep trying to put them all back out together and everytime after a week or two instead of settleing in the dominant horse gets more aggressive. Usually before I want to go to Rodeo, the day of I find my best horse hurt, something just enough or in the right spot that I can't ride him! So he'll stay seperate and I will have peace of mind and not miss any more shows! One day I may get another horse that is lower on the pole but no plans at the time to increase.

  21. I just wanted to chime in with my experience with ovarian cysts. We had a very nice and not overly marish horse. Then she slowly started having moments of complete snottyness and would actually be a danger to be around. Rope halter, stud chain could not keep this horse from charging other horses while she was being led. Then like that, she would be sweet and put her head down and lay it on your stomach, like she was apologizing. We had her preg checked, since she had been bred and didn't find a foal but a cyst about the size of a grapefruit. The vet told me with the load of hormones running through her from a cyst that sized, he was surprised she had good moments. Took it and the ovary out and she went right back to being a sweet mare. All of those hormones can really mess with their systems.

    I agree with mug though and would do behavior first. That's what we did, it just didn't work.

    Another question along the same lines though. We have a gelding in the field where I board that chases off everything. All the time and the only one he doesn't mess with is the gelding that was a mustang stud for a long time and was wild. So does the same pecking order apply to geldings. Because the mustang would seem to be in charge with the gelding as his second.

  22. The thing with a pecking order in a herd is the horse have the instincts, but we've altered the natural environment they live in. So all kinds of screwy things can happen. Sometimes horses will bond because they are the only two in a pasture. Sometimes a horse will simply like another horse and they will be friends. It changes depending on the situation. My 30+ year old mare, Annie, was a good example. She was absolute bottom of the heap in the broodmare pasture. But she was dominant over both my mares, because she had been with them when they were young. When one of my mares was put out in the pasture, she became a middle of the packer. So every mare below her in status had to be nice to Annie. It depends on the situation.

  23. Thanks mocharocks. I'm glad you enjoyed Cutter. I'm struggling to finish #11 in the series now. Better get back to it. I can amuse myself on these blogs for hours, rather than do the writing I'm supposed to be doing(!)

  24. I have used these same tactics with my boss mare. She completely respects me and will not act out towards other horses while under saddle, or when I'm around the barn. But she will test other people and if someone isn't consistent with the rules, AND willing to back up the rules with appropriate punishment then she will walk all over them. My mom can't deal with her at all. I kept my mare at my mom's for about a month last year, but I got tired of the phone calls starting with "Do you know what that mare of yours did to me today?" So I brought her home. I suppose that's why my mom only has geldings. :)

    Anyway, I'm currently dealing with this same very boss mare who has reached the age that she can no longer "back it up" (meaning she's physically incapable of beating up a horse who is younger and faster). She's 23 this year. This was no big deal with our gelding, who is low man on the totem pole anyway. The problem came when I introduced a new mare this past spring, an OTTB, 4 year old. I looked FOREVER for a mare that was not dominant and I thought I had picked a good one. But, it didn't work out that way. (you know, best laid plans and all...) The new mare started cornering the old one in her run-in stall and beating the crap out of her when I wasn't around. When the old mare ran through her stall wall, ransacking the barn, I finally figured out what was going on and put them in separate paddocks. But their stalls and paddocks are right next to each other, so both mares still pin their ears and make ugly faces at each other, especially during feeding time.

    I feel bad that they can't live in a "herd" situation, but my old mare seems to be happier all by herself than with a herd that she can't be the boss of.

    My only other experience with this type of situation is when a friend of mine got a new, younger mare and put her out with his old boss mare. They fought and fought and eventually the old mare lost her "boss" status, but then she seemed almost to lose her will to live and her health deteriorated quickly after that. She was closer to 30. I definitely don't want that to happen to my older mare, who is the apple of my eye.

    So, has anyone else dealt with this situation? Am I destined to have my horses live in separate paddocks? I can turn them out all together into a large pasture and they get along for awhile. But I can't leave them together with access to their stalls/shelter (or anywhere else that one can be cornered), or feed them together for that matter. So that means that turnout has to be supervised, which is inconvenient.

    I suppose if it has to stay this way, that will be okay. But I do wish that everyone would just get along! :) I guess I should have bought a gelding... I do rather enjoy my mare's though!

  25. Mugs-the product we use is Frank Lampley's Horse Sense. We use all of his products and absolutely love them.
    Weight gain? No-not on the mare. She was actually a bit on the heavy side...another culprit to hormonal problems in mares. She was also prone to stress colic but that disappeared once her hormone levels straightened out.
    The gelding did start gaining weight, which was my objective. He is a hard keeper and his continual pacing didn't allow for him to gain anything. Once he got straightened out, he started gaining weight and is not nearly as hard to maintain now.

    There was never a "formal" diagnosis by a vet(those are few and far between in this part of the country and most are basic large animal vets). But we had already been using Frank's supplements for a couple of years and my mom talks to him on a regular basis-he told us to feed the Horse Sense and it worked...dramatically.

    You can find his products online by googling Frank Lampley.

  26. Herd dominance is wierd - horses are more like people imo than having a straight pecking order like dogs - it changes depending on the relationships in the situation and all sort of things.

    One horse might be bottom of the heap normally, but move up because they are best buds with another horse who is more dominant naturally.
    I've seen mares move up when they have foal at foot, (because they have a 'reason' to be aggressive I think) then come weaning, they drop right back down.

    Fav story about this ever: Muffin, a decrepit 40something, 13.2, fluffy, arthritic grey pony mare, was the absolute boss of the pasture.
    All the schoolies got kicked out into a massive pasture together at night i summer.
    Come the morning, I'd walk down the field, help Mufffin get her legs under her (she couldn't get up on her own very well) and we'd walk down to the yard together, with 40 other horses following us. They all knew they got fed, so they wanted to come in.
    Nobody was allowed to pass Muffin. Nobody. She'd lay her ears back and swing her head and everybody, from 10 hh leadreiners to the 18hh Irish Draughts, would skitter to get out of her way.
    Sheer force of will, as she couldn't back it up physically, she'd been toothless for years!

    I love standing and watching horses interact lol, I could lean on the fence all day. Shame nobody'll pay me to do it!

  27. If the behavior doesn't get better with Mugs suggestions. The ovarian cysts and thyroid are good places to start. I've known of several of my old bosses clients' horses who were more agressive/grumpy when they had a thyroid imbalance. My aussie (in my avatar) was that way - super grumpy, bossier and less tolerant of other dogs than she'd EVER been (and that's saying something for her) for no reason. She was loooow in the thyroid dept. Much happier and easier going now she's on her little pink thyroid pill.

    FD - I know I dwarf mini stud (never gelded b/c he can't reach, making him an excellent teaser for the mares... boy he's frustrated) that rules the roost in a 4-5 horse herd of TB's and Oldenburgs. He does have teeth and kicks but his kicks really don't hurt and I know (he's a little bastard honestly but you gotta love him all the same). He does have a pretty good bite, that is if he can catch up and latch on. Saw a 3 year old Oldenburg filly pick him on several occasions ~5ft+ off the ground as he dangled by his teeth from her neck or her halter, depending on the day, flailing angrily with all four feet. She deserved it - she tried to pick on him. He'd pull the youngsters halters off if they messed with him too much and he got 1/2 a chance (ie they put their heads down low enough, messing with him). He is in love with the grey TB boss mare and she hates him. However, she'll still allow him to eat from her hay pile when no one else could. It still amazes me they all kick over him (I know they can aim better than that if they want to), steer clear of him or even jump him when running around crazy (he can't keep up, just stands there pawing angrily until they stop).

    I too wish someone paid me to stand and watch them. Honestly their behavior is simply hilarious sometimes.

  28. Half Dozen Farm - our older mare, 24ish, is the one that was trying to determine who was alpha with our younger mare, 7. It's sad to say, but I think neither really overwhelmingly won. I think they both just hurt each other to the point neither of them could fight any more. The barn owner said he was shocked when he saw them going at it because the old one was giving it just as much as taking it! lol

  29. Laura- I'm in the same boat. Work is really cutting into my blog time! OMG, I didn't make that really bad pun on purpose, I swear!

  30. Greetings all,
    We have had this problem. We board horses for others. We have on occasion had to sell a horse that could not get with the program. We try to let the horses sort it out but draw the line at vet bills. We keep it to a minimum by not mixing mares and geldings and avoiding stallions entirely.
    We did have a pony mare that we bought to test breed our Appaloosa pony to. The foal was charming but homely as could be. We wanted to sell the little mare but did not want someone using her to breed ugly minis. We had her spayed. This was costly but worked wonders on her temprament. We did not sell her. She is our babysitter for weanlings. They cry, she comforts them and will defend them. She costs about $600 a year (mostly for the farrier)to keep so she is going nowhere soon. It is cute to watch this tiny 34" mare train and care for the weanlings who are always much bigger.
    Anyone else have a spayed mare?