horse has lost her mind - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 11-03-2009, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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horse has lost her mind

So my 3 1/2 year old, Honey, was the sweetest, gentlest filly when we got her back in June. She hadn't really been ridden much before we got her, but we were able to ride her without any trouble from the beginning. I'd planned on sending her to a trainer to polish her up a bit, but for months she was fine for my husband or I to ride without any training other than what we'd done. She was so relaxed that she would almost fall asleep being groomed and the ferrier never had a bit of trouble with her. She really didn't spook much for how young she was. I would tack her up without tying her at all.

Well, over the last month or so she has changed a lot. I can't even get a saddle on her by myself and she's jumpy even when being groomed. She's a total brat when being ridden and she's tried to bite my husband and me several times. Husband has managed to ride her anyway with the hopes that she will learn that her antics won't get her out of being ridden. She had to be sedated to be shod today.

Is this just a "normal thing" at this age - kind of a questioning of authority during adolescence? I have some other ideas about possible causes - neighbor's kids (where she's being boarded for a few more weeks) may have antagonized her a bit and she's being boarded with a really nasty "boss mare" that I'm afraid has taught her some bad habits (it all started once they were pastured together). She's become second in the mare "pecking order" and she constantly bites and kicks the two that are "below her".

How likely is it that this will turn around with time? How fixable is this? I'm scared that my gentle girl will be a complete brat from here on out. I'm planning on sending her to the trainer in a few weeks. Then she will come home and live with our one other mare (who is the lowest in the pecking order right now). Will getting her away from the boss mare help? Any other suggestions?

I was normal...then I got a horse.
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post #2 of 15 Old 11-03-2009, 08:23 PM
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I think now is the time to go back to basics and see where the holes are in her foundation. Something has happened that has made her start this new behavior. One thing you could do, and that I suggest, is the Parelli 7 Games. That's a good way to check your foundation and to build up her respect for you.
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post #3 of 15 Old 11-03-2009, 08:24 PM
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I'm going to assume that the most likely culprit is the mare she's being boarded with.
If she was always by herself or with like-minded horses that were not aggressive, this is going to be a big change for her. She was taking from a passive enviroment and and tossed into one where she is suddenly being demanded about and the aggressive control of the other mare is stressing her out.

In order to keep some of her confidence, she is asserting herself over you, playing the lead mare as the other mare does with her. Unfortnatley, even though it is stress behaviour, you need to get on this before she really does take it too far. Biting is a pure malicious act and something that I just will NOT accept, no matter what the conditions.

If you can seperate them, I think that would be best. It might only take a few days without being bullied before she comes around again. If you can't, I would suggest going back to your basic ground work.

'Round pen' is excellent for this. Take her in, chase her away. Keep her moving until she's ASKING you to stop, not when she decides to stop. Work on moving her hindquarter away from you, becoming soft in the halter again and dropping her head to give you control. Take her for a walk on the road or through a field. Anything that gives you control, but won't stress her out.
She's stressed and frustrated, but needs to learn there are other ways to deal with rather than taking it out on you or your husband.

Be assertive, but be gentle about it. She knows you're her friend even though she's acting out, and needs to be remidened that while you are her friend, you are also the lead mare. Just not the old nasty crabby one.

Also, if you catch those kids bugging her, or even hear about it, I'd go up to them and tell them if they ever bug your horse again you'll beat them within an inch of their lives. Okay, don't say EXCATLY that, but I'd make it clear that she is completely off limits.
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post #4 of 15 Old 11-03-2009, 08:37 PM
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Currently, I'm going through a similar "adolescent" phase with my gelding....the only catch is he's 11, but the situation is the same. When I first got him he was very docile and sweet, but then as the months went on he got nastier and nastier. We attributed it to his final "settling in" phase, as in he figured out that he was sticking around, so he might as well see who he could push around. He was VERY nippy for no reason at all, if he didn't want you standing in a certain place, he'd pin his ears and lunge at you.

It was honestly a lack of respect. I've been working with him for three weeks now and he's markedly improved....I can even come in to his stall during feeding time with minimal fight about putting his halter on. It is possible that she picked up some of her defense tactics from having to actually defend herself, but they should also go away when you reassert yourself as her boss.
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post #5 of 15 Old 11-03-2009, 08:51 PM
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I bought a horse as a yearling and she went through a similar stage around 3 - 4. From my experience with horses they seem to all go through this stage somewhere between 3 - 5. A terrible teenagery stage where they might start spooking, or trying to nip, or being nuts in the paddock, not listening, pigrooting, rushing etc. Like they are just discovering themselves.

It is usually over by the time they are 5. My previous mare settled down around 4 1/2 or 5 ish. It could be the kids and the other mare, they'll all contribute to things, but I think just stay on top of it, do ground work and basic ridden. Really go over it all, chances are if she is going through this stage her attention span will resemble that of a goldfish. Young horses can be icky, but they pull through. If it gets dangerous pull in a trainer. Just make sure you keep on top of it, right now she is trying these bad things out, make sure she has no reason to learn them.
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post #6 of 15 Old 11-04-2009, 12:05 AM
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If I'm reading this right, you've only had her approx. 5 months and this past month you've noticed a change for the worse? Sounds like the honeymoon period is over and she's testing the proverbial waters to see where she stands with you. IOW, seeing what you'll do if she says "no"…and I think the root cause is inconsistency. I think she's a horse who, if given an inch, will ask for another, then another and so on, until she knows where her boundaries are and if those boundaries will change with who is working with her at the time.

Last edited by Horse Poor; 11-04-2009 at 12:09 AM.
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post #7 of 15 Old 11-04-2009, 04:07 AM
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also check out the psyhical factors here. because from what you are saying, she is telling you that she is in some discomfort, and asscociating your doing anything with her, with pain. check her teeth, check her back ( also how heavy is your husband compared to you? ) check her saddle fit. and if possible, i wouldnt send her away for training; is there someone who would come out to you, as i find that often, after training, back in its own environment, the problems reaccur.
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post #8 of 15 Old 11-06-2009, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I'm certain that the main factor is the boss mare, Magic. They've been apart for several days and Honey is almost back to her old self. She's much more relaxed and I was able to tack her up and ride her just like I used to tonight. So once our fence is finished and we bring our girls home, things should definitely improve. Here's to hoping the neighbor keeps Magic in the other field for a while! Honey was in the field today with our other mare, Sweetie, and there was very little pecking order behavior - they shared feed dishes, etc. without much fuss. There was no biting. That's the only other horse she'll live with eventually, so they should be fine.

As far as the "trainer", he's actually another one of my neighbors, so I won't really be "sending her off". Its just that by sending her to his barn I can get her away from Magic until our fence is done and she can come home. This neighbor is great with horses and he doesn't work, so he has the time to ride her daily, something I just don't have right now (that will change in a few months). She's great for a young horse, she just needs to be ridden a lot more. I know that you're all correct about my needing to be gentle but firm with her. I will not tolerate the biting and have no trouble correcting her on that one, but I struggle with being firm enough at times. I'm working on that.
Thanks for all the tips and help!
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post #9 of 15 Old 11-06-2009, 06:37 PM
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I was curious if maybe she might have been going through a heat cycle as well?
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post #10 of 15 Old 11-06-2009, 06:44 PM
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If you're the only ones handling her for the last few months then I guess you know who to blame. Perhaps you lack the experience to deal with her and she is developing these habits. You should send her to a trainer as I don't think her heat cycle or the other mares are to blame for her behavior and even if they are it still needs to be corrected.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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