Can horses be intentionally mean?
Or is their behavior just out of instinct and we misinterpret this as meanness? This subject has recently intrigued me and would like to read more personal opinions and reader's experiences. I appreciate any & all replies because I would love something to read when I get back from exercising my husband's horse (he has a lesson in the morning after a 12 hour night shift, thought I would be kind ). Thanks in advance for the taking the time. Please don't critique the old man's riding, was taken last year, he's gotten better. In fact, kudos to the biker in the breeches & english tack!
Yes, I do. I DO admit it seems to be almost entirely a domestication issue, but I do not agree it is solely a human issue. I have worked on tracks, and I've been involved with a LOT of horses. I have met some truly mean cusses in my life who had no rhyme nor reason for being as vicious as they were.
Someone had said they can't premeditate and actually be mean, and I disagree. These types of horses WILL savage another horse in the pasture, not just humans. I am talking about the horse that goes beyond any sort of "normal" herd behavior, and will badly injure another horse in a rage so to speak for no apparent herd related reason.
I have known racehorses owned by good people who have a foul temper. They look for reasons to bite, and you're always on edge. These people will own a dozen animals, all docile and sweet and one will just have a mean streak and looks to deliberately injure with no provocation.
I have been kicked and bitten dozens of times out of fear. I understand fear entirely, I don't like the term "bad horse". But yes, I definitely believe that horses are capable of calculating meanness that defies any logic about how they *should* behave in a herd dynamic. These horses are never hit or mistreated, and yet will continue to wait for times to lash out with deliberate viciousness.
I would be curious to know if these horses exist in the wild, or if this is an unfortunate result of a bad tempered line in years of domestication.
I agree completely that MOST "mean" horses are only so due to human mistreatment and/or interference. But I have definitely met some truly "mean" horses, from the day their were born, with no explicable reason for their behavior.
Out of interest is the photo in any way related to your question?
The question itself depends on the what we decide is meanness. That in itself is a whole psychological thesis.
However there are a couple of points to consider first.
1) The horse is never wrong. What does this mean? Lots of people will immediately jump on this as being hippy and fussing over horses, but that is not my interpretation. It does not mean that they horse cannot do anything wrong, but simply that their intention at anyone time is pure. ie they act as they feel. They cannot 'pretend'. So if we assume this is correct then whatever a horse is doing is purely a reflection of its mental state at the time. Understanding and accepting that makes it much easier for us to interpret their reaction and rectify it where necessary.
2) Cause and Effect. Every action has an opposing reaction. In my experience 99.9% of horses 'mean-ness' is related to human interaction in some way. I have not as yet, met a horse than I am convinced was born as a foal - 'mean'.
3) Herd mentality. - well this is particular is fascinating. Domestic 'herds' are not actually herds at all. As such their interactions have been largely thrown out of synch. For example a natural herd will not contain geldings. It will contain stallions. Our herds are often small numbers, restricted in their ability to move by fences etc. Often restricted to one sex even (such as a gelding or mare only field), and often without stallions present. Often a day cycle will be in place which means the 'herd' is disrupted once a day to bring horse in for the night or to ride etc.
I find riding amongst a herd to be particularly enlightening, but thats a whole different subject. It does however show how quickly dynamics of a herd can change.
In my experience even in domestic herds there is no such thing as an Alpha Mare and the Lead Stallion who make all the decisions. Its much more complex than that. There will usually be small pods of 'friends'. There will often be an arbitrator, who passively disrupts fights or squabbles. This guy is often one of the strongest in the group and many horses will hang around him. Often he will also be the one that starts the lead off of the whole herd.
Yes I have seen horses that appear to want to fight for no reason, that want to kill another horse maybe. However, are they being mean? It depends on the scenario. In domestic herds their structure has had its natural dynamics absolutely destroyed beyond recognition. Much of this behaviour is I believe a result of this and the horse is exhibiting mental feelings such as the need for reinforcement of heirarchy, status, security etc. The reaction is his attempt to gain these things.
Finally coming back to the power of understanding that horses act as they feel - ie their physiology affects their mentality and vice versa - see the photo below. That is my horse. The three mare in the field next door NEVER take any notice of him, no matter how hard he tries. Yet the other day we did some free lunging in the field. He was in a playful mood and was heavily collected, in ramener and even offered the levade. The result? The picture below - those groupies came running!! I showed him how to use his body in a more powerful fashion, and so he feels more powerful, and to other horses obviously appears more powerful. Why? because these are the natural motions of a horse when it is prancing and displaying.
By fromhearttohands at 2011-06-28
Thank you Macabre & Doe for your replies, enjoyed reading them. No, Scotty is never mean, a bit jealous at times of other horses, but not mean. Scotty is the horse not the husband. Husband isn't mean to me or other women, children or animals, I won't comment on his meanness to others though, lol.
Some horses are, honest to god, just insane. Sometimes, they're born that way (if WE can have chemical imbalances in the brain, from birth, then so can horses!) and sometimes, we make them that way.
I don't believe that ANY horse is just vindictive. I do believe, however, that a horse with no reason to be nasty and just IS, has a big problem somewhere in the head, which is giving them, in THEIR head, something to attack about. Humans and dogs can have big mental problems like schizophrenia and other psychotic type disorders, so why not horses?
Edit; and horses CAN get brain tumours, which CAN also be a potential cause!
I am not totally sure but I do feel there are mean horses. Though I think there are very few of them. I think 'mean' horses are just either fearful, showing dominance or there was a misunderstanding.
One of my geldings for example. Some people think he is mean and nasty but he isn't really. He is just a very dominant horse. He isn't afraid to show that he feels he is boss and you are acting out of place. He is also one to do it in a rather aggressive manner. However when he knows you are boss he is really quite polite and really respects you. That doesn't mean he won't test you sometimes though hehe.
I don't believe in such a thing as a horse who is just flat out mean on its own for the hell of it. A lot of horses I've had presented to me as "snotty" or "nasty" or "mean" turned out to love me because I didn't treat them that way and gave them some credit and trust.
I do believe horses can do "mean" things though, at least from a human's perspective anyway. We see them be "mean" to other horses all the time, so why wouldn't they be the same to a human? They aren't doing it to spite anyone, though, purely just to feel powerful. Horses are power hungry.
Also to mention, I've met many clever horses who tried to intentionally rub me off of their backs or ram me into a fence if I asked them to do something they didn't want to do. But then again they might think I'm mean for making them do those things....oh well.
My mare was infamous for biting, kicking, bucking, bolting, ramming people over, shoving people around, pinning her ears and scoffing at everyone, etc. before I had her. Mostly kicking, though, that was the main thing. Just because, not really provoked most of the time. Everyone talked about how bad and nasty she was and were extremely cautious about her. I started working with her and treated her like any other horse and loved on her like crazy and bit back when she would come at me or threaten me. Within a week there was not a sign, and she hasn't offered to bite or kick me in months. She offers me her belly for a scratch and I sit underneath her to scratch it without a second thought. She comes right up to me and nuzzles me and rests her head on my shoulder and dozes. Nasty, awful thing. ;-)
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