Question about a "kicky" mare

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Question about a "kicky" mare

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    08-28-2009, 11:27 AM
Question about a "kicky" mare


My 4 year old mare who has always been safe to be around has started kicking at other horses. It has become a problem because she is kicking at them even when people are around. It is the biggest problem in the barn where they are tied in to eat. As we bring the other horses into their tie stall to eat (the stalls are open in the back) she is kicking at them as they pass her.

I suspect it started when we started working in the barn about a month ago and had to feed the horses all in the field. It has escalated since then and there are too many children around the horses (I have 5 of them, my barn mate has 2 preteens) to just ignore it.

The simple, feeding time solution is to switch around the tie stalls and put Mocha on an end where the other horses don't have to walk behind her. But that isn't addressing the problem.

I have been tending to her personally as horses go in and out of the barn at feeding time. I keep her up tight to the front and keep her engaged, but I am not always the one feeding and that is just a band-aid.

So I am begging for suggestions and welcome anyone who can share their experiences, what works, doesn't etc.


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    08-28-2009, 12:08 PM
In my experience horses can develop behavior like this because they feel they need to protect themselves at feeding time and it may spread from there to other areas that they feel too much pressure.

Can you find a place where your horse feels safe while eating and see if the behavior dissipates?

Many times it is the less secure animals that find the need to kick and they are usually at the bottom of the pecking order.
    08-28-2009, 05:53 PM
Is she the alpha mare in the herd? Or boss over other horses, but not alpha? Is she low in the ranking, and if so does she get picked on? Does she kick FAST and tense or does it seem slow and calculated?
    08-28-2009, 06:21 PM
Originally Posted by Spirithorse    
Is she the alpha mare in the herd? Or boss over other horses, but not alpha? Is she low in the ranking, and if so does she get picked on? Does she kick FAST and tense or does it seem slow and calculated?

Ooooo...questions that make me think. Tricky! Lol

She is not the alpha mare...but the next highest ranking mare. I'd probably place one of our geldings a little higher in the pecking order than her. That leaves 4 horses in the herd ranked lower than her. One of those is her "boyfriend" who she is very bonded to. The other 3 horses belong to our barn friends. They all rank lower in the herd than my 4 kids.

I have a few theories including the field feeding...the barn friends adding an yearling stud colt to the herd about a month ago (will gelded this fall) and a mare that came with him with a temper.

Most of the time the kicks are very calculated. She sees the other horses coming past/behind her and the ears go back...she starts backing up/aiming towards them...and she kicks. Occassionally it's fast and tense, but I think it's more deliberate at this time.

Thanks for any insight you may have based on this. I'm trying to prevent, redirect, and take her to task when she does it. I want to make sure any corrections I do are appropriate and on task.

    08-28-2009, 06:36 PM
When she kicks fast and with tension, is it with the same horses each time or does it seem more random? Also, when she comes to get her grain, does she pin her ears or have a sour look on her face?

It sounds like she's just being dominant and telling the others to get the heck away from her food. So in this situation YOU need to be the alpha of ALL those horses. YOU tell them when they can eat.

If you can find some way to do the follow exercise that would help a lot I think. Allow her to eat some food (in an open area at first) and have another person walk a horse by her while you stand nice and relaxed near her. If she shows any sign of dominance that can lead to a kick chase her away from her food immediately. You don't have to yell or be aggressive, just swing a lead rope/lunge whip around and drive her away. Don't keep her going, just drive her off. When she looks at you with both ears forward you can invite her back in and rub on her to let her know things are okay.
    08-28-2009, 07:04 PM
The lowest ranking mare in the herd (only above the yearling colt) is her favorite target...but she likes to be a bossy nag in general. Lol

I'll try the exercise you mentioned. I've been doing similar but from the front of her tie stall. But I think that driving her away from the food when she acts out rather than pulling her up closer to me and taking the food away makes more sense.

Thank you!
    08-28-2009, 08:25 PM
You can't mess around with touchy feely stuff with a problem like this. I would carry a buggy whip with me and when she kicked at another horse she would get at least one probably two HARD whacks on the butt. There are times for gentle but this isn't one of them. Your horse could Kill someone. Please don't worry about her feelings or your bond with her. She can get over any harm that is done to her easier than a kid can get over getting kicked in the head.
    08-28-2009, 11:06 PM
Being punished for behaving like a horse will not fix the problem. The only thing lacking here is her thinking of the human as alpha, but that will not happen with punishment and force. With my horses, when I'm around they know not to play "horsey games" and try to dominate each other because I'M the alpha and I say who moves where, not them. If they do get a little play in them and try to start playing dominance games I just back them up and redirect their attention on me, and they stop immediately. And I've never hit them with anything.
    08-28-2009, 11:46 PM
She did better in the barn tonight. She was pretty ticked because I drove her back out while everyone else came in. She was the escorted to her own space and she did okay. I know this was just a lull...but I'm hoping since her "kicky-ness" was only observed for a couple of days and I started trying to address it immediately that we can get back in the business of appropriate behavior when the people are around.

I don't put up with crap--behaviorally speaking lol--from the horses. They can all have their cranky moments...but this was a first for me. I can't wait to hit the round pen and try the exercises suggested. She is typically a willing horse and I'm hoping to use her "can-do" attitude to my advantage.

Thank you all for your advice. Keep it coming if you have more. I feel like a sponge soaking it all in!!!
    08-29-2009, 02:31 AM
I agree with Spirithorse's advice; my Appy was protective over food when I got him...he would try to charge anyone that came near (not horses, but people!), and I implimented that kind of strategy; I brought his feed out, lead him up to it, asked him to wait, then allowed him to get in. I would randomly walk away, and walk back up, and when he pinned his ears and tried to chase me away, I turned his 'game' around and chased him off instead, and didn't let him near me or the food until he had a 'friendly' expression. I made sure to touch him before allowing him into the bucket too, so he knew I was truly 'in charge'...then I would invite him to eat again, and we would repeat the exercise. It didn't take him long at all to realize that being crabby over his food only got him NO food!

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