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Alpha Mare - Opinions please?

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  • Alpha Mare - Opinions please?

    My going on 5 year old mare has become the Alpha in her turn-out field. She is not overly mean, just runs everyone off the hay bale until she is happy in her spot. Runs them off the gate when it's turn-in time. She threatens more then really puts the boots to anyone.

    Just wanted to see what people thoughts are on the Alpha Mare. Like to own one, prefer not to??

    P.S. I'm not a troll, as I know that the amount of postings normally indicate to the COTH Collective a troll, but I'm a lurker and have been for a very long time

  • #2
    I have an alpha mare who is "queen" of the turf when she is in her field. She either loves another horse or hates it. But she determines the pecking order. But she is definitely the nicest, best horse I have ever owned. Her barn manners are A+ and she is gentle, kind, sweet, and everyone in my family has ridden her, not to mention that she is the best horse show horse I have owned, bar none.

    The whole alpha mare thing is overrated IMHO. I would not trade this horse for anything!


    • #3
      I love my alpha mare. I also feed her first and can only turn her out with less dominant horses, or she ends up getting all beat up when they decide who's princess. I'm hoping she'll mature out of the worst of it.



      • #4
        IMHO, there is a difference between an ALPHA mare and a B!TCH Mare.

        My mare is an alpha. There has never been a herd that she didn't immediately take over. She never bites, never kicks, never chases. A mere flick of the ear and bump of the nose in whatever direction she wants the others to move has always been sufficient. She "protects" the weaker horses in the "herd". She takes on the new comers and helps them find their spot. She smacks down goofiness. She asserts herself yes. But she is not nasty.

        A B!TCH mare is a whole different creature. This one just beats up on the others or chases them. These are usually NOT confident horses. Honestly, the opposite. They seem to do better with a true alpha in the mix. Left to their own devices, they can get down right dangerous.

        What can you do? Not a whole lot. The only cure for the B!tch mare IMHO is to put them in with a true alpha.
        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

        Might be a reason, never an excuse...


        • Original Poster

          I hadn't thought of it that way BuddyRoo and I think after watching the herd dynamics that she is an Alpha. As I mentioned she never goes through on the threats, it just posturing.

          But that now brings me to another thought. She is young still and did not start out as the Alpha, but has now taken on that role. I don't mind the Alpha mare, but I certainly would not be thrilled with it escalating to
          B!TCH mare, is this something that is beyond our control? I'm not opposed to switching her turnout buddies if her big girl pants start going to her head and she would benefit from being brought down a pegged or two by a true alpha.


          • #6
            Having good herd leaders is paramount when you run horses in herds. I have 7 herd leaders and thankfully all of them are amazing horses and are fabulous at their job of keeping all horses under them in line. None of my leaders are bullies, they just know their job which not only places them first at the hay bales but also kindly look after those underneath them. My herds all live well balanced lives which are kept smooth-running by my wonderful alpha mares and geldings.


            • #7
              I had a BITCH mare, not an alpha mare, tried to hurt humans, dogs, anyone under 1000lbs, as she did not succeed in climbing the horse status ladder. SOLD her for half of purchase price, she is still worthless, 10 years later.


              • #8
                There is definitely a difference between a benign Alpha mare and a dangerous one. If you see your mare showing enough aggression to the other horses that you think she could hurt one, don't wait til it happens. I've witnessed a broken leg caused by an aggressive boss mare and it was terrible. If you think the mare has the potential to be dangerous, please consider turning her out alone.


                • #9
                  I have both types. My alpha doesn't have to resort to kicking or biting very often, everyone just gets out of her way with an ear flick. She is very well mannered to handle and wouldn't dream of running into a person.
                  My B. mare wants to be an alpha but isn't. If she is out with alpha she minds pretty well, but tends to pick on the lower horses non-stop and just likes to run them around because she can.
                  If I put her out with less agressive horses she just gets worse and worse. she pretty much must live in the heard with an alpha- I don't call her a bitch mare, but a wanna-be Alpha.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for the feedback everyone! My mare is doll in-hand and as I said does more posturing then anything else. Noone else in the herd is challenging her so I don't think the behaviour will escalate, should it though I'll switch up turnout buddies.


                    • #11
                      My mare is (generally/knock on wood) perfect in the barn, one of the easiest horses to handle. In turnout however, she tends to be a troublemaker. Due to my work schedule I'm not at the barn enough to really watch her behavior, but I trust the BM's assessment. She seems to want to be an alpha mare but she also likes to be a pest and stir up trouble. For about six months it was all posturing. It was ignorable until she started getting aggressive so she got turned out with an older gentleman (BM's horse). They got along wonderfully, he enjoyed the company but ignored her youthful antics. She could run around all she wanted but one look from him and she settled right down. Once the BM put her own young mare in the pasture mine started to get aggressive. Chased the other mare away from the gelding and generally made a pest of herself. Again, we ignored it until she started kicking at the other mare's hocks... deliberately. At this point, she is still recovering from an injury, but will probably stay with her donkey buddy or on individual turonout. Best way to keep others and herself safe. I'm afraid to turn her out with another horse to teach her manners lest she or the other gets hurt. She seems happy enough in a small turnout with her buddy.

                      Sounds like you have the right idea to watch for escalation and make changes only if needed. That's what I did.
                      "Beware the hobby that eats."
                      Benjamin Franklin


                      • #12
                        I don't own mares (I like geldings for riding) but there's only one mare on the property where I board, plus the BO's other two geldings and my gelding, and she wants everyone to know she is the boss. Except she really does like when my gelding's turned out between the pastures (there are two big pastures and it's possible to turn a horse out in the lanes between them--the mare's in one, the geldings are in the other, my horse is normally in a small paddock off his stall but sometimes goes out back) and will follow him around, sometimes just pinning her ears, but mostly hanging out nearby. He more or less ignores her, but he doesn't pin his ears or twitch his feet back at her. More like "Yes dear..yes dear...yes dear..." and keeps grazing. She's fine to humans, and she rarely bites at the other horses, but she just wants everyone to know that yes, she does in fact own the place, the geldings just live here.
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                        • #13
                          agree with Buddyroo there is a difference between alpha and over aggresive/bad mannered. I LOVE an alpha mare.. espicially for competition.. nice to be sitting at the in gate on a horse that already thinks its better than others. She is never aggresive outwardly but I can sense other horses deferring to her and not getting in our space. SUPER focused to jump. No bad behavior at the pasture gate but out in pasture she does like to keep the herd in a group and Lord help the stray dog that thinks it going to approach the horses.
                          "The Desire to Win is worthless without the Desire to Prepare"

                          It's a "KILT". If I wore something underneath, it would be a "SKIRT".


                          • #14
                            I adore my alpha mare. She is a benevolent dictator in the pasture. She runs with a mixed herd of yearlings and a few broodies.

                            She decides what part of the field they are in at different times of the day. She decides when they will all go to the trough for water. It is fascinating to watch. I have sat for hours just observing.

                            I'm not sure how it is she communicates everything. When it's time for water, her lieutenant (one of the broodies) heads up the hill to the trough. My mare brings up the rear, and I have watched her push the laggards in the butt to get them moving, followed by a nip if they are too slow to react. Once they get to the trough, she stands at it and lets everyone come in for a drink, in a very specific order. If anyone hangs out too long, I have observed her use her neck to shove them off the tough and make room for the next horse. What I find interesting is that while she is the boss, she always drinks last. The others start to wander away as she drinks and drinks, then she flips her tail and gallops off, circles them up into a group and the runs with them to the next appointed lounging/grazing area. Its a big field (approx 200 acres) so they have favorite areas for different times of the day.

                            These yearlings really remember her too. One time I brought her into the indoor to ride and in the arena was a four year old gelding who had spent six months turned out with her as a yearling and subsequently had been sold and moved away. Well he was back for training, took one look at my mare and just went nuts calling for her. He couldn't be consoled until we let them touch noses and nibble on each other for a few minutes. It was really touching. I think we tend to underestimate the power of the bonds that horses form.


                            • Original Poster

                              Ponyclubrocks, what a neat story about the gelding and your Alpha mare. I also think that they form deep bonds with one another, some more then others.

                              It truly is fascinating and I find educational to watch the herd dynamics.


                              • #16
                                Me too, I have a folding canvas chair I take out to the pasture. I usually park under a tree. I get mugged initially as everyone looks for treats but eventually they lose interest in me and go about their daily business. I find it deeply gratifying to just watch them. Over the years I have learned a lot that informs all my equine interactions....


                                • #17
                                  There is a huge difference between Alpha and mean. I have an alpha mare, I have an alpha gelding. They are in separate fields, Funny thing, they are identical LOL. The herd dynamics change here all the time so horses can move up and down the totem pole but here is what I have learned. You have to have a boss in the herd situation. They need a leader and look for one. As long as your alpha is not any meaner than necessary, if they can pin there ears and everyone moves, then so be it. I find problems arise only when us humans try and change there natural way. Feed your alpha animal first if that is what they require. Not a big deal. Put out a second round of hay if they never back off from it. GReat exercise trying to keep both to themselves hahahahaa.

                                  The horses here learn well from one another who is boss and how to behave. I just acknowledge what they do and let alpha into stall first and out last. The real bonus in my alphas is they protect there herd. They stand guard, they run off strange dogs and they keep there groups together. If I lead alpha horse, the entire herd follows. I dont mess with mother nature or instinct so................if your horse is not mean, count your blessings. There are pros and cons to this.
                                  Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

                                  Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement


                                  • #18
                                    I half-lease an alpha mare. I just love her. She's a benevolent dictator in the field, and quite well-mannered - if she thinks you are worthy of it. Otherwise, she can be a handful on the ground and under saddle.

                                    As long as her rider/handler is consistent and (this is the most important) fair she is perfectly happy to work her heart out for you.

                                    What I like the most is her unflappable attitude in the ring. Other horses can in the surrounding pastures can be tearing hither and yon, galloping by and causing a ruckus - and she clearly sees it as beneath her to let them get her riled up.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Sunsets View Post

                                      What I like the most is her unflappable attitude in the ring. Other horses can in the surrounding pastures can be tearing hither and yon, galloping by and causing a ruckus - and she clearly sees it as beneath her to let them get her riled up.
                                      Ha! I agree with this, I fox hunt my alpha mare and the more horses and chaos around, the calmer she gets! She would never deign to spook just because a horse near her spooks. She will look and decide for herself if there is anything to be concerned about.

                                      She also has on several occasions tried to protect me from things she perceives as dangerous ( a piece of white insulation the blew into a field for example). I am on foot and she spies the mystery item and comes at me at a full gallop and uses her shoulder to move me away from the danger, all the while keeping her body between me and the danger. She is the coolest horse I have ever known.