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Mare violently attacking her own foal ... any ideas?

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  • Mare violently attacking her own foal ... any ideas?

    This was posted on another forum - has anyone encountered this before and any ideas what she can try?

    Mare attacked her own foal


    I have an 18 yr old mare who has a colt that was three weeks old yesterday. The first week they were in a small pen with a box stall. I then opened an adjoining small grass paddock off their pen so they were free to graze, be in their pen or go into the stall.

    Everything has been wonderful. Foal is healthy and happy. Mare is awesome mom - this is her third foal.

    Then Sunday afternoon I walked them to the pasture. This is the pasture that my mare has always been in since she has lived here before moving to foal out. Everything was fine for about the first hour. I had stayed and watched them when first turned out and they just grazed and ran around a little. My son checked on them about 30 minutes later and all was well.

    Then about 45 minutes later I was at the barn and came around a corner to see the mare chasing the foal. They were at a dead run, she had her head down on the ground, teeth bared and ears flat back. She was biting him hard and then suddenly ran him into the board fence. He tried to jump through and of coarse crashed hard. She kept biting him and he jumped up and she chased him again. This time he tried to jump through the metal gate. All this occurred in about the 1 and 1/2 minutes it took for me to jump fences and get over there. I was yelling at the mare and it took me another minute or so to catch her. All this time she kept chasing and biting him. When I caught her she was soaking wet. The foal was terrified, out of breath and had a few deeper bites, but otherwise ok.

    I took them back to their pen and kept the mare haltered while everyone cooled down and while I doctored the bites and checked over baby. Just as sudden as she snapped, she was back to being the caring great mother. She nickered to him when he wandered off a bit and he nursed a couple of times. Just like nothing happened. And everything has been fine since.

    Of course, I have not put them back out to pasture. Just wondering if anyone has heard of this happening and if so, what was the cause.
    How awful. Im glad the little guy is okay but after witnessing this, how could you ever feel safe and okay with turning them out and leaving them alone to even go shopping for 30 minutes or something?

    True Colours Farm on Facebook

  • #2
    I would automatically think hormal changes....possible tumor on the ovary?

    We had an older mare in our area who was always sweet and then one day she turned violent........ended up having a cyst or tumor on her ovary.



    • #3
      I had a mare that did this. There turned out to be problems with the foal. Sometimes it is a survival thing that if there are things wrong with the foal the mare will kill the foal.


      • #4
        IMHO, as a breeder who has been doing this for 25 years, I
        would NEVER leave this mare unattended with your foal.

        This may be nearly impossible to follow thru with but frankly I could not take the chance. If for some reason you discover what triggered this behavior and can "fix" it then its up to you to decide how to proceed. Again, just my opinion.
        hunter/jumper ponies


        • #5
          I'd be getting that foal onto milk replacement pellets with a view to separation ASAP.

          And, sounds awful, but I'd have the mare confined enough so that the foal can feed safely for the next month and I could sleep.

          Visit us on Facebook!


          • #6
            "Weaned" at 3 weeks is way better than weaned at 3 hours ( like many are) and monumentally better than "weaned because dead".

            The cases of foal rejection I have dealt with are usually immediate and often not suprising based on the mare's previously known temperament.

            The ONLY strategy I might try would be to turn them out with another horse (preferably another broodmare/no geldings) - one the mare has been out with in the past- and hold the mare at first. If she feels she must defend her foal from another horse that often does the job. This method often works with maiden mares when they can't decide if they like this little wobbly being or not. In this case it is probably more of a crapshoot.... but maybe worth a try....

            Still be ready to wean/raise as an orphan for a few months.


            • #7
              After reading this again, I think as obnoxious as orphans can be, this mare may damage this foal's psyche way more with her unpredicability than being an orphan ever will. As a "flight" animal, wondering when your food source was going to try to turn you into food would teach some nasty lessons that might be hard to unlearn.

              He needs a nice old pony and milk replacer.


              • #8
                Get him a nurse mare and keep that mare away from him. When an older mare is violent with her foal at any point she is apt to kill him. It doesn't 'get better' or go away . Its never a one time thing.
                Touchstone Farm. Visit us at the slideshow of our Dutch mares and foals below! 30 mnutes of photos.


                • #9
                  OMG! You need to find a nursemare or wean that foal ASAP. I wouldn't turn my back on that mare for another second. And I also agree the mare should never be bred again (or should be checked well over for anything that might be causing this ie tumour ect...).

                  "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


                  • Original Poster

                    Just wanted to clarify

                    This was posted from the HGS Forum that I linked to in my first post

                    This is NOT my mare or MY foal. I just feel really badly for this poster, and wondered if anyone might have suggestions for her that we havent been able to offer on that thread on HGS

                    But I am thinking as well an immediate weaning is in order before she kills or seriously injures that poor foal ...

                    True Colours Farm on Facebook


                    • #11
                      I had a mare, not as bad as this. I weaned the baby. (and she grew up to be a nice polite mare. Not all orphans are evil lol) I DID breed the mare again. AND I figured out what her trigger was. She had coliced and had gone to guelph for it. After I brought her back to the barn I was managing so I could keep a really close eye on her. Turns out the new barn and new horses were stressing her out to the point she was lashing out at baby. Subsequent foals were fine because we just made sure she went out alone for the first month, and made she the stalls beside her were empty and she was fine.


                      • #12
                        Had a mare turn on her foal when it was born and attacked it, actually grabbed it by its neck and threw it out of the pen. Once she snapped out of it she was ok, but their was too much internal damage and the colt had to be put down.

                        I had another mare that was just aggressive with the foal at feeding time. She would kick and snap at him. She got too dangerous and I had to wean him early at about 2.5 months. Both of these mares seemed to be more hormonal. The first mare mentioned gets super attached to any little horse or pony, acting like it is a foal. I believe it is some chemical imbalance. Needless to say, both mares are no longer broodmares...just too dangerous.
                        Derby Lyn Farms Website

                        Derby Lyn Farms on Facebook!


                        • #13
                          I had a mare that would do this EXACT same scenario on a very rare occasion *only* if she was left out alone and was angry about it. I only saw her do it twice (different foals) and both times it was because she was mad about being out alone. All other times she was a great mother. Both times she did it, we had brought her pasture mates in (for various reasons) and she was left out in the field. She was surrounded by horses in other pastures - so not totally alone. She was fine for a few minutes and then would start attacking her foal. Both times we immediately put another mare/foal back out with her (because I was nervous to bring her in and lock her foal in a stall with her at that point) and she completely stopped doing it and acted like nothing ever happened. The first time she did it, she was a maiden and I chalked it up to that. She did not do it again for years and I actually forgot about it. Then, out of the blue she did it again, many foals later. We dealt with it by making sure she was never left out alone with her foal. We never had a problem after that.
                          It wasn't bad because we had a known trigger and it was easy to manage. I would be very nervous if I didn't know what the trigger was and it was not predictable.

                          Edited to add: When she doesn't have a foal at her side, she is left out when her pasture mates are brought in and is usually fine, but occasionally will have a temper tantrum about it.


                          • #14
                            True Colors: I realized that you were just posting this from another thread. I should have worded my post as such.
                            hunter/jumper ponies


                            • Original Poster

                              Sandy - no problem ...

                              In all honesty though if this was my mare and foal, I wouldnt have a clue what to do ether other than wean now and never breed this mare again

                              True Colours Farm on Facebook


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by TrueColours View Post
                                Sandy - no problem ...

                                In all honesty though if this was my mare and foal, I wouldnt have a clue what to do ether other than wean now and never breed this mare again
                                I think that's how most people would handle it. Not much else you can do that ensures the foal's safety.
                                Riding the winds of change

                                Heeling NRG Aussies
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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by TrueColours View Post

                                  In all honesty though if this was my mare and foal, I wouldnt have a clue what to do ether other than wean now and never breed this mare again
                                  Free bar.ka and tidy rabbit.


                                  • #18
                                    Bumping this thread because I am currently dealing with this situation (almost exactly). Filly will be 3 weeks old tonight. Mare and foal are still at the vet clinic because mare is supposed to be re-bred (rethinking that now...). Just got a text from my vet saying that my mare is biting and chasing her foal into the fence. I bought this mare, in foal, from a very reputable breeder and this is not her first foal (seventh, I believe- first with me). Still conversing with my vet about what to do, but would love any help you guys could provide please.


                                    • #19
                                      Does she always get sent to the vets for breeding? This could be a major stressor.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by goodmorning View Post
                                        Does she always get sent to the vets for breeding? This could be a major stressor.
                                        No, this is all new for her. Brief history: Mare was born on the property I bought her from. Due to an injury to her foot as a yearling she was never developed as a riding horse and went straight into a broodmare career. Had her first foal at age 5 (as far as I can tell) and was out with a herd of 50+ mares and foals. She had never left the property before I bought her, but settled in at her new home really well. She is more of a people horse, but did make friends in her turnout group (she is towards the lower middle of the herd in the pecking order). I moved her to the vet about 3 weeks before her due date and seemed to settle into her stall well. She did not take well going out with the other mares and was nearly always on her own and would squeal if another mare came too close.
                                        One instance 4 days before she foaled a mare in the stall next to hers foaled and my mare had to be evicted from that barn due to her odd behaviour (squealing and bothering the mare through the wall).
                                        She had a normal birth, foal is healthy and eating well.
                                        When turned out mare was unhappy about having 2 miniature horses in the field beside hers and kept charging the fence if they looked at her baby. The vet told me today that right now she can only be outside for about 20 minutes now because she starts attacking her baby ("biting and trying to run her through the fence")
                                        Everything has seemed normal up until now, and all of my experiences with her have shown her to be patient and attentive to her baby. I see them every other day as I don't want to impose at the vet, however looks like I will be visiting every day from now on.
                                        They are on camera (which I have access to due to doing foal watch at the clinic) and everything seems normal now.
                                        I am a first time 'breeder' and am at a loss.

                                        I absolutely agree that she is more than likely very stressed, have you ever known stress to cause this type of behaviour in a broodmare?
                                        I recently bought a property of my own and have the option to bring them home where it is quiet (and at this time horseless).

                                        This behaviour seems to be localized to being on turnout only, she seems fine in the stall.
                                        I have also emailed her previous owners asking if this has happened before (when I bought her they said she was a great mother, which aside from turnout, she appears to be)
                                        I apologize if this is a jumbled mess, I just received this news about an hour ago and am a bit of a mess