I think my mare is in heat
Not quite breeding related, but our mare is in heat & I could use a little experience from those in the know.
I've had a little 18 y/o "alpha" gelding Mustang for a year. He was taken out of a pasture with 12 other horses, where he ruled the roost. He is the sweetest, most docile horse I've ever handled (on the ground- in the saddle is a different story, LOL).
We brought my wife's mare home about 4 months ago. The first few days, SHE ruled the roost, but he finally got his bluff in on her & now he pushes her around at feeding time (he would fight to the death over the tiniest thing & she's smart enough not to want to go there- though she is much bigger, stronger, younger and more agile than he is). They get along very well and have never injured each other, just the normal, minimal dominant/submissive gesturing on occasion.
Everything we've read says that she should have come into season at least a couple of times since we got her but we haven't seen any sign of it.
Until this morning.
When I went out to feed, she came to the gate & wouldn't let him get near me (he's *always* the leader at feeding time). He always gets his feeder serviced first, and she patiently waits at her feeder for her turn. This morning, she *reluctantly* allowed him to go to his feeder, then turned and jumped 3 feet in the air, kicked her hind feet out, twisted sideways & generally acted like a wild horse caught in a corral. She does NOT act like that!
I'm not ashamed to admit that a 1,000 pound animal unexpectedly exhibiting that behavior put me on edge. She didn't lay her ears back at me, so I boldly approached her feeder to dump a flake of hay in, while making sure that I had an out.
While I was shoveling manure, my daughter came into the corral. Misty looked her direction, laid her ears back and started towards her. Her body language didn't look aggressive (all I could see was her butt from my position), but I told my daughter to go back out just the same (the horses love her, she brings them carrots & apples & generally spoils them). She normally would not leave her feeder, and as soon as she realized that dd was leaving, she turned back to it.
I've been back out in the corral several times since and all I can say is that she isn't quite as "warm" to me as she usually is, but she does want to be near me. She continues to be dominate over the gelding, pushing him away from me. *Someone* is a "third wheel" in the equation and I don't like being part of it. I know she is being dominant because she is in heat, but I'm not sure what my part in it is. Is she just being feed dominant & sees me as "feed(er)", or do I maybe mean more to her than the gelding on some other level?
Because of how she acted when my dd came in this morning, I'm going to ask my wife to sit out feeding tonight & let me do it alone. She's not as fast or agile as I am, and I'm nervous about both of us being in there when they start jockying for feeding positions between us on a good day.
As far as I can tell, she's not "winking", "presenting" or "dribbling", but I really don't want to get too close to that end right now. I'm pretty sure that I know what her behavior is telling me right now anyway.
So, before I wind up posting from the emergency room & people here thinking "Duh, I could have told you THAT was gonna happen", any advice? Is the first day the worst & it will get better, or vice versa? If they get aggressive and I'm in the middle of it, will she react favorably if I "RAWR!" her away, or will that make her attack ME?
Anything, anything advice at all would be more than I have experience with.