agressive mare...please help!-long-
alright... so my 2 and a half year old arabian mare has been getting more and more aggressive as time goes on. i have had her for almost a year. when i first got her, she would kick and would not allow me to touch her much. she was very sweet for a while, then summer rolled around and her aggression started.
it started with feeding. she began pinning her ears at me when i go to give her her food. i make her back up, and wait for her to calm down before feeding her, but i have not seen much improvement. i will stand in the stall quietly, just to let her know i am not there to take her food away from her.
when i back her up, i become firm. i dont hit or smack her. but i try to tell her im the boss though body language. a strong presence and a quick "NO" or "HEY" when she tries to move around me.
well i passed it off as food aggression. she came from a guy in NJ who knew NOTHING about horses. i figured maybe she wasn't fed right for a while. she was a bit underweight when we got her. (i got her at 20 months old at an auction... the guy was just trying to get rid of her asap. he said he bought her for his 8 year old CHILD. a few months back and it wasn't working out. (well no duh.) she came with proud flesh on her back leg (which she wouldn't allow you to touch her legs or butt without kicking. lol.) )
so lately this agression has moved to general ground work or just me being around her. i go in her stall when she isnt eating- the ears go back. when working and lounging, the ears go back. when im at a distance, she will prick her ears up, and follows my every move, just watching. when i come to the fence, she trots up to me. other times, she will pin her ears at me when i get close.
i dont understand it. im very kind to her, i do not beat her up, i do not hit her often. (a smack on the chest if she's being rude.) i hear the horses can reflect their riders... but i am not an agressive person. i am very calm.
could it just be her terrible twos? is this my fault? did my training go wrong somewhere? could she be growing teeth in? does this cause pain? she just started to go into season... is it possible that she is in pain? can horses get cramps?
how can i fix this? she is the first horse i am really training... and i do not want to end up with a mean, miserable, pissy mare... nor do i want the agression to escalate into something more..
thank you all for reading this! kudos to you!
I am glad to hear that she's just pinning her ears. If she was baring her teeth, snapping at your or turning her butt to you I'd say you've got a dangerous horse on your hands.
Well it sounds to me like she doesn't fully respect you, yet. She's still the alpha in her opinion, and quite honestly her aggressive behavior is working to make you believe this as well. In my opinion, you're going to need to do lots of groundwork along with strong reinforcement (positive and negative), as you have been doing with being firm when asking her to back and waiting for her to calm down when feeding her. It may be a good idea to call a trainer, to get a second opinion and to help show you some specific exercises that would work for her and her personality.
One thing you could try to gain more trust while being fed/when food is around is grooming her when she's eating. That's a quiet, relaxing thing. She might not like it at first but just talk to her (have a full-out conversation even!) and pat her when she concentrates on eating and not pinning her ears at you.
The summer aggression makes me think that part could be linked to her cycle, especially if it's her first year in estrus.
Could she be in any sort of pain (minus her estrus)? What do you know about her history? Often pain is expressed through aggression.
haha its kind of funny because you have the kind of mare i LOVE. i LOVE a pissy mare. for some reason i connect with these mares like no one else i know. (my boyfriend says theres a GOOD reason for that... i beg to differ lol) now, enter my example, Prairie Debutante:
Prairie is a 4yr old black STB. and nasty as all get out. when we first got her she was really bad. she would kick at you in crossties (though she has never done that to me, but she did to my cousin Jake), turn her rump at you when you tried to get her out of her stall and acted like she would kick, but she never did (thank god), she pins her ears flat against her head- ive never seen a horse get their ears so flat, she bites, etc.
Prairie and i connected a lot. she is my "Princess" as i call her. i spent a lot of time with her learning what she liked and didnt like, talking to her, etc. Prairie is now my baby girl. i hug her all the time and kiss her on the mouth and nose, she doesnt turn her rump to me to get her out of her stall, never pins her ears at me or attempts to bite me. when i come around her ears go up and she nickers at me. i give her treats whenever i can (her favorite being pears) and i work with her a lot. i exercise her, harness her, wash her, etc. she still bites other people occationally when they are infront of her stall, she pins her ears at everyone else, and just basically hates other people in general.
part of this is (personally what i believe) they never gave her a chance. they just hated her because of her attitude right from the get go, and she can tell. how much time do you spend with her? she very well could be cycling and the change in hormones is big for them. my 2 yr old also likes to test me right now and see what she can and cant do.
just be firm, but be her best friend. lavish her and spoil her to death. mares are touchy and want things just so. thats what makes geldings so much easier! :D i never believed in any of the alpha stuff. not with dogs either. your a person, shes a horse, you think she doesnt know that? i believe in working with a horse and learning about them, making them happy, and you will be much happier in return.
The progressive ear pinning can easily lead to more aggressive behavior. My warmblood was extremely aggressive when I got him a little over a year ago....way worse than ear pinning.....I'm talking charging, biting, kicking, threatening to rear under saddle....oh yea! lol. I've done nothing but Parelli with him and he is completely different. Actually, he's not different, I've just changed his opinions about people and now he's showing me who he truly is inside. So that's what I would suggest, starting Parelli with her.
I also don't think spoiling a horse is the answer. Spending quality time with them, yes, but spoiling them with treats, no. When training a horse the last thing I want is for them to expect something BESIDES positive reinforcement and love from me. Obviously, I don't give my horses treats, I see them as bribes and bribes in my opinion are the cheap way out. Giving treats every now and again as a surprise is fine, but on a daily basis? Absolutely not. However, this is my opinion, I know that many will beg to differ. I've just never had to use treats, every single horse that I've worked with has never needed a treat as a reward, they will react in the same way (if not better) with simple positive reinforcement.
Your mare needs to gain your trust, develop the proper boundaries and learn that you're there to love her and teach her things as time goes on. This comes with lots of groundwork, lots of handling (brushing, longuing, leading, cross tying, etc) and most of all, patience. She needs to be worked with every day; develop a schedule of things you'd like to work on and do one exercise a day. One day could be eating and respecting space, the next day could be cross ties and standing while you're grooming her, the next day could be longuing, etc. It's all about repetition and patience.
Is there any way you can get a local trainer to come over and give you some lessons on how to interact with your horse?
That would be your best bet. When you learn about the whys and whats of horse behavior and how to act around her so you can teach her what you expect of her, things may then settle down. Til then....
It can and may get worse, because you're not thinking like a horse. She can't think like a human but you've got to think like a horse to understand and know how to communicate with her to stop the unwanted behavior.
Horses have a pecking order, right? One is dominant. That horse is that way, because that horse is willing to fight for it. Once the other horse(s) submit and act submissive around that dominant horse to his/her satisfaction, the dominant horse typically tones down the "violence."
Horses respond to the assertive but fair leader.
Horses can figure out the pecking order among themselves. But throw in a human and they are clueless. We're too weird and contradictory in our manner for them to figure out on their own that they're not supposed to hurt us but that they're supposed to be careful around us and listen to get along.
Your mare has no idea. So, she only knows how to act like a horse in charge...she'll pin her ears and may escalate the "violence" til you submit. Why? Because she's not getting any real consistent solid signals from you that you're willing to "take charge" and stay in that position all the time. you faulter.
Horses live in the moment. So...one minute you may think you're okay, and the next minute, something bad happens and you think...what the hell???
You can't take a break from being the "herd leader" in your little herd of 2.
If you can't get a local trainer to come help you (not about sending the horse out, but about getting training for you and the horse at the same time....so you can train your horse, but with supervision and a trainer helping you out).....then get started by finding some DVDs and try your best to find a trainer anyway. there's no substitute for a live person.
Clinton Anderson, Dennis Reis, John Lyons..... these trainers all have material that has helped me to train horses and to fix people's problems by training the people. (I was certified under Lyons, and am studying the Reis program right now for endorsements and have applied CA and Chris Cox and others as well).....so, I can confidently say that this stuff does work if you follow it how it was meant to be.
Anyhow, can you train your horse? Yes. But you need to arm yourself with some knowledge about horses.....they have their own little world and the more you know about it, the easier it'll be for you to see what you're doing or not doing...and what you can do to change your mare's behaviors by first changing your own. Because, really, that's what needs to change first. For example, becoming an active trainer, instead of a reactive one (preventing the bad behavior instead of just reacting with a slap or whatever, which clearly isn't working, right?).....
Get some study material. Then tackle the lesson plans one at a time. Don't skip anything. Be as detailed as possible and never in a hurry. always go at the horse's pace, not your own and you'll be okay.
But please, do find a trainer if you can. :wink:
There's clearly a huge lack of respect for you on your mare's part. A lot of that is probably just endemic to her personality, but plenty of it, I'm sure, came from having past owners who weren't worth respecting. As far as the ear pinning goes, if you don't nip it in the bud, it can easily escalate to biting/striking/etc. as I am sure you are aware. What I would do is, whenever I was around her, I would carry a crop or longe whip or whatever you've got that will convince her to back up, and whenever she pins her ears, make her back until her ears come forward or her expression softens. Then ask her to come towards you again, and if she comes toward you with a nasty expression, back her up again, and keep doing this until she can come towards you nicely. This goes for food, leading, grooming, ANYTHING. It might take a while to get through her dominance, but it will eventually work. Don't worry about her feeling criticized: she knows what she's doing and she will understand you wanting to take the dominant role in the relationship. One of the things I would not do is stand around while she eats: this shows her, as you said, that you are non-threatening, but to her, it also means you are non-dominant and that she's won in that she has managed to push you out of the way so she can eat. She has no idea you don't want to eat her grain, so naturally, she assumes that because she is eating and you are not, that she is dominant. Believe me, if she is pinning her ears while you are just standing in her stall, she does not feel threatened by your presence; she just wants you to move. Let her know that you are the one with the authority to dictate her movements.
Well, you sure got a very tough horse for your first one to train on your own. LOL.
My friend has an Arab mare in her twenties who is STILL like this after 14 years of her being kind to her but firm. I agree that her being Alpha with past owners has ingrained this behavior already.
I had to feed this horse for my friend when she went out of state for two weeks. I took a carrot stick with me and I took no guff from her. I immediately directed her every move. Example: I enter the pasture, she comes toward me, I immediately send her away and direct her to her stall (which was in the pasture). I have her go in the stall and wait. When I came in to feed her, any forward movement towards me was immediately rebuked by having her back up to a respectful distance.
My friend has worked this horse extensively in groundwork and using Parelli for the last 10 years and she remains an unpredicatable, pinny-eared witch. She throws her almost every other ride and you never know when it's coming. The last time she broke her arm so, since she's sure she will be dogfood if sold and doesn't want anyone else to get hurt, this horse is a pasture ornament.
I'm not saying that your horse will turn out the same, but to me, there are so many nice horses out there who are willing to please, gentle and not aggressive, that I see no reason to waste your time with a difficult one.
Good luck with this horse and please stay safe. I can see her bad behavior escallating until one day she hurts someone.
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