Problem With New Mare
Hi all. New poster here. Long time reader. My wife and I had two horses until recently. Toby is a 13 year old spotted saddle horse gelding. Star was a 28 year old off track thoroughbred rescue. We lost him 3 weeks ago to colic. :-(
We recently purchased a 7 year old mare Quarter Horse. When we looked at her, she was very sweet and rode just great. Her grandfather was Smart Chic Olena and her great grandfather was Smart Little Lena. Both were champion, hall of fame Quarter Horses in reining and cutting. We thought we had found quite a gem.
We brought her to our place about 2 and half weeks ago. She immediately went into heat. That was not a surprise. In the past 2 weeks, she has just gotten mean. She won't let us near her unless she approaches us. Her ears are constantly pinned back and she tried to kick my wife this past weekend. At the place where we bought her, she let us groom her, pet her, tack her, etc. Now she won't let us near her.
We have been told to give her time. She is nervous about her new surroundings but in the past 4-5 days, she has gotten worse. My wife wants to send her back because she is afraid she won't settle down and we will be stuck with a dangerous horse that hates us.
I was just looking for some advice from you folks. I am sure this is not uncommon. Thanks!
Sounds like she has zero respect for either of you and has decided she's the boss. At the place you bought her, you were just random people to her and her "boss" was there, so she behaved. Now that she's with you, she's realized that you're her "herd" and she's placed herself as boss mare.
I would start groundwork immediately with this horse. Clinton Anderson's videos about gaining respect on the ground would be, I think, particularly useful in this case. She needs to know that you and your wife are the bosses and that any infraction of the rules by her will be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
You didn't say how you've been handling her.
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Thanks for the reply Drafty. So I can better answer your last comment, please explain what you mean by "handling her".
Have you been doing anything at all with her? How do you (and your wife) react when she misbehaves or is "mean"?
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My wife has ridden her several times in our arena and on the trails. She spooks on the trail even though she has been trail riding for years.
When she has been acting mean, we back off. Since she has only been here a few weeks, we attributed it to her being nervous and uneasy in her new environment. We have been giving her space and not pressing the issue.
Probably not the answer you were hoping for?
Yep, by backing off, you've told her "Okay! Sorry! You're the boss!!" Giving a horse time to adjust is one thing. Letting the horse walk all over you in the process is a whole different issue. One thing I've noticed is that mares are especially quick to take control if you won't. After all, a band of wild horses is led by the lead mare...the stallion is there for breeding and protection.
This is fixable, it's just going to take time, hard work and consistency.
I'd start by working on manners on the lead. Any minor infraction--not stopping when you do, crowding you, pissy faces--gets an immediate correction. Make her back up, make her yield (move) her forequarters and/or hind quarters, make her trot circles around you. You control the feet, you control the brain. Once she's good leading, move in to other areas she needs work.
As for spooking on the trail, that's a simple issue. She doesn't trust you to "keep her safe," so she's going to react to the unknown. If she spooks, immediately disengage her brain by taking control of the situation. Make her do a one-rein stop, then make her circle by whatever spooked her until she relaxes. Again, you control the feet, you control the brain.
Do you have a trainer or knowledgable horse person who would be willing to help you work with her?
I just re-read your answer and noticed that you said you attributed her behavior to nervousness and being in a new environment. That's the best time to take control because then you are, in the horse's brain, saving them from this new, scary situation. I expect my gelding (a coming 4yo 16.2hh draft cross) to behave in all situations and to look to me for guidance. I did nothing but groundwork with him for the first three months I had him (not entirely by choice...he was an unbroke, unhandled 2yo and I suffered a fractured ankle shortly after purchasing him) and it was the best thing I've ever done. I now have a horse who trusts me completely and respects me completely.
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When I first brought my new Quarter Horse mare home last March, my husband and I had a similar situation on our hands. Although she never got terribly nasty towards us, we did encounter some rearing issues, trust issues, etc. I think what DraftyAiresMum is suggesting is a good idea. We ended up doing something very similar with A LOT of groundwork and trust building. When we finally felt she was ready to begin working under saddle again, I had an experienced horse friend come over and assist. Although this mare was 8 years old, had been ridden, and did excellent at her previous home, it took her quite a few months to fully adjust to her new environment and to trust us, her new owners. Don't be afraid to work with your mare and begin rebuilding some of that trust she displayed at her previous place. You will get there, it just may take some time and patience. Best of luck to the both of you and be sure to provide us with some updates.
By the way, welcome once again to the forum and thank you for posting! My condolences on the loss of your OTTB Star.
Welcome to the forum nice to meet you
good luck with your mare
Honestly? I think this mare was on Regumate when you tried her out and now that she is not on it? She is going to stay like this. Regumate is expensive to use too.
Depending on how attached you are, you can either have blood work done to see if she has repro problems, cysts on ovaries for instance?
And may need to consider spaying her too?
Also, agree with thoughts that this horse is running show too. Each time she backs you all up, offers to kick and gets away with crappy attitude? She is learning that you all are pushovers and can be hurt.
That said? This bloodline throws some tough minded horses, that take a firmer hand. They are usually very very smart horses and strong willed. Not a horse for someone who is wanting a "sweet little horse" that goes with the flow. Great horses though.
Vet workup first, then assess whether you have the skills to work with this mare, or whether you need to trade her on something else.
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