View Full Version : Can a horse get this jealous???

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:11 AM
I’m really worried that my gelding’s jealousy over my new mare is becoming a training issue. Has anyone ever experienced anything like this???

A little background –

I’ve owned my gelding for just over 4 years now. He’s taught me (along with my trainer) most of what I know (he’s my first horse) and, although he can be “opinionated” at times, all-in-all he has been a very patient, incredible horse who’s taught me so very much. He’s always taken care of me when I’m on his back, has forgiven my mistakes, and has been excellent to learn on because he’s one of those horses that rides to whatever your level is.

However, he loves flatwork and trail riding – not so big on jumping. And I don’t believe in forcing a horse to do something he doesn’t like. So, for almost a year, I’d been looking for a second horse, one I can begin to do jumping with. I was lucky enough to find that horse on CANTER, and bring her home at the beginning of September. And my gelding was perfectly fine – until the first time he actually saw me giving her attention and working with her. Since then (about mid/end of September) it seems he’s been progressively getting more and more difficult.

Unfortunately, because the cold weather is here, the horses are inside in the evenings (the only time I can work them during the weekdays because of my job), and so he sees me giving her attention every night I’m there. To try to keep him happy, I always greet him first, usually work him first, and when I’m grooming her in the cross-ties, I will give him some pets and attention, too. He seems to accept this to a point, but still, it seems like he’s unhappy about the situation.

I am wondering first and foremost – is it possible for them to get *that* jealous – so much so that it gets in the way of your work sessions? Has anyone ever experienced a horse actually getting so jealous that it affects your training??? I feel almost silly to ask. But, even if I wasn’t in this situation, the idea of it still has me intrigued – anybody ever go through something like that? :confused:

Summit Springs Farm
Dec. 9, 2009, 10:19 AM
YUP! I have a chestnut who has to be ridden first at shows because if he is ridden after my other horse he gets pi$$ed!!! Will act up and be horrible!

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:19 AM
well, yes. I don't have any good advice for you, but I did have problems both times I brought a new horse into the picture.
My horses live out 24/7 in a big herd. First time I bought a second horse, when I first turned him out in the field, my older horse would come from literally a quarter mile away, at a gallop, to chase him away from me at the gate. I had a tough time leading them both in at the same time, which is a problem, since they live in a 70 acre field -- going out twice to the far back of the field was not an option.

Finally one day, when it was pouring rain, and I was trying to bring them in for the farrier, and the big Irish horse (first horse) kept snarking at the second horse, who kept trying to get away, I just lost it. Both of these horses were well upwards of 17 hands, and it was just too much to handle. I stopped, and gave my Irish horse a serious tongue lashing (something I never did, and which he never needed, except for this).

There was a long moment of silence while he looked at me.

After that, no problem. The other horse gradually grew less anxious about him, and the Irish horse limited himself to snarking at him behind my back, which I would chastise him for. He actually loved it when I ponied the other horse from him -- I think he just liked being in charge.

I am not so sure this would work if the horse wasn't so danged smart (irish!!!) and if we hadn't had such a close bond.

After that horse had passed away I got a young horse. Same deal in the beginning; the (now) dominant older horse would chase him away from me. It was less severe because this dominant horse is much less dominant than my Irish horse, and my young horse is a super easy going guy who just shrugs it off.

Again, a good verbal reprimand, and it is now limited to the occasional snark when he thinks I am not looking :lol:. But I can lead them both in, pony one from the other, etc., with no problems.

Good luck!!! I guess I would just say rather than appease him, I'd lay down the law a bit. Give him PLENTY of attention when you are working with HIM, but he doesn't get to dictate what happens when he is not the focus of attention; YOU have to be the boss.

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:30 AM
I always thought my first horse was jealous of my dog. I think he was upset that my dog could go anywhere with me and he couldn't. I tried explaining to him that he would not fit in my little hatchback....but he apparently just did not get it.

I have not had another horse like that since, but that horse was my best friend and still very sympathetic when the dog was hit by a car and died suddenly.

That horse also protected all the young horses in the field. When I got a filly as a present, he seemed to get that him and her were both mine and formed his own herd with her. The other five horses were another herd. Even so, the other herd had two young horses in it with a domineering herd leader. My horse would stand at the water trough and chase the other herd leader away so the young ones could drink - otherwise the other herd leader chased them away.

My mare now tends to walk between me and anyone walking with me, but it is very passive so I am not going to say it is definitely because she considers me part of her herd or just happens to be on that side.

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:38 AM
Wow - so this does happen! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's experienced this.

Summit Springs - Omg, my gelding can become a jerk if I work her first! How odd - I guess he feels he has "seniority" if he gets my attention first?

Asterix - I have had to give him a couple of tongue lashings when he's tried to be mean to my mare. And it worked! He doesn't do that anymore (at least not when I'm anywhere on the barn property). But I have tried to appease him in other ways (like giving him attention even when I'm working around her). And so far, that hasn't seemed to help much. I guess he'll have to put on his big boy pants and deal with it when I'm paying attention to her. lol Hopefully that'll work.

Ajierene - awww - sounds like you've had 2 absolutely wonderful horses! Goodness knows I have a very strong bond with both of mine... Just wish my gelding could accept my mare into our herd instead of being so jealous. :no: I guess we can't control those things, though - they have their own personalities.

Dec. 9, 2009, 11:35 AM
Yes, it happens. One of my kids used to ride a small pony former trainer had. Pony was a nasty little snot but for some reason she adored my son and went well for him. Trainer's pony was turned out in a field beside the main ring. When she would see my son on his new pony in the ring, she would go completely batsh*t in a jealous fit. Would gallop the long end of the field that ran adjacent to the ring, would try and bite his pony over the rail, etc.

It got to the point that son's pony ( green bean) was completely rattled whenever he saw the other pony turned out and she has to be moved to another field. Ponies also had to be in different aisles of the barn because if she saw my son paying attention to his pony and not her, she would try and climb the stall door.

Dec. 9, 2009, 12:16 PM
My mare was very upset when the gelding showed up. It took her a few months, but I think she understands now (over a year later) that she wasn't replaced. I just treated them equally (and hid from her a bit in the beginning) and she gradually adjusted. I'm not the only one I know that's had this problem - most horses are ok with time.

Dec. 9, 2009, 01:03 PM
i think they get jealous! definitely.

Vesper Sparrow
Dec. 9, 2009, 01:44 PM
My horses are definitely jealous of each other, the young, newer gelding more than the old mare, although when I first got him, she'd throw her hay violently around her stall when I was tacking him up.

I try to be as even-handed as possible with treats, attention and affection. The jealously mainly involves who is going to be ridden that day. The gelding, in particular, will pout and pin his ears if he sees that it is the mare's turn and, if I don't close the top part of the stall door, will nip at her when she is in the crossties getting tacked up. On days that I'm riding her but not him, I will usually groom him afterwards.

Funny, because they were the best of friends the first couple of months. They were turned out together but had to be separated because the gelding was getting too possessive and fighting with another gelding over her favours.

Dec. 9, 2009, 01:58 PM
I think you have to be very careful when you attribute human emotions to horses. They do not have thought process like we do. They do not think about "being ridden" or "getting attention" the way you are postulating. You noticed that the gelding and the mare were turned out together, but that they were "best of friends". That isn't something horses do - they have wild relationships, and the gelding was acting out in a studdish way about the mare, fighting off other horses in a proprietary manner. Did he and the mare need to be separated, or just did he need to be separated from the other geldings? Is he now frustrated that he does not have access to her? Does he need to keep other horses from having access to her? This is studdish behaviour.

He is continuing his possessivness in the barn and the nipping and ear pinning is about who is alpha over the other. These behaviours are about their relationship with each other, not with you. when they go by, when they change their positions and postures, when they are no longer where they are 'supposed to be' etc.

Your horses need to be taught ground manners. It is not acceptable for any horse to lunge, pin ears, bare teeth, raise a hind hoof (if they do that) or act agressively to another horse, or to you, or to another horse which is under your control at the time. It is especially wrong for them to act out like this when one or any of them is in your control. I would get some training advice on teaching them appropriate behaviour.

I would absolutely stop giving any treats at this time, because that in its self can give them the idea that they can be agressive with each other about whether any tidbit is coming to one or the other. you can call it jelousy, but it is not the emotional friendship issue you are attributing to them. It is status rights and rights to food and mares and keeping others away from what they want more so than that.

Your gelding may also be proud cut, and you might want to investigate why he is being studdish.

Dec. 9, 2009, 01:58 PM
Yep, the definitely get jealous. My mare hated it when I rode my project pony. If she was in her stall when I had the pony out in the cross tails she would pin her ears, paw, and shake her head. One time I had the pony standing just outside the mare's stall with my back turned to the mare...big mistake. She bit me on the back and actually lifted me off the ground :eek: had a huge bruise and it ripped the skin off and bled quite a bit. I had bruises on my knees from hitting the ground when I fell as a result of this. (I was like 5ft and less than 90lbs at the time). They actually got along out in pasture, it was just when I was working with the pony that the mare had an issue.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:01 PM
My gelding get's jealous. It doesn't interfere with his training, but it can be pretty hard on the walls and fences. Other people can work horses and move them around, but if I graze another horse or (Heaven forbid) ride off on one, there is an instant rodeo act.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:03 PM
I have to say, when I posted my reply, the only other post I saw on this thread was Vesper's and I thought she was the OP. Now I see other posts, and my post may not be appropriate to the true OP. I guess I'll let my post stand, though, because it covers my point of view which I feel strongly about.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:19 PM
Yes...they get a little jealous of each other.

I wouldn't label herd dynamics jealousy though. I own two and was riding a third until recently. Third horse (Orion) lives in pasture with one of mine (Show). Orion is dominant over Show and because they both see me as "their" person, we can have some fun times sorting out who's turn it is to go with me. IMO, THAT is not jealousy, it's herd dynamics.

My other (Elf) gets snarky at Show or that Show gets upset when I'm riding one of the others and they all get a little anxious if I have two in the crossties at the same time...they do the wait-you're-taking-care-of-me-right-now-not-him looks and antsy-ness is just herd dynamics in a smaller setting.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:22 PM
Yup my grey used to get nasty if I worked someone else first. He's gotten better about it in his "old age" (he's 12). But he would throw a fit when I used to work with a young TB. Then he would be horrible when I would work him second.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:23 PM
Wow, lots more replies! Thank you all so very much for your posts - it's so interesting to hear about other peoples' experiences with this type of behavior...

AnotherRound, just wanted to mention that you do bring up a good point in that horses don't think in the same manner we do. My gelding is never aggressive with me, or even in my presence (as mentioned earlier, he did try to nip at my mare a couple of times in the pasture when I was out there, and I quickly nipped that in the bud, because it's unacceptable for him to do anything untoward while I'm present - they're much bigger than us!). But, along those lines of thinking - I had actually wondered whether his initial reaction of trying to nip at her was because he was "protecting his herd" so to speak, which was me, from the new mare. I have no idea whether that was the case or not. Very interesting to think about, though. :yes:

And I'm so glad to know that some of you say it can get better with time - I sure hope that's true for him! I love both of my beasties, and the last thing I wanted when I brought the new girl home was for my gelding to get upset (whatever the reasoning behind it).

Edited to Add: RugBug, you posted while I was typing this reply - herd dynamics - that's a great term to use. I guess I called it "jealousy" because that's the familiar, human term. I agree - I doubt it's the true "emotion" of the horse, so to speak - but it's the closest thing I could think to call it based on his actions. :-)

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:37 PM
O, THAT is not jealousy, it's herd dynamics.

Yep, I think this is what I was trying to talk about. It is an interesting subject.

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:41 PM
Edited to Add: RugBug, you posted while I was typing this reply - herd dynamics - that's a great term to use. I guess I called it "jealousy" because that's the familiar, human term. I agree - I doubt it's the true "emotion" of the horse, so to speak - but it's the closest thing I could think to call it based on his actions. :-)

I agree with this. I simply use the term "jealousy" because it is simpler, but i don't really think its the human emotion either

Dec. 9, 2009, 02:57 PM
My mare does get "jealous," or whatever we're terming it here, when I mess with another horse. She is an "only child" and has been for the entire 11 years I've owned her. She is very alpha, and whenever she sees me giving attention to another horse at the barn, she will paw, weave, and make the Evil Mare Snarky Face (ears pinned and eyes glaring :lol:). Whenever I stop giving the other horse attention (even if I don't mess with her), she's fine.

I do think they have possessive tendencies when they are closely bonded with a person (that sounds kind of new age-ish, but I can't think of a better term...). Interestingly, my mare is not really affectionate or cuddly with me at all. She just behaves like a normal horse, although always standoffish even with me. I guess she doesn't like to share. :lol:


Vesper Sparrow
Dec. 10, 2009, 11:09 AM
Did he and the mare need to be separated, or just did he need to be separated from the other geldings? Is he now frustrated that he does not have access to her? Does he need to keep other horses from having access to her? This is studdish behaviour.

I don't think this is the case. They were only pasture mates for a few months (he was barely 3 at the time) and he hasn't shown this behaviour to my mare or any other mare since (now 1 1/2 years later). During that time, there was no mounting--just hanging out together and fighting with another gelding. He more or less ignores her now unless I am in the crossties with her. They have been out hacking and in the arena together with no unusual behaviour on either part. He pays her no attention when I take her out hacking alone. The mare has shown no unusual behaviour aside from throwing her hay around in the very beginning and she certainly doesn't need any behavioural corrections. He does need correction for his mouthiness (he has never connected in a serious way) and I have been doing that.

There is a gelding here who DOES display studdish behaviour (mounting, whinnying when his particular mare comes in, galloping to the gait when she goes by) and he has been checked out for hormonal levels and for being proud cut.

Dec. 10, 2009, 12:44 PM
Mine have almost always gotten jealous when i ride other horses. The horse i have now will just walk to the back of his stall and wont come to the front while i have another horse in the aisle but my old horse was awful!
One time my trainer was walking him out because it was cold, i had to ride another one and so I got on the next one while she cooled him out. We were just walking and she was hand walking and he lunged full flight right at the horse I was on's throat. Mine reared to get out of the way while my trainer pulled back on him to get him down. It was sort of funny because of the faces he made at me in the beginning. Now we know that horse cannot see his owner ride another horse, I dont own him any more thankgoodness because i ride to many for him to be jealous.

Dec. 10, 2009, 02:36 PM
A very cute post really. I know horses don't think like we do, but I know they have emotions and my various "herds" have taught me this.

The love of my life, Breathtaking (Abba), whom I bred, is a weirdo. She doesn't care when she goes out to be ridden. If she is first fine, if she is second fine. But one day I was taking hay out to pens and I did her and her sister's pen first. Then wheeled the barrow through Abba's pen to the next one. Well here she comes out of nowhere and promptly stands in front of the barrow and starts being snarky to the horses next store. Tried maneuvering around her and nope still stood her ground. Obviously, I forced her out of the way, but geesh. If I go out to her field for fence checking or other stuff, she won't let anyone but her mom and sister near me. She gets a pat and then away she goes. She's done this kind of a thing for a long time. I don't pretend to understand, it's just her.

She also has a thing in which all horses must like her even though she can be bossy ( sister knocks that out of her). As a foal she spent days getting the newborn month old to like her. The little filly pinned her ears and hid behind mom, the mom pinned her ears and told her to scat and yet she never would. Finally after 2 weeks they played together but only for Abba's tenacity. I even brought her mother up out of the field to be scanned and she wouldn't leave the situation. Neither Stella or Abba seemed to care. She is the same with any new people as well. You have to go and see Abba.

I do give mints as treats, but only at 9pm. Never any other time of the day. This way, I don't get constant begging. And Abba's behavior started long before she ate mints.


Dec. 10, 2009, 02:44 PM
Finally one day, when it was pouring rain, and I was trying to bring them in for the farrier, and the big Irish horse (first horse) kept snarking at the second horse, who kept trying to get away, I just lost it. Both of these horses were well upwards of 17 hands, and it was just too much to handle. I stopped, and gave my Irish horse a serious tongue lashing (something I never did, and which he never needed, except for this).

I am not so sure this would work if the horse wasn't so danged smart (irish!!!) and if we hadn't had such a close bond.

Haha, I was rehabbing my Irish guy and he was starting to become a complete idiot on the trail - I verbally told him not so nicely that he would end up roadkill if he kept dancing into the road - no problem after that.

Anyway, I had a TB that was incredibly jealous - grind his teeth at my other horse if I gave that horse attention and then continue it if I moved on to him. He had to be taken off the trailer first and show first, etc... otherwise he was a bratty little thing.

I find it mildly annoying, but ultimately its nice to know that our ponies love us enough to act like jealous boyfriends/girlfriends/herdmates :)

Dec. 10, 2009, 03:32 PM
my youngster (irish!) knows he's number 1. my 2 wb s HATE him, and i think commiserate against him. when they lived next to each other the 2 other guys would steal all his toys (tho they have the same ones) and rip his blankets. they sneer at him if Im not there, but are angels if im watching. they even poop on the wall closest to the youngster! the youngster meanwhile, acts totally innocent- till i leave- then its on like donkey kong. they arent neighbors anymore.
whoever thought that horses dont have a sense of humor is soo wrong.

Dec. 10, 2009, 04:21 PM
Once in a while my gelding doesn't want to come in from the pasture - all I have to do to "catch" him is start paying attention to another horse - that brings him right over. :winkgrin:

Dec. 10, 2009, 05:43 PM
:lol: A lot of these posts are so funny! I'm so glad I asked about this - thanks for responding, everyone!

Man, our four-legged friends do have their own personalities, don't they? Both of mine are the type that you don't have to guess what they're thinking - they'll gladly "tell" you what's on their mind. ;) And even though it can be frustrating sometimes, I sure do love them for it. :yes: