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Dangerous behavior. Bucking help?

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  • Dangerous behavior. Bucking help?

    So I have a 7 y.o. OTTB that I have had for three years and riding for two. We jump, do dressage, and trail ride and he is about as saintly as any horse I've ever ridden. He is calm and wonderful all the time, but sometimes he gets worked up around this one mare, we have trail ridden with her before and he does great just gets fussy after the ride is done and she goes back to her paddock. Annoying but nothing bad.

    Yesterday however we went out for a trail ride with her. Before she was tacked up I did flat work with him, and a little jumping over baby X rails to get a little extra energy off of him. He was wonderful over the jumps, and wonderful on the flat. Totally on the ball. However as soon as the mare came out he started pawing and acting like a jerk even though she could care less about him. He calmed down and we went out. About two minutes of walking he throws a massive buck and acts up for a few seconds after the buck. I stayed on made him walk and he calmed down again. About two minutes after that I was walking him in large lazy circles while the mare and her rider did smaller circles a few yards away. I brought him to a standstill for two seconds before asking him to continue at a walk when all the sudden another bronc fit came out of no where and he got me off. He then proceeded to run around bucking and rearing and going nuts almost running into the other rider. I finally got him to stop and caught him and walked him calmly back to the barn (He's 17.2 hh and I can't mount him from the ground, I'm very short) after we got to the barn I took him to the round pen and did liberty work for about 10-15 minutes. I took him into the barn, remounted and proceeded to do more flat work and jumping again. AND HE WAS A SAINT!

    The point is, he gets dumb around this mare, but this time he was flat out dangerous and I cannot find an explanation for it. I wasn't forcing him to be away from her, I wasn't struggling with him. We have gone on rides with her tons of times before and he's never done this. He's not a hot horse most of the time, he gets a small amount of grain and I work him before we go out of the trail. This might sound like a small incident but this is extremely odd behavior for my horse. I'm just wondering if anyone can give me a little insight into possible causes. He's a gelding but I'm beginning to wonder if he still has some testosterone bouncing around in there. I don't know his past so I have no idea if he was gelded before or after he raced.

    If anyone has any tips, advice, stories or anything else it'd be really appreciated.

  • #2
    Was he cut late? That might be your answer, maybe this mare is in heat.
    Part of it is also that you aren't expecting this type of behavior from him..it just seems very out of character. I had a young horse like this- completely saintly 95% of the time - but the other 5% he would surprise me and remind me that yes, he was 4, and yes, he was still a thoroughbred! For a 'normal' thoroughbred the little outbursts would have been considered 'green moments', but because he was normally so stoic, it seemed like a HUGE deal.

    I think that you are learning about your horse here: he is going to have these moments once in a blue moon, and next time you will be more prepared for it.
    Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
    Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
    Take us to print!


    • #3
      I'm not sure I have advice--but more of an "I feel your pain", reply! I have a young mare who first show season was last summer. She is a good traveler, trailers alone or with others. She can be stabled with her pals, or alone--doesn't really matter. Same thing at home, she can go trail riding in a group, or alone. She is not a very herdbound horse and never has been.

      However, this spring, at our first local event, one of her pasturemates was at the show. This pasturemate is a "screamer" type. She will call ALL day (whether she knows anyone there or not). Unfortunately, we had to ride dressage (in different rings) at the same time. When her silly pasturemate spotted her in dressage warm up she started up with the screaming. Then my mare proceeded to have a full-out tantrum. Baby rears, bucking in place, spinning, you-name-it. She clearly wanted me off her back, so she could run to her screaming BFF. I was quite annoyed and rode through it--although most of the people in the warm up area were getting bug eyed by her hooligan behavior. I did not expect it or see it coming--she just has never done this in the past at a show (or at home). But for some reason, (maybe because this mare is SO vocal) it had that effect on my horse.

      Next 2 events I did--her pasture mate wasn't at the event--and we had no hooligan moments. At one of the events, we trailered down with another horse. No separation issues, nothing, nada.

      So, again, for some reason, THAT particular mare gets my horse wound up. Funny thing is--she used to do it to my older (total show veteran) mare as well. It's annoying that is for sure!!


      • #4
        I'm not sure how to help - but I wanted to mention I have a 3yo Shetland gelding that was cut as a long yearling (normal timing). He is still somewhat studdish around my mini mare/donkeys to the point he cannot be turned out with them. I have to turn him out with my 16-17h horses which he is tickled to death about anyway.

        The vet said some horses will produce testosterone in their pituitary. I haven't researched it yet so have no more info to give you, just thought I'd mention it in case you want to ask/read up on that aspect.


        • #5
          Even neutered male animals produce some testosterone from their adrenal glands. And responsiveness to females (especially ones in estrus) does not require the animal to have a full set of male hormones. Even mares can act "studdish" or territorial under the influence of what amount to very normal levels of sex hormones floating around.

          How is the horse with other mares? Maybe he just doesn't like her.
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            The first time I rode my gelding with my friend's mare he went nuts--bucking and completely stopped listening. Now when she is in heat and she is practically squirting in his face, he says "eeew--yucky".

            That being said, I think all mares are 4-legged Jezebel's put on earth to lead sweet innocent geldings astray!


            • #7
              Have you hacked out with any other horses? Could it be that it's just the excitement of working around another horse rather than this particular mare?


              • #8
                Ummm, how is he hacking out with horses other then this particular mare? Maybe he is just smelling her (and even geldings and other mares will react sometimes, does not mean he is proud cut or anything). Since it was much worse this time, I'd bet she was in.

                And, since he was better after you round penned him? Maybe that's something you might do before you go trail ride? He might just be fresh and looking for an excuse. Let him buck and fart around a bit to get it out of his system...something going around on the rail or over crossrails is not going to do.

                Tempted here to give the easiest answer of all here...don't trail ride with this mare until fall comes around and she goes into anestrus.

                Disgression is the better part of valor after all, it seems an isolated circumstance so avoid the trigger.

                Now, he starts doing this more often and in different circumstances, I'd say you got a problem. Right now, he either loves or hates this mare so stay away from her. Not worth a war over and there is nothing to prove by trying to force it.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by LoveMyCharlie View Post
                  ... sometimes he gets worked up around this one mare, we have trail ridden with her before and he does great just gets fussy after the ride is done and she goes back to her paddock ... We have gone on rides with her tons of times before and he's never done this.
                  I would be inclined to think he feels a bit studdish towards her and she was in heat the days that he threw his bucking fits? Definitely ask the mare owner if a)she can tell when her mare is in heat, and b)if the mare was in heat at the time.
                  Or, he is enamored with her and gets more so every time he sees her, building up to throwing the fits he did?

                  I've briefly boarded my mares at 2 different facilities that had huge turnout for all the horses (mares and geldings together). The BOs both warned me about which geldings seemed to claim mares (and to their credit, warned me initially when I was touring the barn, before we moved their). None of geldings were ever dangerous in any way, they would just fixate over a specific mare and follow her everywhere. They would be visibly annoyed if another gelding came to hang out or eat with her, but never ever did they take any action toward the other gelding. They would just stand by her hip and sulk until they had her to themselves again. Oddly, the studdish few geldings were also bottom of the pecking order pacifist types. One of them of course had to decide my mare was even better then his current and start following her around. My mare luckily didn't get even remotely attached to him and we never rode at the same time of day so it really wasn't an issue. I could definitely foresee it being a problem though if his owner did try to ride while I was. He may not buck as he just wasn't a "do something about it" type of guy, but I would have expected him to be utterly distracted bordering on unridable.

                  If your boy lunges well, I would be inclined to experiment and lunge him with the mare in the ring. Having the mare come and go near and around his circle several times, gauging his reactions to her. Maybe have her leave the ring altogether whilst he's still on the lunge too, just to see what he does.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Twisted River View Post

                    ...If your boy lunges well, I would be inclined to experiment and lunge him with the mare in the ring. Having the mare come and go near and around his circle several times, gauging his reactions to her. Maybe have her leave the ring altogether whilst he's still on the lunge too, just to see what he does.
                    Maybe not. I hesitate to recommend something like this with alot of potential to go wrong over the internet. He already is know to get upset around this mare...he's just going to get upset again on the end of a lunge line and there is a wreck possibility.

                    Don't want OP to get run over either. IMO it's not something that absolutely has to be fixed if it's just with that one mare and, certainly, if OP wants to fix it? An upset horse on the end of a lunge line is the last thing that's going to help.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for the help and suggestions. I had thought that maybe he might be proud cut or still have a bit of testosterone floating around in there somewhere because I have seen him drop and get excited around a few mares before but then he's been a field with mares and hasn't given them any kind of notice.

                      This mare in particular drives him nuts, he doesn't dislike her at all, i think he's completely dumb struck in love with her even when she's not in heat. We all know when she's in heat because she'll break down for anything that comes within a foot of her back side (kind of gross sometimes :/) so we stay awaaaaayyyy from her.

                      I can't say that I would like to try the lunging thing because I've had trouble keeping ahold of him when hes just walking through the barn and he can see her. So that could be dangerous.

                      He usually gets worked or lunged before we go out with her because he can get strong but for the most part he's always just happy to go for a trail ride.
                      I'm thinking about having my vet out and seeing about checking his testosterone levels and inquire about the possiblity of him being proud cut. For the time being I wont be riding him around her.

                      I'll be going out again and riding again soon (once my aches and pains are manageable) and will put up an update. Hopefully it just gets better form here.


                      • #12
                        I talked to my vet about this a few years ago...he said he has been requested to run maybe 100 hormone level checks looking for proud cut and not a single one of them came up with any indication of elevated levels.

                        I once had a gelding years ago that actually mounted a mare and frequently let down hard. Wasted almost 200 in tests that came back negative. That vet said the same thing, everybody cites it but it's pretty rare.

                        If he was proud cut he'd be acting like a stud and, trust me, they are not selective but react to just about anything receptive. He'd be pretty pushy around any mare, not act like a schoolboy with a crush on just that certain girl. Not that studs are unsafe when properly handled or anything but they will react.

                        Maybe you can use the old trick of rubbing Vicks on his nose? It does kill the smell...and ON his nose around the nostrils, not up inside them. Maybe if he can't smell her, he'll forget about her.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                        • #13
                          That is an interesting question. I have a retired gelding who I saw just today being, well, enjoying himself (trying to put it delicately). He is enamored of mares on a general level but doesn't try to mount them. He does drop around them, or even around geldings sometimes. He was gelding as a yearling and then raced, so I highly doubt he is producing ENOUGH testosterone to perform.
                          I have seen geldings do strange things around mares before, just not the hissy fit bucking deal when the mare was away from him, in the conditions you describe, but I sure would have been awful mad at him that is if I could get up and breathe afterwards! Good on you for going back to the round pen, not sure I could have made it that far!
                          Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                          Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                          • Original Poster

                            Vicks sounds like an awesome idea!! I have never heard that before and it sounds like an awesome inexpensive experiment haha. Definitely going to try that one out.

                            When I hit the ground I was to angry that he bucked with me to really realize that I was in pain and just marched him back to the round pen. It was only after I got back on and jumped him a few times that I was like, "Oh man, this sucks I need to go lay down."

                            He got the full name shame talk and even apologized (he rubs his head on my side from knee to shoulder when he knows i'm mad at him and doesn't want me to be) once we were in the barn. kills me.


                            • #15
                              We had one that was proud cut....so it does happen. Surgery...and he was a new horse
                              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                              • #16
                                I had one gelding who was perfectly normal around all mares except ONE who stole his heart. It took separating them for weeks/months for him to get over it. And then when he finally saw her again, it was like he was struck with lightning, he instantly recognized her. But she ignored him and he realized it was over. After that he was fine.

                                So it can happen, for no good reason. I feel you! I would just avoid the mare ... but then I like the path of least resistance.


                                • #17
                                  My gelding was like this last spring. He was put out with some mares to teach him his manners and all at one he was aware of GIRLS - just like a teenage boy. The mares taught him his herd manners but suddenly he thought he was their herd leader and he became impossible when trying to do anything with him. Wouldn't stand to be groomed or tacked-up - was too busy calling and pawing and worrying about his girls. I did have him tested and the test was negative. He was beginning to border on dangerous when we had a CTJ meeting on the lunge line. As the BM later observed, "From FU to yes maam in 20 minutes. Not bad".

                                  I did a lot of in hand work with him after that. Worked with a very good natural trainer once and did not put up with anything that was remotely out of line. Being obnoxious meant he was going to work longer and harder until his brain was on me and not on the mare that was calling to him. He also would call the whole time I rode him (but he did't buck so I just ignored the calling as long as he was doing as I asked).

                                  This spring things have been much better. He can be a bit of a bull when dealing with him but I attribute that to the percheron part of his brain. He is more settled and attentive but every so often I still have to remind him that I'm the boss and he needs to pay attention to me. (In these instances he suddenly finds himself walking over ground poles, backing up, stepping over, halting, walking off promptly when told. I keep his feet moving and his mind working until he settles and starts listening to me.)

                                  So I think you have a combination of age (equivalent of a teenage boy), hormones (even though he is a gelding), and a horse wanting to test his boundaries. I would do some in hand work with him. If he is difficult get a rope halter and find someone who can help you with him. If you get him to understand that no matter who or what is around, his job is to listen to you and behave, he should come around. (Of course I'm too old and rickety to deal with bucking, so take my advice for what it is worth)


                                  • #18
                                    I would try going out and flatting/jumping a bit for 15/20 min then having the mare come out to be ridden in the same arena. Keep your boy working, mostly trot and canter, give him things to do so he stays focused on his job. If he stays focused on you, after a bit let him walk around on a loose rein. If he so much as pricks an ear in the mares direction put him back to work.

                                    This is generally how I work my stallion when I'm around mares he is interested in (or ponies, he adores ponies!). As long as I can keep him focused I don't usually have a problem. He did go through a phase this spring where he started displaying himself while I was riding him, the biggest problem with this was that he would get himself tangled up in his hind legs, or flop about so much that he hit my spurs (which had to hurt lol). This would always a illicit a big buck or two!