Pasture Aggressive Horse (Soda) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-20-2010, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Watertown, MN
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Pasture Aggressive Horse (Soda)

Spin off of this thread: Influencing the herd order


Soda is very aggressive in the pasture. NEVER towards people and not really towards dogs/cats/etc either.

Before I moved him home approx 1.5 yrs ago he was pastured with 4 geldings in about a 7-10 acre wooded pasture. He bit the crap out of the other horses. They regularly had holes all over their bodies, anywhere from an 1" in diameter to the big bites where you could see the teeth marks. Generally he ripped the hair off, but occaisionally would break the skin too. Plenty of food in the pasture, but there was some herd dynamic changes going on. A younger gelding was moving up the totem pole from bottom and ended up right below Soda.

Turn out was 24/7 and was regularly ridden, 4-7 days a week 15mins to 5 hours. Average probably 5 days a week for about an hour.

Fast forward to now.

Pastured with a 30 yr old mare (Flame) on about 1.5 acre sacrafice paddock (winter and drought quarters) and a 2.5 acre pasture. Plenty of grass in the pasture and about 50 pounds of hay per day (more or slightly less pending weather and weight). Turned out 24/7.

Exercise: Almost non-existent in the winter (same as before). Rest of the year I am trying for an average of 4-5 days per week anywhere from 30 mins light training to 4-5 hrs trail rides. I say attempting because this is my first year not in school or not dealing with a long term injury on his part.

Attitude: When he first moved home showed the same aggression towards Flame as the geldings. Very aggressively moved her away from food or just around the pasture. Now he moves her away from food but w/ a gentle pinning of ears and I am starting to see some sharing of hay piles. Still keeps her out of the barn if he's there first. I've seen him bite at her still, but seems to be moderating them as I don't see as many marks. In the last 6 mnths has left nasty marks 2x and that was just in the last month. Both on her butt, one on top and the other on the backside of the upper part of the back leg.

Flame is 30 yrs old, very submissive and arthritic. Can't really "play" or move much faster than a slow and creaky walk. Occaisionally I've seen her approach him pinning her ears, squealing and shaking her head, but he just ignores her.


It is very likely Flame is going to have to be PTS this fall due to our winters and her arthritis. Should I get keep Soda alone and see how he does? Or should I find another horse to keep with him? If I do get another horse what personality traits would you look for in hopes of minimizing the damage to the other horse?

Thanks for reading my book!
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-20-2010, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Does he only bite or does he lunge, rear, kick, strike, etc. What is his history? Was he gelded late? Ever bred? Bad experiences? Anything you know about him previously would help us to see the whole picture.

But here's what I see from what you posted. It seems like he might do better with a mare and/or with only one or two other horses. He might be one of those insecure herd bosses that always feels like he's being challenged. Or maybe the gelding he was with that kept moving up the totem pole was continually challenging him and ordinarily once he established dominance he would have been well behaved. Most boss horses will terrorize the other peons a bit after they "vanquish the challenger" so that everyone else knows not to toe the line. It goes back to herd dynamics and you can see it in some of the mustang documentaries. When the stud runs off an intruding stud he always rounds his mares into a tight bunch when he comes back and he will strike at and bite any mare that doesn't move fast enough or to suit his liking. It is his way of quelling mutiny or wandering mares. In an all male herd this can get even rougher as even geldings aren't as submissive as mares are to a dominant male and if one was constantly challenging him even subtly then it would have made him act more aggressively to all of them.

Another thing to consider is does he just bite or does he rear, chase, kick, strike, body slam, etc. If it is mostly biting then you can put a grazing muzzle on him to introduce a new horse. He can still snake his head, charge, pin his ears and carry on, even smack them with his muzzle, he just can't take giant chunks out of them. You will have to do your homework and find a horse that doesn't have to be "top dog" but isn't going to be a total pushover either. Once the initial period of putting them in their place is done you can remove the muzzle and see what happens and how he acts.

Otherwise he might have to live in solitary confinement but I would exhaust all other options before deciding on this.
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-20-2010, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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He lunges while biting. He did strike out once on a trail ride, but I nipped that in the bud and haven't seen it once. The only time I've seen him rear at another horse was when I was leading him through a paddock several years ago (before I moved him home) there was another gelding in there that was the "top dog" they reared up at each other and moved in. Thankfully I had a lunge whip with me and diffused the situation right away.

I've never seen him kick at another horse even in play. Biting really is his MO. Unfortunately I don't know if he was gelded late or what his attitude was at his first home (they bred and owned him until about 6 yrs old and then sold him to my friend who I bought him from). However, my friend did mention to me that she asked the lady when loading him (after buying) how he was with other horses. She said the lady said he was fine, but had a very uneasy look on her face. I'm thinking this was typical behavior for him even then, but have been unable to track down the breeder.

I know when we're out and about with other horses trail riding he is usually very interested in the mares. Geldings he either ignores or acts slightly aggressive. Generally of course, I was riding with a bay gelding this weekend that he was really interested in, but Flame is a bay too, so maybe that had something to do with it? I say slightly aggressive because I don't tolerate the aggressive behavior while riding or while I'm there.

When he first moved in he would act aggressive towards Flame whenever I was leading her or giving her attn, but I nipped that in the bud by moving him off. Basically letting him know that I was the leader NOT him. I do my best to present a calm, authoritative, non-violent leadership when interacting with them. My thought is that maybe showing him what a leader should act like might help? A long shot I know, but I seeing as he isn't aggressive toward me I don't see any need to overreact or be violently aggressive towards him. I just get puff up a little and tell him to move off.

I really don't want to keep him alone because I don't think he is one of those horses that would be happy by himself. If I do get another horse I think you're right in that I will need to really do my homework and pick the right personality to fit in. I'm also figuring out how to set up my paddock area to separate the horses in the beginning.

Another note, I've seen him trying to play/herd Flame several times. Not overly aggressively, ears aren't pinned (slightly back) and he isn't biting at her. I've also witnessed him licking her on more than one occasion, esp after she's hurt herself.
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-21-2010, 03:34 AM
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I think he would get along just fine with another mare or a submissive gelding. Partitioning your pasture would work well if you can guarantee he will respect the fence and not lunge through it at a strange horse. Sometimes it's safer for both horses to just run it out than to worry about them striking out or lunging and getting tangled in a fence. But that's a very individual horse thing and you would know which would be better for him.

That being said I believe he is a little insecure in his leadership of what he perceives as "his herd" and he feels the need to keep the toadies in line. If he had a younger horse that would play more and would rip and tear and play fight with him but still remain submissive without being a total pushover I think they would both be happy. Too bad you're in MN, my little mustang gelding that I'm training would be the perfect companion to him. He loves to play and isn't afraid to show another horse his heels but he tends to be the boss horse's toadie and isn't above a little ass kissing to be included in the prime grazing spots =P.

Overall I would find a horse that is submissive but not a pushover and explain the situation to the seller and make sure that you have a trial period in your purchase agreement. No use buying a horse, then having it not work out and have nowhere to take it. I definitely don't think he's aggressive to the point of needing solitary confinement and I'm betting that the marks he does leave on your mare are him trying to get her to play and her just being a little thin skinned and brittle from her age. If he really was trying to dominate her and be truly mean and aggressive she would most likely be dead or seriously maimed by him before now.
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-21-2010, 10:29 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your advise. I'll probably never be able to board him, but at least you've given me hope that with the right horse he can be a happy boy.

You can always just ship your gelding up to me!! I think Soda would love him from the sounds of it. He actually plays with one of my dogs in the pasture. They take turns chasing each other. Neither one of them is running full bore and the dog will play bow at Soda. It's pretty fun to see.
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-21-2010, 11:47 AM
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Haha he's a 14.1 rescued Mustang gelding. He's super sweet and smart and athletic he's just a little reactive and unsure at this point. I'm putting him under saddle this summer...if you're looking for a good all around pony that's small but stout enough for an average adult then let me know and we can work something out! He also has just about the nicest gaits EVER and if I can get him confident enough under saddle he would make a really cute all around or hunter pony for a kid =). When you do end up horse shopping feel free to bounce horses off of me for suitability. I love horse shopping =)
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