View Full Version : Bitchy mare issues...

Dec. 17, 2010, 10:56 AM
Hello all,

I recently got a wonderful bay Oldenburg mare who, despite being 8 years old, is quite green as she has been a broodmare for the majority of her life. I am starting to get her in shape on the lunge and am wonderfully pleased with how gracefully she accepts new things...except new horses in the arena.

Now let me just say that she is still very new to the barn and is in quarantine, so hasn't been able to meet new horses except her little quarantine buddy, so she might just be unsure of where she belongs. But a few days ago she tried to kick another horse in the arena when we were lunging and she has been, in general, rather bitchy in the arena when other horses go past her. She does not have this issue with anything else or anywhere else...she is truly delightful! But I want to know if anyone else has had this problem, and what they did to correct it. If anyone intends to tell me to beat her...please move on. Though I do understand the difference between a correction and a beating.

Dec. 17, 2010, 12:12 PM
Hum...Don't worry, I don't think people will tell you to beat up your horse...Anyway, no one will go check what you are really doing at your barn so if you'd decide to beat her up anyway, we wouldn't know...

BE really carefull when passing by other horses and avoid it as much as you can until she settle down, is use to this new barn and to her new job.

Alert people of her behavior and ask them to either go really far or be really quiet and gentle while passing next to her.

I would try NOT to lunge her with other people riding for a while if you cannot avoid them riding around you.
If you really have to, when a rider is passing by, stop (or ask for walk) your mare and wait. And shorten your circle.

If she gets better, still shorten your circle but keep her at the same pace. But as soon as she demonstrate bitchy behavior, bring her back to walk or halt on a tiny circle.

She needs to understand that you are in control and that you won't put her close to her 'ennemies' or in situation that she'll feel threatening, that you require all of her focus and that yes, you'll correct her as needed if she still pin her ears down and fake (or do) kicking.

Dec. 17, 2010, 12:22 PM
I would second the suggestion that you try to avoid lunging while others are riding for now. But I differ here - if she is being snarky when another horse passes by - stopping her and letting her stand is like rewarding her for being snarky. She needs some sort of correction when this happens to let her know it is not acceptable - growling at her, making her work HARDER when she reacts to other horses. I would try and move my lunging circle away from the rider when this happens to make sure there she is out of 'range' of the rider - but at the same time issue some sort of 'bad girl' cue.

This can be a tough thing - I had a horse that was rammed into by another horse in the warm up at a show - intentionally, by a trainer - and it pretty much ruined him for shows. He was so frightened and scarred by that experience that he started kicking at other horses when they got too near him under saddle and this was a 7 year old who'd shown for several years with no incidents, and was a very submissive horse.

So I would also say, if the horse is doing this out of FEAR that is one thing - but if she is doing it because she is PO'd and trying to assert her dominance, that's another thing entirely. And would handle those differently. But since you say she has been a broodmare most of her life, it's probably a dominance thing. And it also may be better when she is under saddle. Mine tend to get much more submissive when under saddle about other horses being near them since they are usually more focused on me.

Auventera Two
Dec. 17, 2010, 01:01 PM
I am somewhat certain that I own the bitchiest mare in the world. We call her valdamoort or satan now and then. ;) When she was 12 hours old she double barrled my stepdad and dropped him on the ground. She was ear pinning and territorial of HER SPACE when she was a teensy little filly, barely dried off. Her dam rejected her and we always said we couldn't blame the poor mare. LOL!

16 years old now, has been the same way forever. She's great with people, but she can be a devil toward other horses. Unless she's in tack or on a lead, and then she knows the human is in charge and she doesn't get to act ugly toward other horses. She's a certified search and rescue horse, and she will tolerate being packed into tight spaces with other horses, ponying and being ponyed, etc. But it did take training for her to learn she can't act out toward other horses when she's working.

It takes months to introduce a new horse into a pasture with her. When I boarded her, she had to be ALONE. They tried putting her in with one other horse and the two of them dang near killed each other. You can stand out there in the field and she'll just graze and totally ignore the new horse, until you leave and go in the house. Then all heck breaks loose. Or if you're in the yard mowing or doing lawn work and she can see you, she KNOWS you're there and she won't dare pick on another horse. But if you get out of her sight..........

With her we just had to be consistent with reprimanding her firmly if she acted out toward another horse while working. Move her feet, and get her brain working. Back up, forward, circles, serpentines, trot, halt, canter, halt, etc. Over the years we have consistently made it clear to her that when you act out toward another horse, your work just got 10x harder. She got it, and she will never threaten another horse when there's a human in the equation. She is always used as the "babysitter" on trails to break in new horses.

But in the pasture is another story entirely. It literally took about 6 months for her to finally be ok with the new horses I acquired this year. I'd turn them all together but only when I was out there supervising and she knew I was there. Before going back in the house I'd split them up again because I couldn't trust her. She's fine with them now and it was worth the time and effort so I didn't have to add a 3rd water tank and tank heater to the farm. But it took a long time.

She's so sneaky and she'd start walking toward one of the others to start a fight and I'd bellow at her from the barn. She'd stop and put her head down in the grass like "What? I was planning to stop at this patch of grass anyway."

Bitchy mares are a real PITA sometimes. :dead:

Dec. 17, 2010, 01:07 PM
Thanks for the advice. I'll give you a little more about how I've been handling it...

My barn is super busy and the arena is too small for the number of people we have, so I've been taking her out at like 8 p.m., but there are still people around sometimes. I definitely warn everyone and try to keep everyone safe in that sense, but I guess I'm hesitant to correct her firmly since I don't know if something has happened to her.

I will try sending her more aggressively forward, as she is rather fat and lazy. I think stopping would be a better correction for my other mare who is a hot tamale, but this one likes to be lazy.

Keep the advice coming, and if anyone has experienced this as a solely arena based issue like me, I would love to hear about it and why you think the horse is fine everywhere else but the arena.

Dec. 17, 2010, 01:10 PM
Just keep her feet busy. Until you have her better dialed in to you, you are going to have to be more on the ball in terms of halting her and relocating where you are longeing her while others ride, or ask them to give you one end of the arena, and why you are asking...so that she can learn that she's at work, no need to act out or defend herself. The tincture of time and habit will teach her when she's in charge, and when you are. Reel her in close to you, doing lots of transitions, keep her brain BUSY.

As for turnout? Everyone will be safest with whomever she's respectful of. When we bought our Toppy I found he was intolerant of Maggie, and vice versa. Cross fencing resolved that issue, period. Done.

Undersaddle? or in hand? I can ride her right up on his butt u/s and he's rock solid. I can adjust his saddlebags from her back, no big deal. I can lead them to the trailer together, no one bats an eye. They know worktime vs his/her time, and he doesn't consider acting out. Nor does she. How? Because while they were learning to tolerate each other's existence I wasabsolutely all over their butts in terms of You Go To Work Right NOW if I saw or sensed an ugly ear o a tightened hip- my horses must tolerate others in close proximity...but the solution is work, not 'correction'- just instantly put to work. Throw them some equine calculus, right now, put them to work. Serves as a place to put that energy which is safe and productive.

Auventera Two
Dec. 17, 2010, 01:12 PM
but I guess I'm hesitant to correct her firmly since I don't know if something has happened to her.

Doesn't matter. She needs to know in definite terms that kicking out or attacking other horses while you are working her is absolutely forbidden. PERIOD. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. You act that way, and your life just got really hard.

If you don't lay down the law on this, somebody WILL get hurt. She'll start throwing heels around and somebody's knee or spine will be shattered and you'll have much bigger problems than worrying about hurting the horsey's wittle feewings.

If you don't stop this now, you're going to have a devil by the horns. She'll learn she can intimidate others and you by acting out. She gets out of work, she gets people afraid of her and she gets to go back out to pasture.

You do NOT have to beat her. You don't have to hit her, ever. But you DO have to work her and work her hard when she even starts to THINK about threatening another horse. Move her feet. Move them fast and with a purpose. Have a plan.

Be proactive. When another horse is approaching and you sense her tense up, ears go back, tail flips around, then get her feet moving and get her brain working. Don't give her the time or the liberty to think about bullying other horses.

Dec. 17, 2010, 01:15 PM
Auventera Two,

Bless you for putting so much work into her! Thank GOD neither of my mares are that bad. Poor little girl just needed some love as a baby! It remains to be seen whether Lalique (my new girl) will keep her bitchiness in the pasture. Her previous owner said she mostly stayed out of the mix, but who knows. Thanks for sharing:-)

Dec. 17, 2010, 01:37 PM
I wonder if she was on the low end of the pecking order at the last place she lived? She probably feels very vulnerable in that small arena with all those unknown horses. That is no excuse for her behavior, of course, but I think if you follow the great advice she will learn that what happens in the pasture is different than what happens while you are with her. We have a goat who was at the bottom of the pecking order at her previous owners, we brought her home to our herd and she was a terror. Kind of a " Get them before they get me" attitude. I think that is what your mare is going through. New place, new horses, new job. Good luck with her.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:17 PM
I don't think it matters if she's being 'bitchy' or being 'proactively scared to death'- her past is not important. It just has no bearing on the situation.

For either, the solution is busy feet doing what you ask them to do.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:23 PM
I could have written the OP's first post - the mare I'm leasing is really unpleasant toward other horses in the ring, while under saddle. I'm going to start the "stink-eye/pinned ear = 10 x work" approach forthwith. Thanks.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:25 PM
Make sure she isn't having health issues, too. Uterine inflammation, cystic ovaries or ovarian tumors can cause aedile bitchiness. Imagine how you would feel?
I generally have young mares palpated and I may even have a caslix done depending on their conformation.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:31 PM
Make sure she isn't having health issues, too. Uterine inflammation, cystic ovaries or ovarian tumors can cause aedile bitchiness. Imagine how you would feel?
I generally have young mares palpated and I may even have a caslix done depending on their conformation.

Thanks, that's a great idea. The reason I got her was because she wouldn't go into foal this year. Obviously this could be for a lot of reasons, but I didn't have her checked for any of these things when I bought her.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:33 PM
Katarine said it perfectly, busy feet! I would send her FORWARD before any attempt to be aggressive with another horse until she gets the message that she had better focus on you. That requires you being intently focused on her for a twitch in the ear or a swish of the tail at another horse, don't wait until she has already kicked out. Don't worry about her past, horses live much more in the present moment than we do. She is simply reacting the way she always has, and now she needs to react in a different manner.

And the last poster's suggestion is great, get her reproductive tract checked out.

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:37 PM
I too, have one of those mares. She was also started late, and has issues with other horses getting too close to her in the arena. She understands the word "NO", which helps if I can catch her thinking about being pissy. I don't know if she does it out of dominance or anxiousness, but I am careful with my corrections. I do have to keep her very focused on me, however and she knows the instant there may be a lapse in my concentration.

What I cannot figure out though is why in a big arena, people still manage to crowd other horses...sigh...

Dec. 17, 2010, 02:47 PM

Wish I knew! I mean, our arena is not large enough for the number of riders we get at the after work rush, but there is enough room to stay away from a horse that is clearly upset by others. The biggest problem I'm having is not in correcting her, it's in doing it in a way that won't cause more safety issues because of the people crowding around! If I could send her on without her squealing and leaping, that would be fine, or if I could just do what I need without other people in the way, that would be good too, but I don't get to do either! Come on, people, I'm not warning you for my health...its for yours! I suppose I'll just have to work her in the middle of the night...

Thanks everyone for the insight. I will try sending her more aggressively forward (hopefully people won't get too upset with me!) and get her looked at by my vet.

Dec. 17, 2010, 03:02 PM
Both Pal mare and Supermodel pin ears and grind teeth when other horses come near. I have never corrected this behavior and never will. Pal mare was a PITA mare both under saddle and loose but if you corrected the grinding she'd escalate to lunging at the other horse or kicking. I settled for the grinding knowing that at least is self contained. Plus she'd grind and the other horse could still come near (under saddle) without getting dismantled. The lovely mare that died this year at our barn was not safe to turn out with other horses at all. For all her perfection for riding she came with a jaws theme and enough power to knock even the most randy stallion on his butt. She had her own paddock and sported bright red streamers on her butt to warn others. When she had the tots on her back(or target) she resorted to grinding teeth not chancing unseating the beginner but adults got to charge unless you caught it in time with a growl. She was a fantastic critic of other horses and riders though. :)

Dec. 17, 2010, 04:45 PM
Make sure she isn't having health issues, too. Uterine inflammation, cystic ovaries or ovarian tumors can cause aedile bitchiness.

Just a thought....if she's OK as far as inflammation, cysts etc.... wondering if regumate or implanted marble might make a difference in attitude? One of my old mares was never aggressive but just didn't like being bothered by humans or other horses when she was open....when pregnant (and I'm talking days after being covered) her attitude did a 180 and she was the sweetest thing toward everyone/everything for as long as she was pregnant. Her attitude change was so clear that I never ever even had her palpated or US'd.... knew she was pregnant within a week to 10 days at most.

Dec. 17, 2010, 05:02 PM
Thanks everyone for the insight. I will try sending her more aggressively forward (hopefully people won't get too upset with me!) and get her looked at by my vet.

Sorry but you might just upset her more and get more violent reaction toward yourself and the other horses.

I would get upset if someone would do that while I'm riding. Really upset. Actually, if you'd get out of control with this mare, I would have you get out of the arena until I'd be done riding.

And if I were you, I would try to stay low profile for a while because if she starts trying to kick other horses while you are lungeing or riding, you might not be able to ride there for long, at least when there is people.

That is why I proposed the 'removal' prior to any crossing by other riders to avoid a situation where your mare would get upset. And a down transition (which is asking for some control here...) to keep her attention toward you, and IF closer to you at a lower speed, away from the riders she still demonstrate bad behavior, then you can correct her accordingly with no fuzz and less danger for everyone...

But your horse, your choice.

Dec. 17, 2010, 06:37 PM
But a few days ago she tried to kick another horse in the arena when we were lunging and she has been, in general, rather bitchy in the arena when other horses go past her.

if she is being considered "green" then she may be a bit freaked out about horses coming towards her or up behind her. My horse was/is the same way and he is young. You don't send them forward, you actually bring them back to a walk if you are riding... and I have actually had to get off my horse in the warmup at shows to let him chill out because the activity around him was unsettling.
Do more ground work with her in the arena, not lunging when it's busy.

Dec. 17, 2010, 07:28 PM
My young mare definitely thinks she's the boss mare and she is particularly demonstrative toward two other mares at the barn, she's pretty indifferent to the other horses. I make sure not to lunge her with other horses in the arena, and when I ride her I make sure to keep a good distance and just deal with her behavior at the time, make sure we go forward (not sideways toward the other mare ;)) and that I have control of her haunches. She's green, but I can already tell that she will find lateral work easy, to I will ask her for a baby shoulder-fore etc. to keep her butt in line ;).

If you must lunge with other horses, I'd warn everybody else to stay clear, keep the circles as small as possible (although i hate lunging on tiny circles for the stress it puts on their legs), and make sure she's focused and busy, i.e. lots of transitions. If you need to correct her, a growl, a smack on the booty if you can reach it quickly (and be careful she doesn't kick you in the process), and focus on getting her forward again.

Best of luck with you new mare, sounds like you will have lots of fun with her! :)

Dec. 17, 2010, 07:53 PM
I agree with forward, also keep her busy with transitions, quick changes of lead so she focus on you rather than on other horses.

I notice this behavior happens as a pasture behavior, especially if your mare has been chasen by others, in the herd.
Those horses tend to be, while green, extremely on the defensive side, especially if horses comes from behind.

I had geldings like this..this is not just a mare issue. Forward and leadership from you is the key. as your mare get more experiment, she will stop this behavior.

Good luck !

Dec. 17, 2010, 09:40 PM
I'd forget lungeing her for now--it's asking for trouble. You ahve far more control when you are on her back, and are also far more likely to be able to tell what's coming and nip it in the bud.

And frankly, yes, if she even thinks about going after another horse while you are on her back, I'd wallop her. You don't have to beat the crap out of her, but one well timed crack with the whip will go a long way to having her understand that this is unacceptable behavior.

Dec. 17, 2010, 11:15 PM
There is something as far as the herd mentality. My 18 year old broodmare is the most aggressive, alpha mare I've ever owned. Literally, have had to shuffle to find anyone that she wouldn't kill in the pasture. She kicked at a mare when her own foal was days old, missed and broke the foal's hock.
But, I broke this mare when she was young. For 2-3 weeks she was really tough. Than she gave in to me. Since than, me, or anyone that she trusts, is the boss of her and all around her.
We just took her off broodmare status 2 months ago, put shoes on her for the first time in 10 years. Started fox hunting and trail riding with my brother, a total beginner, but in charge. I was worried about her kicking on a hunt. No worries, she was perfect.
She's still on isolation status at home, just touching the rest ot the herd through panels. But, ridden, she relinquishes her alpha status to the rider.

Dec. 17, 2010, 11:52 PM

I went out and lunged her tonight, and all went very well. I had a friend on a super quiet gelding come around within 10 feet of her on the lunge and though she did flick her ears once or twice, she was pretty good. I do think a big part of this is that so much is changing in her world (she has to actually move now!) and she's not really sure of what to think of all of it. When she did flick her ears I just sent her on a bit more and all was well. I start my young horses very forward anyway, but since this mare likes to be a bit lazy, I think that approach is best for her rather than asking her to stop.

Bogey2, I will try a bit more in-hand work when the arena is busy, that's a good suggestion. She has not been ridden except like once when she was 3, so thanks, but I'm not sure that would be a solution! I'll back her in a few weeks if everything continues to go well with lunging.

I don't think she needs Regumate or anything...she's not at all bitchy about anything else. She's not even girthy. But I will have her checked out just in case...

Thanks everyone for the advice. In the next couple of weeks I'll sit on her and we'll see how that goes!

Dec. 18, 2010, 12:15 AM
Ah. Didn't realize she wasn't under saddle yet! That does change things a bit...

Dec. 21, 2010, 07:34 PM
I think it's a hard adjustment to these gals who've spent most of their lives getting fat and having babies, to suddenly join the working world. She may also have fluctuating hormones that may take time to even out. I have one of these in the barn, who wasn't started until 8 and working life was a rude awakening. It took me quite some time to figure out what was training, what was her personality and what was her being a cranky bag of hormones. I think you're doing well by working her during quiet times and giving her a chance to just figure it all out.