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Alpha mare bitchiness: When does it end?

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  • Alpha mare bitchiness: When does it end?

    My coming 5 year old filly is trying to become a class A brat. She's a home bred quarter horse and has always been very alpha. I've managed to remain the boss throughout her life but she is really trying my patience now. She is doing pretty nice under saddle but on the ground she likes to give the barn help a hard time when it comes to blankets. They have to halter her to put on her blanket in the stall and she will still try to bite sometimes. With me she usually knows better than to pull that crap.

    Today she got me. I was removing blankets in the pasture and she bit me on the elbow. I yelled and whacked her and drove her off. Then got a halter caught her and took her to the round pen where she got a lesson in blanketing and also doing exactly as I say the minute I say it. She knew she had screwed up and behaved herself during her work session.

    I need to get this crap stopped before it gets any worse. I plan on doing the blanketing with her for a while so I don't need to worry about barn staff getting hurt or mismanaging her.

    I've brought up several babies but they have all been geldings and never had this much of an issue. Is this a mare thing, an age related thing or what? My trainer thinks its an age related spring fever thing and will go away quickly with careful handling.

    This filly is the only girl in the pasture and is turned out with 6 geldings who let her do whatever she wants. So she definitely has a major princess syndrome.

    I'm thinking I need to be a bit more demanding of her on the ground and need to up her work load some. I am so ready for spring and no more blankets.
    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

  • #2
    I have a 6 coming 7 year old alpha mare. She's good, but I have to be the dominant one at everything we do. Everything. If I let her get away with something because she's cute or I think it will be alright, it ALWAYS comes back to bite me. Maybe she'll mature out of it; she is a bit of a late bloomer. Maybe she won't.

    Wish I was more encouraging...
    _________________________

    http://iamthesprinklerbandit.blogspot.com/

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    • #3
      I'm afraid she's going to be like that for most of her life. My 4yo homebred warmblood filly is quite trying and I always have to be in charge. She's in a field with her older sister who is the only one who will keep her in her place. Her mother keeps her in her place too, but since she's just had a foal she's not out with her anymore. But if it wasn't for her older sister, she would be a nightmare.

      I just never give her an inch. She is very good and mindful, but if you let her get away with something because you're tired or you don't think it's a big deal, it always comes back to haunt you. This is her personality and it just doesn't bother me too much. She's brilliant under saddle too.

      Welcome to the world of mares!

      Terri
      COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

      "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.

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      • #4
        If you need to borrow Penny mare to turn out with Miss Thang for a while, have at it. A few double-barrels from The Queen Herself usually reminds the girls where they belong.
        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

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        • #5
          I am torn on whether this is a QH issue or a mare issue.

          I own one (foundation Qh mare) as well and she is handful. Bites and kicks, very predictable and she has yet to stop her ways. I have tried many different ways to get her to stop but have concluded like the scorpion's nature is to sting my mares nature is to be a PITA.

          She is coming 7 year old and I like you loved her for riding, she was a great ride. That ended when she decided one day she didn't feel like moving forward when asked. I have been battling that ever since.

          We are working through that but she test me every ride now.

          No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill

          Comment


          • #6
            I have a 5 year old Alpha mare too. Fellow boarders probably are sick of hearing me mutter "My next horse is going to be a gelding." I'm so sick of the crankiness. She's been going through a phase of not liking to be groomed. Her mother was a bit like this, but much more tolerant. Anyway, she lifted her back leg at me about a month ago, like she was going to cow kick me. It ended up being a Come to Jesus Moment. It gets old having to be the dominant one all. the. time.

            She's very different under saddle though. Very willing and compliant. Lucky for her. If she wasn't, I'd probably be riding a gelding.

            But yeah, she's definitely my LAST mare.

            Good luck. I've heard that some do outgrow it, so I have my fingers crossed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by MSP View Post
              I am torn on whether this is a QH issue or a mare issue.
              It's neither.

              In all seriousness, a good boss mare (of any breed) is a great thing to have. But a bitch mare? Not good.

              A good boss mare (of any breed) is kind of a benevolent dictator. Usually, no violence is necessary...just a flick of the nose or the ears and everyone pays attention and cuts out the tomfoolery or gets out of the way.

              A good boss mare is alpha but not a bitch. A bitch mare might be alpha but she's no boss mare.

              If you've got a horse that is being pushy on the ground with people and doing the kinds of behaviors you describe, IMHO I think there needs to be some "nothing in life is free" treatment going on.

              The people who have to handle her regularly are the ones who really need to participate here.
              A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

              Might be a reason, never an excuse...

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by MSP View Post
                I am torn on whether this is a QH issue or a mare issue.
                LOL my chestnut QH mare was the same. Maybe we should start a club. I got her as an 8 month old filly and finally sold her when she was 5. If you gave her an inch she'd take a mile. She was extremely dominant and was always testing, but really fantastic under saddle if you could play the game. Unfortunately I got tired of always having to be on point with her every second of every day and sold her to a situation that definitely suited her better.

                Sweaty saddle pads helped, as did lots of turnout, a forage-based diet, and time with other mares that wouldn't put up with her antics.
                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

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                • #9
                  It might never end. I have a 27 year old mare that I bought as a 2 year old, and she is the same way. I have to cross tie her for blanketing, saddleing, vetting, or anything else that might invoke her to try to use her teeth or hooves. Training as you are doing helps somewhat, but we all remain on alert when working with this mare. She is a joy to ride (or was before being retired) 95% of the time, and fearless on trails, never spooks, never bolts, or anything foolish like that.

                  Bribery has also worked well with the blanketing (on cross ties), at least she has stopped making the nasty faces at me.

                  And FWIW, she is a 100% foundation QH mare. And her mother was exactly like her, which is why I never bred her, because I know I would have gotten another one just like her.

                  She
                  There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Well, I guess she is what she is. lol. She is doing nicely under saddle and is a lot of fun to trail ride. I'm trying to make a nice all round horse out of her and so far she is handling her dressage quite well and started nicely over fences. If she stays nice under saddle, I can live with her other antics.
                    Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bird4416 View Post
                      Well, I guess she is what she is. lol. She is doing nicely under saddle and is a lot of fun to trail ride. I'm trying to make a nice all round horse out of her and so far she is handling her dressage quite well and started nicely over fences. If she stays nice under saddle, I can live with her other antics.
                      Yeah, but don't "just live with it." Sooner or later (like now if your barn help is unhappy) you'll want a mare who understands hierarchy 100% of the time.

                      Yes, it's spring and she's young and feels good. She also doesn't have other horses above her. She only has you up there, and then perhaps only on her back. She has every reason to test her limits.

                      Notice how she doesn't hold a grudge under saddle and it's a whiney bitch the whole time? That means that, like all horses, once she knows where she is in the pecking order, she rolls with it.

                      In other words, she'll learn to pleasantly roll with being under other people, too. I think it's worth working out these hierarchy questions on the ground. I also think you might have to get a knowledgeable member of the barn staff on board with the handling you'd like.

                      I think you did fine with the blanketing conversation you described. After a few of these, it will help to have the barn staff continue the high standards that you set. Sooner or later, she'll get it.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Yeah, I didn't really mean "live with it" as in I'll just do nothing. I meant live with the fact that I need to stay on top of this constantly. And you are absolutely right about the barn staff needing to be on board.
                        Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by FlashGordon View Post
                          LOL my chestnut QH mare was the same. Maybe we should start a club. I got her as an 8 month old filly and finally sold her when she was 5. If you gave her an inch she'd take a mile. She was extremely dominant and was always testing, but really fantastic under saddle if you could play the game. Unfortunately I got tired of always having to be on point with her every second of every day and sold her to a situation that definitely suited her better.

                          Sweaty saddle pads helped, as did lots of turnout, a forage-based diet, and time with other mares that wouldn't put up with her antics.
                          Mine was 7 months when I got her! I know a few people with these hard to deal with, opinionated cow horse mares. A good club name might be cow horse nightmare!

                          Weird thing about her is she will lick and chew with me and show respect but 10 minutes later try and kick again. She is a different horse after a ride though.

                          I think they are just bred to work all day and not suited to be weekend riding horses.
                          No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MSP View Post
                            Mine was 7 months when I got her! I know a few people with these hard to deal with, opinionated cow horse mares. A good club name might be cow horse nightmare!

                            Weird thing about her is she will lick and chew with me and show respect but 10 minutes later try and kick again. She is a different horse after a ride though.

                            I think they are just bred to work all day and not suited to be weekend riding horses.
                            Cow horse nightmare.... I love it. I think you are right! Mine was just the same as yours... jekyll and hyde I swear. Mama was a cow horse and daddy was a reiner. Daddy had the nicest temperament you could ever ask for but clearly she got her dam's 'tude....

                            And while I was probably in over my head with her, I realized it, and had a trainer involved from early on. But she was a tough one for everybody and you couldn't ever relax with her. She had a good work ethic under saddle and would go all day if you asked her, my trainer loved her for it and was incredibly disappointed when I sold her.

                            I like a mellow, cuddly gelding, what can I say?
                            We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              we are a private, home farm, and we allow a handful of boarders to help pay for bills. We currently have one mare here who is the most rediculous mare you have ever laid eyes on. She so so ugly and dangerous around any other horses that we won't even allow her to have a pasture mate. The owner requested she have a buddy outside, but i'd be damned if i was putting one of my own out there with her; she'd kill them!!!

                              If she's in her stall and you walk by with another horse, she attacks the bars, kicking feverishly, trying to rip down the door. just pray to god youre never in her stall mucking away when its too rainy for her to go out. if another horse walks by the door; she goesinto this tantrum WHILE your in her stall with her.

                              I have never seen a horse do such horrific things towards other horses, no matter the day, no matter the time of year....its just a daily thing. shes just downright mean.

                              if you are walking her to her pasture and passing other horses close to the fence in their pasture...you better be hanging on because she's going after them.

                              She kicked me once in the femur and left a nice perfect horse-shoe bruise for a few weeks. Ive always despised the little brat

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                The problem is that these mares are too smart! Mine figured out that there were people in the world that she could scare, so she does.

                                So, it doesn't matter how much you work with her, if other people allow her to be pushy. She'll just learn that she can't get away with it with you, but the staff, that's another issue. (Although if it's primarily an issue with blanketing, you might check blanket fit or try to make sure she isn't occasionally getting a static electricity shock when the blanket if messed with).

                                Mine's 9 1/2 and if she didn't show some attitude, I'd be checking her pulse. She's gotten better since not being in a boarding barn. She just can not deal with inconsistant handling. The rules must always be very, very firm. She keeps mental lists of people she can mess with and people she can't.

                                She Connamara/TB so it's not necessarily a breed issue.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  you might want to read "don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor. In general, people who discard the "respect", "dominance", "alpha" paradigm and instead simply deal with behaviors through consistency and well-timed consequences can get faster, better results. I'm not saying that "respect" and "dominance" and "alpha bitch mares" don't exist, but you'll get further and faster if you don't bring these concepts to your interactions with the animal. For example, the mare who bites when blanketed? You can go around demanding respect and being dominant and maybe, just maybe, she'll stop biting when blanketed; but if you instead just think about the specific problem- biting when blanketed- and deal with THAT you will be much more likely to have the problem behavior go away.
                                  You can think about "being the boss" and "respect" and so on and you MIGHT end up with an animal who leads quietly and stands quietly for handling, but if you instead forget about the "respect" thing and just train the horse to lead and stand quietly by your favorite method of providing well-timed consistent feedback/consequences to the mare- clicker, yank on a chain shank, whip, whatever- and TRAIN the mare you'll almost certainly end up with better results.
                                  One of the side effects of not bringing "dominance" concepts to the training is that anyone should be able to handle the trained mare, not just the people who established themselves as "alpha" over the mare. You see this with dogs often- the person who uses the "alpha leader" paradigm as key to the training can control the dog, but if she hands the leash over to say her mom the dog is out of control; whereas the person who just went ahead and taught the dog to have basic manners and obey basic commands without thinking about "alpha" or "respect", well, the dog retains the training even with other people.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Wendy, I agree to a point. My well trained buff male cocker spaniel could be handled by anyone initially. However, if I gave him to someone who wouldn't insist that he obey the commands they would eventually end up with a dog that would bite them if they told him to move out of the way.

                                    Same with my horse. She's well trained. Initially, she will behave on the ground for others, but she will test them. If they don't respond to the left shoulder gradually shifting into their space, she knows that she can move them. It's her nature to try. I made mistakes with her and she learned that not all people will stand up to her. You can't make her forget that. Perhaps if she'd never learned that there are people in the world she can intimidate, she'd be a different horse, but you can't unring a bell!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You all are making me feel much better! MSP can attest that my Ragtime is a handful.

                                      She was on her feet when she was born -- hit the ground, shook her head to free it, and jumped to her feet. Her mother had about 1 minute to chew through the umbilicus. Within half an hour she looked like a foal several days old, and acted like it. We had a job catching her to treat the umbilical stump and for the vet to check!

                                      She was a first foal and she bullied her mother mercilessly. She's hardheaded, quick, stubborn, a trickster and very, very smart.

                                      But give her a job and she's all yours. She'll test you, and you'd better win, but once you're past that moment she's as sweet as milk. We're ground-driving her now, miles on the local roads, and she is great -- fearless and happy to stride out ahead.

                                      I think she'll be a star one day. That's what I tell myself, anyway!

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        I put Miss Thangs sheet on tonight and she was sweet as can be. No snarly face, no ears back. We'll see how long this sweetness lasts.
                                        Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

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