Aggressive Lead Mare - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 07-15-2011, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
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Aggressive Lead Mare

Well my 2nd horse, Sadie, had become rather aggresive since we got Gypsy. Not really towards people, although she has always been very pushy and doesn't quite like to walk around people, and thinks she can walk through them. (Or rather that they will move). Sadie will chase our poor old mare around the pasture constantly, and if I keep the three of them in the paddock, she will chase her with even more aggressiveness.

A few times she even went after Gypsy and nearly ran me over just trying to chase her away. Since it has been getting worse, I have been putting Moe and Gypsy in a seperate pasture during the day. The thing is Gypsy is really herd bound and can't stand to be separated from either of them. When I put her back in the pasture with Sadie, she ran around whinnying looking for the mare, but she was down farther where she couldn't see her. When I had Moe and Gypsy together she was fine, but she has alot of problems being all alone. (Our neighbors are even saying how they never heard our horses make that much racket.)

I am wondering how I can possibly "fix" Sadie and make her less aggressive towards Gypsy. I do understand the way a herd works, and that this is natural behavior, but when it interferes with me working with the animals I would rather have a way to fix it. Sadie doesn't have much respect for people, and is really stubborn, so she probably thinks she is a peg above everyone and really believes she is now the lead mare.

I'm not looking to get yelled at for trying to find a solution. And getting rid of Gypsy isn't really an option. She is 20 years old and my family is sort of obligated to keep her, not just some horse we bought from a stranger. We are keeping her for family, so not going to happen. When we agreed I sort of signed up for the long haul. Gypsy sort of likes to hang out by me, so does Moe, and Sadie likes to be by Moe, so she chases Gypsy away. Moe is sort of caught in this triangle. He doesn't really have an attachment to Gypsy, but doesn't mind being away from Sadie if Gypsy is around. Then Gypsy doesn't mind being away from Sadie if Moe is around. Difficult creatures. Dx
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post #2 of 22 Old 07-15-2011, 01:22 AM
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If I understood right sounds like Gypsy is the herd bound one maybe you should work on her being herd bound by seperating her for small periods of time to get her used to the idea, we had a herd bound one and that is what we did once he got over that he became more relaxed around the other horses. Teaching her that she will be alright on her own might bring the herd back in balance.
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post #3 of 22 Old 07-15-2011, 01:26 AM
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You can't "fix" Sadie as there is nothing to "fix". Sadie doesn't think she's the boss, she KNOWS she is! The only option I can see is separating Sadie from the other two since they (Moe and Gypsy) get along fine together.
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post #4 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 12:00 AM
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I would try mare magic for 30 days and see what happens, and then you will just have to separate her.


My gelding is the same way. He thinks he's the stallion in the herd and does nothing but bully the boys and move the girls around. Pretty funny to watch him work, he gets very archy and moves out nicely. Because he can't suck it up and behave, he gets put out by himself, and if he gets a pasture mate its one of the really arrogant baby's currently in training.
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post #5 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 07:58 AM
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Quote:
I am wondering how I can possibly "fix" Sadie and make her less aggressive towards Gypsy. I do understand the way a herd works, and that this is natural behavior, but when it interferes with me working with the animals I would rather have a way to fix it. Sadie doesn't have much respect for people, and is really stubborn, so she probably thinks she is a peg above everyone and really believes she is now the lead mare.
Quote:
You can't "fix" Sadie as there is nothing to "fix". Sadie doesn't think she's the boss, she KNOWS she is! The only option I can see is separating Sadie from the other two since they (Moe and Gypsy) get along fine together.
I can't agree with either comment, I'm more in line with Chandras thinking.
Firstly her behaviour is not natural. This is captive/domesticated behaviour which is often distorted by the numbers involved, husbandry methods etc. Similarly I don't think Sadie thinks she's the boss either. She wouldn't need to act this way if she did.

I feel we too often see physical intimidation as making a boss, when my experience is it's often a lack of confidence. 'fights' are often most common in the middle tier of domestic herds. A boss does not need to demonstrate their power, it is known and understood and rarely truly challenged.

I would work with both horses. Ground work can give them both confidence. Initially separate, but if you have the skills, I personally would be working them both together. If at all possible I would do it in their pasture rather than an arena too. If you don't have the ground skills or confidence, can you work them both from another horse? That works also. Especially if its a peacemaker type horse.
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post #6 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 09:25 AM
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I agree with some of the above statements but another option is to put Sadie in a pen by herself and get her a goat :) those work great for horses that need/like a buddy and if they are not big "fighters".
My mare has always been "head of the herd" with most that I put her with but she is not a fighter. Like someone stated above most of the time pecking order is not an on going battle it is claimed and then it ends.
You have those cases where some horses just are not meant to be together, most over time can become use to each other but usually they try not to invade on the others space so that they will not cause a fight.
Seems to me you should just take Sadie out of it and with time Gypsy will become use to the smell/presence of another mare near by.
IMO taking Sadie out of it will end up being the safest thing for them all and yourself! It will cut down the risk of injuries for both you and your horses.
Goats are nice to have around and pretty easy keepers. Of course one will not help out as much as a good bit do in a grown up area, they love all the bad stuff you do not want your horse around :), but there is also an old wise tail that a goats urine keeps snakes away (do not know if I believe that or not).
Anyways good luck and keep us posted :) on this thread please :) easiest to know when you have posted something about it or in this case them :)
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post #7 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 12:23 PM
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I had an Arabian just like your Sadie...and she was an ALPHA from hell. She is the only mare I have ever encountered be downright a BITCH to the extent she was. When an Alpha is boss she usually will throw a little power trip with a new horse but the herd settles into the pecking order and life goes on. If Sadie is being a bully not only to the horses but sounds like you...I suggest you do some work with her not only because of the horses but your sake too. In the Arabian we had she was just to the freakin extreme I hated to see her do the stuff she was doing...she was a HUGE bully, chasing kicking just wouldn't let the other horses alone...she was a very strict leader...and guess what she thought she ran the show outside the pasture too...once we started working with her she calmed down A LOT...her personality in the pasture changed too and although she remained lead mare she wasn't as nasty as before...
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post #8 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doe View Post
I can't agree with either comment, I'm more in line with Chandras thinking.
Firstly her behaviour is not natural. This is captive/domesticated behaviour which is often distorted by the numbers involved, husbandry methods etc. Similarly I don't think Sadie thinks she's the boss either. She wouldn't need to act this way if she did.

I feel we too often see physical intimidation as making a boss, when my experience is it's often a lack of confidence. 'fights' are often most common in the middle tier of domestic herds. A boss does not need to demonstrate their power, it is known and understood and rarely truly challenged.

I would work with both horses. Ground work can give them both confidence. Initially separate, but if you have the skills, I personally would be working them both together. If at all possible I would do it in their pasture rather than an arena too. If you don't have the ground skills or confidence, can you work them both from another horse? That works also. Especially if its a peacemaker type horse.
Here's the way I see this…

Sadie's behavior is 100% natural. Sadie is the boss/lead of that herd of 3 and she is boss even when people are present. If Sadie is the second horse and Gypsy the newest, then Moe was the first and Moe is NOT comfortable being lead horse or he would be. He'll be, and is, fine with either mare (Sadie or Gypsy). Sadie is the confident one and the one that both Moe and Gypsy look to for leadership. Unfortunately for Gypsy, Sadie doesn't like her, doesn't want her in her herd and is trying to drive her away. Fights occur when neither horse backs down - when a subordinate horse doesn't (or can't) comply with the demands of the lead horse the lead horse can view it as not backing down - a challenge. In this case, Sadie is trying to drive Gypsy out of the herd, but Gypsy cannot comply because she is physically restricted by fencing. Since Gypsy isn't leaving the herd as told to, Sadie is viewing it as disobedience or as challenging her authority. Keeping all 3 together could work out two ways - one, that Sadie eventually accepts Gypsy since Gypsy is trying to be submissive and willing to get along - the other is that Sadie never accepts Gypsy and seriously injures or kills her because she doesn't keep her distance - the pasture isn't large enough for Gypsy to keep her distance for the length of time Sadie needs to observe her and decide for herself the merits of adding/accepting Gyspy into her herd.
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post #9 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sierrams1123 View Post
I agree with some of the above statements but another option is to put Sadie in a pen by herself and get her a goat :) those work great for horses that need/like a buddy and if they are not big "fighters".
My mare has always been "head of the herd" with most that I put her with but she is not a fighter. Like someone stated above most of the time pecking order is not an on going battle it is claimed and then it ends.
You have those cases where some horses just are not meant to be together, most over time can become use to each other but usually they try not to invade on the others space so that they will not cause a fight.
Seems to me you should just take Sadie out of it and with time Gypsy will become use to the smell/presence of another mare near by.
IMO taking Sadie out of it will end up being the safest thing for them all and yourself! It will cut down the risk of injuries for both you and your horses.
Goats are nice to have around and pretty easy keepers. Of course one will not help out as much as a good bit do in a grown up area, they love all the bad stuff you do not want your horse around :), but there is also an old wise tail that a goats urine keeps snakes away (do not know if I believe that or not).
Anyways good luck and keep us posted :) on this thread please :) easiest to know when you have posted something about it or in this case them :)

OKAY SO I MIXED THE HORES NAMES UP! WHERE I SAY SADIE I MEAN GYPSY
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post #10 of 22 Old 07-16-2011, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
the pasture isn't large enough for Gypsy to keep her distance for the length of time Sadie needs to observe her and decide for herself the merits of adding/accepting Gyspy into her herd
Exactly my point, and exactly why it isn't natural behaviour but distortion created by domestic husbandry. They cannot act normally. My concern is all the talk of lead mares (and see my confessional thread I am about to write), bullying etc does nothing to increase our understanding of how OUR choices create the behaviour we commonly see.

It's also worthy of note that Monica Morganti gave a presentation to the AAEP of the data from her study, that demonstrated how many of these so called 'lead mares' showing aggression, actually had higher testosterone and cortisol levels, likely due to issues with the adrenal cortex.
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