She Lunged at a KID!
I bought Vexy mostly as a companion for Zanna in August last year. She was 14 months old and when we put her on the trailer, she had never had a halter on and was still at her dam's side running on 35 acres with over a dozen other mares. Her first night at my place, she tore down her stall door and destroyed the gate on the barn, and tromped half a mile through the woods after taking down the fence. With that rough start to our relationship (she learned to lead with both of us picking our way through dense pine forest at 3am) I have taken pains all along the way to tread that fine line between firm and friendly. I had gotten to the point where I could just walk up to her in the pasture and put her halter on without issue. I've even begun working her with the saddle on, putting the bridle under her halter during work sessions and making all kinds of great progress with her training.
Well, a few weeks ago, my fiance mentioned that she tried to bite him when he was grooming her. Not really sure he knew what he was talking about or thinking maybe she was hunting for treats, I went out to her stall and tried to recreate what he told me happened. She pinned her ears, but not much else so I brushed it off as exaggeration. A few nights later, I was out in the barn with him at feeding time and while I was grooming Zanna, he was grooming Vexy and he said she did it again. So I went over to her stall to watch what she did and sure enough, when he brushed her girth area just behind her elbow, she pinned her ears and snaked her head back to bite at him! To his credit, he did not step back, he popped her shoulder and pushed her head away. (he is not a horse person, he just likes to brush them lol)
Well, since then it has just gotten worse little by little no matter what I do. She has kicked out at us in the pasture. She bit me when I fed one morning. She has become unruly and hopeless during training sessions. Today was the final straw. We were in the pasture, me, my fiance and his 9yo son, and she lunged, ears pinned, teeth bared full attack mode straight for the boy! I can only thank all our guardian angels that I was standing in just the perfect spot that I was able to step into her path and turn her aside. I didn't even have to touch her, just stepped into her path and squared my shoulders and she backed off.
I've been over her with a fine tooth comb. She has no injuries that I can find. No heat, no swelling and nothing to indicate a pull or strain. She acts annoyed with me, but gets aggressive with others. We don't have anyone that lives nearby that could be attacking or antagonizing them. For that matter, she is in the pasture with Zanna and she is just fine. I have never seen a horse change like this. I don't why she has suddenly flipped out. For now I have banned anyone from messing with her but me, including feeding and turn out. She is just going to have to deal with my erratic work schedule since I don't trust her not to take my fiance's hand off or kick his teeth in out of pique.
Has anyone ever seen a horse do this? And do you have any suggestions for what to do about it? I'm trying really hard to give her the benefit of a doubt, but even if I do get this issue fixed, I'm selling her. Going after the kid is just too much for me to forgive.
Although I will say 2 years old is a rank age for some mares, she's takIng it to the extremes. Some serious ground work, and maybe even an ulcer check seem to be in order.
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I did not think about the ulcer thing! I'll get on the phone with the vet first thing tomorrow morning.
I am thinking it could be an ulcer issue as well. That was the first thing that came to mind when you said your fiance was brushing her girth area and turned to bite him.
Get her checked out for that first, and go from there. If she doesn't have uclers, I feel a Come To Jesus meeting coming on, whether it's by you, or a professional trainer.
We've had many young horses and we've never had anyone act like that. Either we've been very fortunate or we know what we are doing. LoL. I haven't decided which one it is yet. ;-)
I do not think that an ulcer is any excuse for a horse to behave as she is.
At her age she is testing the boundaries. With you she knows that you are the main handler and have worked with her but others are tested and with the reactions she has received means she can push them further.
She needs to be corrected hard and fast when she threatens to misbehave.
Had she attacked anyone in the field then she would have been chased away and chased for some time. If she threatened me when I went to feed then she would get her feed, complete with the bucket, wrapped around her immediately and then chased around. Biting would get her a flat handed slap across the side of her muzzle. No titbits at all.
To me it sounds as if you are trying to be to nice to her. Get tougher. Be consistent, tighten the boundaries. Make her know that bad behaviour will not be tolerated. Learn to read her body signals and correct before she follows through.
I admit that because she was so standoffish, I have tried not to be quite so heavy handed with her as I might have been with a horse that did act somewhat fearful of people already. After yesterday however, all bets are off. If I go in the stall or the pasture with her, I have my dressage whip in hand. If I am handling her, she has the lead with the chain on it. When I feed, she stands against the wall until I step away from her bucket.
I know how to read her. I think it has just stunned me because I have dealt with her siblings and cousins for years, I have raised a decent number of young horses and I have never seen one go aggressive like this.
I am now certain that my fiance has been a contributing factor, if not the reason, since he refuses to learn how to handle them the right way but wants to "play" with them in the pasture. With me working full time and him home a lot, I have no idea what he does with them. We had a pretty big blow out over that too and the net result is that he is no longer allowed to mess with them at all. As a matter of fact, there is a chance that after this fiasco, I might look for a place to board them and start hunting for an apartment. I really enjoyed the part where he called me a bitch because what I "think should be done with them is boring." Yup, safe and correct is boring because watching 600lbs of horse lunge at 55lbs of kid is so much fun. :( This is turning out to be a bad week for me all over... I'm sorry off topic...
I don't have a round pen and my arena is only 3ft high so I can't do the free work that I think would be the best solution. My plan is to do a lot of work in hand, perhaps with some trail type obstacles to make her focus. I am also going to change her routine in general to being hand walked from the stall to the pasture and back. My barn is in the pasture, so what I was doing was just opening the stalls and letting them out. From now on, if she wants to eat, she has to come to me, put on the halter and behave like she has some sense just to get the 15ft from the pasture gate to her stall.
I'm still going to have the vet out to pursue the ulcer thing, but I agree with Foxhunter, that is still no excuse for this kind of behavior. I dropped the ball, but now we both have to toe the line.
You both need to learn herd dynamics. Done correctly the bf enjoy playing in the field. Men get pretty touchy over being told they are in the wrong. Why not hire a good trainer/clinician to come to your place and help both of you work with a young mare who is testing her boundaries. She is running the show and will continue to get worse unless properly dealt with. It's not always about smacking the horse for inappropriate behavior but getting them to move, backwards, sideways and make them hustle. Their legs are designed for forward movement so this is harder work for them. Horses like to stand still and standing still after moving her can be her reward, not loving on and treats.
I noticed no one mentioned heat cycles she is 2 correct? her hormones and her age and herd instinct all adds up to one PMSing mare. I agree with getting her to realize who is boss. However I would never smack a horse anywhere on the head, that can just lead to head shy ( No affence FOXHUNTER)
Do not feed any treats by hand to a growig and learning horse, that is going to lead to nipping. I give all my treats in feed bucket or tossed on ground. Its still a treat wether given by hand or in feed bucket they dont care lol. Also with young horses I dont even hand graze them as this tends to make them head pullers. when I have a young one learning Its when I have the lead they follow they pay attention they respect. Like raising kids cant just let them run amuk with no teaching.JMO
I have a 2 year old that she would bit when grooming the girth. I just kept doing it and letting her mouth hit my hand hard to she thought it was her that was her hitting me and she quit it fast. I she also trys to bit when i do stuff she dont like but im really firm with her and she is getting better. Stay firm and dont let her get away with anything.
I have not seen her show any signs of a heat cycle yet, though that is a possibility too.
I would be very happy to find a trainer to work with both of us so we were both consistent with them. I am always happy to learn more when it comes to training. The problem there is that he has told me, in very solid terms, that he is not interested in learning. If he can't just do what he wants to do, he will just leave them alone all together. Sadly, I am finally seeing that what he wants to do is feed them treats, let them push him around with their head, and actually tickle her behind her elbow to make a game out of her turning her head to bite at him. He refuses to see that these things are probably directly responsible for the attempted attack. I think that knowing this is most likely learned behavior, I have a better outlook on fixing it and a better understanding of what I need to do.
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