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Putting alpha mares together

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  • Putting alpha mares together

    I'm not sure how best to manage this situation. I have had horses forever but have never had two alphas. I've always had good herd dynamics. When I first got the second alpha I didn't know that she was an alpha and put the two out together (after they had been in adjoining paddocks for quite some time). The aggression and kicking match that ensued convinced me to separate them quickly. Now I am in a position where it would be most convenient to have them together. I want to wean and I need to put the mare in the adjoining paddock where alpha number two is located along with 2 other horses. I have a third paddock but within a few weeks I will have to use tank heaters and I can't run more than two tank heaters in the winter so then I am limited to the two paddocks. I wondered if I could put alpha number 2 with the baby and my old nanny mare but I don't think I trust her. She's never had a foal of her own and I just don't know what she'll do. I guess my question is: Might the two alpha's eventually work it out? No one has shoes on but I am afraid that one could get hurt. One more thing, alpha number 1 is in foal. I would be happy to hear about other people's experiences and ideas about how best to deal with this situation.

  • #2
    I'll give you my 2 cents worth of having 2 alpha mares. I had 3 mares together. Alpha 1, a submissive mare, and a 2 yr old. All was good. Well, said 2yr old at age 4 decided to be alpha 2. A2 had a new foal at side and so did sub mare so they were together, A1 was put in with a pony pal. The nastiness while sharing a fenceline was enough that I was not ever going to try them together again as A2 is quite valuable and I don't want to risk it even though they had spent over a year together with no issues prior. Now both alphas are fine with pretty much anything that's NOT another alpha. Yes, I did put a foal in with A1 and it was fine, so maybe you could try that if it helps to wean. In the end though I ended up having to stick A1 in her own paddock as I just did not trust her with my yearling gelding, although she was fine with my filly of the same age. There is no way I'd risk a fight with one of the mares being pregnant. I'm sure someone will say it worked fine for them, but I was just not willing to risk it. It had times where it was a PITA with my pastures, but I worked it out as best I could and kept them all safe. In the end, A1 was sold to a nice riding home as she had problems getting in foal. Good luck.
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    • #3
      My Alpha1 has been with me since she was two years old, she is now nine. She is so alpha that some people think she is a stallion. Alpha2 arrived two years ago, at age seven and pregnant. The spring after Alpha2 was weaned, I noticed that the two mares were teasing each other over the fence when in heat and had a regular love fest going on. So I put them in together and they are now inseparable.Too much so, if one is removed they both loose their mind. They still have moments of "who is the boss", but settle it in a civilized manner. Alpha2 will grind her teeth as a warning if Alpha1 pushes the envelope ! Alpha1 turns her butt as a warning !
      For me, the best way is to see what they do with a fence in between for quite while, at least two weeks.
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      • #4
        Is there any way you can straddle one tank between two fields on the fence line and just run one heater? We do that with a longer tank and it works really well.

        It would solve the t pasture problem.
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        • #5
          I had two alpha mares, and after a long introduction over the fence, I tried to put them together with their foals. It was horrific, the kicking, and fortunately no horse, including either of their foals, was hurt. I never tried it again.
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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks for your responses. The two alphas are in adjoining paddocks and have been for some time. Last night I saw alpha number two get too close to the fence and alpha one charged her. I guess that I'd better give up any hope that the two could share a paddock.

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            • #7
              I have introduced 2 or more true alfas many times. First, make sure no other horses are within sight/smell. Introduce them in a strange field, that neither "owns". Lots of acres, not a small paddock.

              If they absolutely hate each other, put them on a trailer, and take them on a long ride, hang out at a show for a day, etc. Better yet, find another farm to take them to for a week to introduce. Once they work out who really is alfa between them, bring them home.

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              • #8
                We sold an alpha mare "Pepper" to friends of ours who threw her out in a pasture with their other horses, including another alpha mare. They figured the mares would sort it out themselves. Then one day, a few weeks after getting her, they came home from town to discover Pepper with her hind leg snapped right off, presumably from a well-placed kick.

                Not worth it.

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                • #9
                  I have 6 mares together. 4 are alpha types and always looking to move up the ranks, 2 are content to stay where they are at the bottom. You need a lot of space for this, but they do work it out and nobody got seriously hurt. Once in a while the bums go together and they kick out, but it's over in seconds.

                  This group is quite settled now, but has an odd dynamic. Horse 1 is boss over horse 2, but horse 3 is boss over horse 1 but not horse 2. Horse 1 and 2 will gladly share hay with each other, but if horse 1 gets too annoyed then horse 2 backs away. If horse 1 and 2 are sharing hay, there is no way that horse 3 is ever allowed in. Horse 2 will not share or tolerate close quarters with anyone else, except maybe sometimes Horse 6, oddly enough, and will sometimes protect her. Except for horse 1, nobody, and I do mean nobody gets in the way of Horse 2. And yet she always backs down from horse 1 - horse 2 means what she says and says exactly what she means.

                  What's really interesting is Horse 4 is boss over horse 3, but always submits to Horse 1 and 2 and she completely has her way with horse 5.

                  Horse 5 and 6 stick around at the bottom, but periodically horse 5 defies horse 3. Horse 5 likes to be a bully to horse 6 and eventually horse 2 has enough and takes her to task for disturbing the peace. Sometimes, horse 2 and 3 will both weigh in on the matter, but the discipline is fast and ends quickly. Horse 1 never engages in the discipline of the herd. She leaves that to her regents, horses 2 and 3.

                  Strange dynamic to watch, but it works for them.

                  When I feed, I ALWAYS am mindful of the pecking order and this way, there are no battles over food.

                  One thing that one has to be always mindful of is that once foals arrive, all bets are off. Political alliances and friendships are on hold. Once the mares relax a bit and the foals are strong and active, the old pecking order resumes, but until then, foals are introduced very, very carefully to the herd and only after the herd has become used to them for a few weeks.

                  I'm careful when adding a new mare. They all have a chance to visit, meet, greet, squeal and sniff over a solid, non-breakable fence that nobody's legs can get stuck in - for at least a couple weeks. I spend a lot of time observing and what happens over the fence tells me whether to start close contact introductions with someone in the middle of the pack, or the bottom. I actually watch the reaction of "horse 2" very closely. The last time I introduced a mare, she was very uneasy so she was clearly sensing something I was missing. I trust her honesty, and her political power status. I started with a middle-pack mare and I noticed horse 2 observing and hovering to the fence very closely. Sure enough there was very strong dynamics going on, but by nightfall, there was a truce, so I pulled out my mare and left newbie alone for the night. Next day, another mid-pack mare was sent in. The dynamics were a little easier. Nightfall and mare was pulled out and newbie left alone. By day 3, I sent in top dog, who is actually horse 2. And I hovered nearby . Interestingly, there was no dynamic at all. So, after a couple weeks of cycling horses through to the newbie, then they all went out together in a big 30-acre field. This is where newbie learned where the dynamics were and who had political alliances. Things were unsettled for a few weeks, but because everyone had space to spread out, nobody got hurt. A few bite marks, but no serious kicks.

                  Never introduce 2 power-alpha horses together in a closed space with the rest of the herd. THAT is asking for trouble. Start introducing your A2 mare with someone in the middle of the herd and cycle through. A1 will watch the dynamics very closely because it involves members of her herd. If you do introduce A1 and A2 together, separate the rest of the herd away in a different pasture. A1 and A2 need to learn each other without the added dynamics of previous alliances at play. A1 will be more aggressive if she thinks her herd could be at risk, so the battle could be twice as fierce, than if you took the 2 of them out and away from the herd in the first place.

                  Furthermore, wait until A2 mare is thoroughly weaned from her foal. Her aggression will be two-fold because of the fact she is still in mommy protective mode.
                  Last edited by rodawn; Nov. 20, 2012, 06:28 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Sometimes I think the problem isn't with alpha mares, it is with the wanna be alphas. Years ago I boarded a small quarter horse mare. She was a supreme alpha; from the time she came in no one ever even flicked an ear at her, challenged her for food, or otherwise ruffled her feathers, including my other "alpha" mare who fought incessantly with the other "alpha" mare. The seas parted when she moved about, and she was all of 14 hh, a non-de script little bay.
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                    • #11
                      This point is true, Clint. All of the middle of the herd mares are always looking to move up the political tree so-to-speak. Everyone wants to be President, except for those on the bottom who never seem to try. But everyone in the middle is always looking for that moment when they can seize the opportunity. It's in horse nature - the top horse has the best food, best access to water, and best shelter. They all want that power.
                      Practice! Patience! Persistence!
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                      • #12
                        SO many alphas....so little time....

                        I'm not sure how best to manage this situation. I have had horses forever but have never had two alpha
                        The majority of our mares seem to be alpha mares of varying degrees perhaps because we breed for eventing.....I would say 8 out of the current 11 mares we are breeding are alphas

                        My old CCI** mare Lacey has out-alpha'd every mare we have every put her with. (I also once saw her chase a Rottweiler with her teeth barred after he had the temerity to growl at her. Her daughter chased a coyote out of her pasture once, and we had to give her daughter rabies shots this summer after she attacked a racoon and got bit....Great mares to ride though!).

                        Lacey never injures anyone though (at least not another equine), but they do sort it out - usually in 24 hours or less. I think there is a difference between an alpha mare and a nasty mare. We had a mare once in training that we sent back to the owner - she would attack anything including us - you had to carry a lunge whip to go in the pasture. A mare that would truly hurt another horse or person on purpose I really would not tolerate. I also think if the horses are out in a large space, you are a lot less likely to have an injury - lots of room to run. If you have them in a tight paddock, it is easier for someone to get cornered and kicked hard.

                        We tend to arrange our paddock groups more on easy versus hard keepers. If we have an alpha mare who is an easy keeper that is a pain in the @^#%$ to deal with . Fortunately, most of our Queen Bitch alpha mares are hard keepers so they chase the chubsters away from their extra large food tubs at feeding time, and everyone lives happily ever after at their appropriate weight. The interesting thing is that who is top dog really varies based on the groupings except for Lacey. She is always alpha. Interestingly, just thought about this, my top 3 bossiest of the bossy, bitchiest of the bitchy alpha mares also happen to be my 3 mares who competed in eventing at the CCI** level or above. Hmmmmm.

                        We never play around with mare groups when they have foals at their side. We stick with the groups we know do well together.

                        Hope that is helpful. I have a soft spot for alpha mares. In my opinion, they save your ass when you gallop down to some gigantic fence and do something stupid.
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                        • #13
                          Horse number 1 moves into the herd and my mare (horse 2) loses her alpha ranking. Horse number 3 moves in and horse 1 disciplines her for everything: not moving, pinning ears at 1 or 2, turning her butt to any of the two mares. Horse #1 tells her how to act. Now 2 & 3 challenge each other. Horse #2 win. Now the alpha doesn't like to lead but she pushes from behind. My horse #2 likes to lead, pick and path and they all follow, but horse #1 is the boss but also likes the #2 picks the path and goes first.

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                          • #14
                            I have 2 Alpha mares also and the fights did not stop and I did get injuries to one. For some reason the one mares feet actually slice when she kicks even though it doesn't seem like she has sharp edges. I ended up putting the one with my old, very timid mare and she was very kind to her. She was the boss but never bullied her or was out right mean to her. The alpha mares are divided by a fence line, and to this day charge, kick and strike at each other hitting the fence. I have to have the mesh fence as they will demolish anything else to get to each other. The weird thing is that the newer mare was below my more timid mare that is 2nd from the bottom.
                            My friend also had a mare that battled with another mare for months and neither would give up. Her horse ended up with a broken nose and multiple lacerations needing stitches/glue and finally a broken radius that required a years stall rest.
                            Sometimes they just don't seem to get over it and it is not worth the trouble in my mind. Keep them separated and it's less work, and stress for everyone, in the long run.

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                            • #15
                              I've found enough space can fix almost anything. My mare is a nasty alpha. I've seen her attack horses lying down/trying to roll. This past spring we didn't have enough room for my mare and another who were both carrying their first foals to have separate pastures. The other mare was also a notorious alpha that had gone our with the same pony for years because she couldn't get along with anyone else.

                              There were some nasty fights. Overall not a lot of contact though. They would back up to each other and double barrel kick for 10 to 15 minutes. It looked awful. They key was them being on about 5 acres. They have plenty of room to get away from each other. In June they both came in and one mare went 2 weeks late and mine 2 weeks early resulting in two colts born less than 24hrs apart

                              After 8 months together and now with foals the mares don't like each other, but get along much better. If you don't have enough space, it may not be worth it.

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