horse aggression issues

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horse aggression issues

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    07-15-2013, 07:52 PM
horse aggression issues

Sorry in advance for the long post. I just want to give some background on the problem I am having with a couple of my horses. If I cannot figure out how to fix this issue I will have to rehome one of my horses and I really don't want it to have to come to that.
Wally is my retired show horse. He is a quarter horse gelding that is about 22. He was my 1st horse (i leased horses before but he was the 1st one that was actually mine) and I really don't want to have to rehome him but he may leave me with no choice.
About 8ish years ago I rescued and hand raised a very sickly orphan foal that I named Star. The vet didnt think he would make it but he did. When he was about 5-6 months old I carefully introduced him to Wally for the 1st time. They hit it off great and were best buds. Wally basically adopted Star and helped to teach him how to be a horse. For 8 years they were inseparable. They would both panic (similar to a mare and foal) if they were separated out of sight of each other. They moved to a few different barns together and now I keep my horses at home.
A few months ago we purchased a mare for my husband to ride that we named Blaze (Wally is not really sound enough to ride anymore and star is to hot and green for a beginner). A few days after we brought home Blaze is when the problems started and they have only gotten worse since then. Wally has claimed the new mare as his and is now extremely aggressive towards Star. Wally could not care less now if I take Star away out of his sight, but if Blaze so much as goes to the opposite side of her stall (where wally cannot reach her) Wally has a panic attack and whinnies, paces, and just generally freaks out until she comes back. Wally is now completely lame from banging his legs against the bars of the fence every time Blaze moves out of reach and he has lost visible weight from the anxiety.
Wally hurting himself is bad enough, but poor Star is being torn to shreds. Star is now banished to the far corner of his stall. If he moves to where Wally can reach him, Wally will pin his ears, charge, and bite. If Star does not get away quick enough Wally will then turn around and kick full force (luckily, the fencing has blocked most of the kicks). Poor Star is at a complete loss. I feel awful for him. This is the same horse that has been his best friend since he was a baby and now anytime he so much as looks at Wally he gets attacked. Wally is a 16.3hh horse so he can really do some damage when he wants to, especially considering Star is only about 14.3hh.
Because of the way the stalls and small arena are positioned at my house (they are all connected and share sides) there is no way for me to separate the horses.
I hate to play favorites, but Star holds a very special place in my heart after hand raising him and sleeping at the barn to bottle feed him through the night when he was little. Star is also my current riding horse since Wally is retired. If I can't figure out how to fix Wally’s behavior I am going to have to rehome him. I was hoping that Wallys behavior would get better with time and once things settled down with the new horse but it has only gotten worse. I am at my last straw after going out to feed this morning and seeing the 3 new bloody gashes on Star from last night.
Any and all suggestions on what I should do are welcome. If you guys think this can be fixed please give me ideas of what to do. If you don’t think this will get better and think that rehoming Wally is in everyone’s best interest then I will have to come to terms with that and start looking for a new home for him. I am just really worried that he may severely injure Star if this is allowed to continue.
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    07-15-2013, 10:33 PM
Super Moderator
This is a really common phenomenon when you mix mares and geldings. We have not mixed any of them in over 40 years. A gelding will fall in love with a mare and then will go crazy and 'guard' her and attack everything else, sometimes even people.

We never mix them. If we encounter a gelding like this, we immediately separate them permanently. I have had to sell geldings because they refused to eat or drink, ran or walked a fence and just went nuts.

If it were me, I would probably tie him up and maybe even ACE him and remove the mare completely. If you do, he may and he may not settle back down. If he settles down and does not completely self-destruct over the mare being gone, you can try later to get another horse. You will never be able to bring this mare back even if they have separate places to live. They cannot be within sight or sound of each other -- ever. If you tie him up to take her away, you may have to leave him tied for several hours.

We always recommend that if people do not have very separate places (no adjoining fences), they are best with all mares or all geldings. We always warn them that this is exactly what can happen if they mix mares and geldings.
Elana and waresbear like this.
    07-15-2013, 10:46 PM
I agree with Cherie. I have always said "Mares make Geldings do stupid things". I will stand by that statement until my dying days!
Cherie likes this.
    07-15-2013, 10:53 PM
Super Moderator
Yup! You might go through 10 geldings that pay little or no attention to a mare and then run into a really nice gelding that goes absolutely nuts over some old mare that could care less about him. And some of those nice old geldings never get nice again -- they are ruined and it has nothing to do with being proud cut or having testosterone. They just go nuts.
    07-15-2013, 11:15 PM
I did not know that about geldings. I will stick with mares. At least I understand their hormonal swings.
    07-16-2013, 12:50 AM
I kept Wally at a barn for many years that had 50+ horses. He was around both mares and geldings in the past. He has always been somewhat stud-ish. I'm wondering if going from a large barn setting for so many years to a small personal setting with only 1 other horse until now has something to do with it. I did notice that he always tended to "claim" another horse as his own (first that horse was a mare he was really close to then it was one of the geldings he was stalled next to for several years then when Star came around Wally claimed him). When we moved the horses to the house several years ago I did notice that Wally became a lot more possessive over Star (to the point where I was starting to think it was getting unhealthy). Now that we have Blaze his obsession has switched to her and increased even more. I'm really starting to think that Wally needs to be in a barn situation again with lots of other horses around (that he can't necessarily get to). So he can hopefully stop obsessing over one specific horse so much and spread it over more of a herd. With what some of you have said I'm coming to the realization that this situation is probably not going to get better on its own.
If I have to find a new home for one of them I feel that Wally would benefit most from a different situation. I could never part with Star and I fear that if we rehomed Blaze and left Wally where he is that Wally might really hurt himself in a panic.
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    07-16-2013, 08:40 AM
Green Broke
And if you rehome Wally he may hurt himself in a panic. But of course he will be elsewhere and you won't see it.

OTOH if you rehome the mare you can use ACE on Wally for awhile and see if he settles.

Last but not least if Wally is 22 and unsound you can also choose to put him down.

You have talked yourself into a single solution when there are more than one.

You can make the walls of the stalls solid so Wally cannot see Star.. or so none of the horses can see each other.

Rotate turnouts.

Have individual paddocks off each stall.

Hot wire the fences so Wally doesn't get close enough to the fence to bang his legs and can't get close enough to the fence to threaten Star.

You can get a companion for Star like a small burro or pony (gelding).

You can sell/rehome Blaze and replace her with a gelding.

You can put Wally down.
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    07-16-2013, 08:45 AM
Super Moderator
If he cannot see or hear the mare, he will probably be OK just tied up for a while. I have had geldings go a long time in a herd of geldings and then, all at once, decide they 'owned' one single gelding. They can get really possessive. I have had mares get just as 'herd-bound' but they behave a little differently -- just as crazy -- but different. I have just never seen the degree of 'ownership' or the number of problems that you get with geldings falling in love and obsessing over a mare.
    07-16-2013, 09:05 AM
Green Broke
I know a gelding named Star. He is IN LOVE with the other tb mare Sarena. He is stalled across from her so he can see her. He is next to a gelding and he gets short turn outs wit the mare (he dose not sweat and the mare LOVES to run for hours, poor guy can't be aloud to run). At first he would lose his mind if she was out of his sight. But after a while of no/very short turn outs with her he got over himself.
    07-16-2013, 04:10 PM
Originally Posted by Elana    
And if you rehome Wally he may hurt himself in a panic. But of course he will be elsewhere and you won't see it.
he did very well in a barn situation with many other horses in the past so I would hope that he would do okay in that type of situation again if I rehomed him. Also, if I put a halter on him I can walk him out of sight of Blaze without too much resistance. It is when Blaze moves away from him that he has a panic attack.

Originally Posted by Elana    
OTOH if you rehome the mare you can use ACE on Wally for awhile and see if he settles.
i can promise you that my husband will not be willing to rehome Blaze. That is y I am trying to figure out what my other options are. The way that he sees it is that Blaze and Star are riding horses so they earn their keep. Since Wally can no longer be ridden, he sees him as lesser of a horse because of that. My husband would not be willing to give up a riding horse in order to keep one that cannot be ridden.

Originally Posted by Elana    
Last but not least if Wally is 22 and unsound you can also choose to put him down.
i know that this is also an option but it would be an absolute last resort for me. I would much rather try to find somewhere where Wally can live out the remainder of his days (or at least a few more years) in happy retirement. Yes, he is very lame right now from pacing the fence next to Blaze, but before then he was actually doing pretty good and I would throw a halter on him and take him for walks around the neighborhood when I had the chance.

Originally Posted by Elana    
You can make the walls of the stalls solid so Wally cannot see Star.. or so none of the horses can see each other.
unfortunately, this is not an option. I cannot afford to redo the stalls right now. And I worry that if I wait until I can that Star is going to be severely injured before then.

Originally Posted by Elana    
Rotate turnouts.
i am already rotating the turnouts. The problem is that Wally can reach over the fence and get to Star whether I have him in his stall or the small arena/pen that we have. The way that they are put together has the stalls and pen all sharing fencelines. I now have to carry a riding crop to shoo Wally away with when I ride Star in the pen because any time I ride Star near the shared fenceline Wally will charge the fence to bite at Star.

Originally Posted by Elana    
Have individual paddocks off each stall.
we don't currently have the money to change the setup that we have. Even if we did there is no room to move or add anything where we keep the horses.

Is there anything else I can do to hopefully fix the behavior itself since I can't change the current stall/pen setup? I tried separating Wally and Blaze about a week ago by tying them up on opposite sides of the property to see what they would do. Blaze couldnt care less if Wally existed or not but Wally was still whinnying to Blaze and trying to figure out how to get to her 5 hours later. Our property is just not big enough to have both horses separated where Wally cannot still see Blaze.

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