Gentle to Aggressive within days - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-01-2015, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Fernley, Nevada
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Gentle to Aggressive within days

I have a 3 year old mare who was rescued from a slaughter. I have had her for about 5 months and have been slowly training her. From day 1, she has always been very gentle and quite affectionate, who I have so far never seen spook, through all her desensitizing training. This last week she has become very aggressive towards me. She attempts to bite me, kick me, and charge at me. I am not new to horses per say, but am new to mares. She wont even let me in the corral without pinning her ears and trying to charge me. This behavior is very surprising with her and becoming quite dangerous.

Any advice? I live in Nevada, so I'm doubting that she could be in season, but could be wrong.

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post #2 of 15 Old 01-01-2015, 11:41 PM
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If she was underweight and you've been feeding her up it could be a factor.

A similar thing has happened before to me though. I think I just let a few vices go and one day it clicked in her head that she was boss and she became aggressive. I ended up fixing the problem but it took a few weeks until I built up my confidence.

A big step for me was food agression, I chased her off with a lunge whip and made her wait before eating. After that she began respecting me more.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-01-2015, 11:44 PM
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Any changes in feed or climate? I once rode a mare who was a bit speedy but fairly docile. We didn't know it at the time but she was anemic so when she went to her new owner and was put on red cell the next time i rode her she was trying to buck me off. This is a mare I'd ride bareback in a halter and hack out ponying a lesson kid and all of a sudden she wanted to buck me off. Cold or windy weather can also make them act like idiots but I've never seen them aggressive like that.

First I'd put a stop to that behavior. I don't know how you are reacting to her charging but you need to drive her away from you. She's only aloud near you when you let her. If she charges at you do NOT run. You step into her and drive her away, backing is defeat and will make it worse.

I suggest you take a whip of some sort or a rope halter with leather on the end will do and use the noise of it swinging to intimidate them into moving away without them getting close enough to leave a lovebite/kick. Even if she stops charging you and looks friendly keep chasing her off until she stands and watches from a respectful distance. Then you invite her in. Some people back away to draw the horse in, I prefer to use my hand out palm up as an invitation. I teach horses this is a signal to come and "greet" me. Horses typically reach out their muzzles and smell each others breath in greeting. If she won't walk to you at this gesture walk to her, approaching from the side and facing her shoulder and stop far enough away that when you offer your hand for a greeting she must take a step toward you. I taught a training horse hand signals like this before and I find it very useful, especially when they tend to run away in the field. I also do this when entering a stall. Mares especially seem to appreciate the gesture as its sort of horse manners. I stop at the door and either they come to me to greet me or they ***** their ears at me and I "greet" them. This pleases the mares and ensures that the horses know I'm coming.

Good luck with your mare. This might be high spirits or PMS, personally I don't care. I'm of the opinion that horses can be horses and be grumpy or whatnot but if they do more than tossing there head at the tightening of the girth or swish their tail at me then I get after them. Good day or bad I am in charge and they are NOT allowed to act a fool when I(the much more breakable human) am in the way.

Hope this helped! Good luck!
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-03-2015, 03:40 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Fernley, Nevada
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Thank you for your replies. She was under weight when I got her, and has definitely put on weight. I should say she is at a healthy range now. When she charges, I back her away from me with the whip.

She was better today, but still iffy with me. She has calmed her behavior, but I know she was looking for a moment of weakness in me, where she could start acting up again. That never happened and we ended on a happy note after doing ground work.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-03-2015, 05:39 AM
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My friend's mare is a bit like that. She is extremely gentle and sweet most of the time, when she is in season she is the devil. At least to her owners..

My friend keeps warning me that the mare might bite, and that she turns her back quite often, etc. I arrive on the same day, and the mare hears my voice and appears. comes to me, doesn't try to bite, no threats to kick. I have been told it is because she respects me more, so there must be a couple of things the owners are doing wrong, to make the mare try to control them. She has made her owner move her hay to a place she prefers.. and of course I told them it was a big mistake. Soon enough we will get the mare under control again. Actually, I have been there when she is in season, and the worst was threatening to nip me when I was stroking her all over.. but then I reminded her that it is not allowed and she stood there. At some point she walked away - that's the thing, being free in the paddock, she will choose to walk away from me if she is grumpy. Her owner, well, the mare chooses to attack or just make them feel uncomfortable.

For me it has always been easy as I put the mare under control from day 1. I told her my rules and up to now she is respecting them.
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-03-2015, 08:25 AM
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One more thing to consider, she may be going into more regular heat cycles now that she is healthy again.

Certainly back her off and work this aggression out but watch to see if there is a cycle to this bad behavior. I've had several mares who almost became different horses when they were in heat.
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post #7 of 15 Old 01-03-2015, 03:23 PM
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Two things have been going on here:

First, the feed thing is HUGE. We have a name for it when thin horses completely change as they get fit and fat. We say "They can't stand prosperity!" They do not get nasty as much as their 'true' disposition comes out. They become the horse they were in the first place -- frequently why they became unwanted and were 'thrown away' to begin with. This is not always true, but it fits an awful lot of the time.

Second -- this.
This last week she has become very aggressive towards me.
She started putting pressure on you a long time before last week. You just did not 'read' her interactions correctly or soon enough. I guarantee that she stepped into your space and you backed up or 'gave ground' to her at some time. Probably, several times in the last 5 months, she took advantage or she put pressure on you and you obligingly stepped back and gave ground to her. While it did not tell you anything at the time, it told her that she was above you on the pecking order. Little subtle interactions and changes in body language told her everything she needed to know. She thought she had the 'green light' to push you completely out of her space and control you. Now, you are finally stepping up and doing something about it.

Horses just don't have very many surprises up their sleeves. People just take too long to recognize many of them.

As far as being affectionate -- most horses are just tolerant of people petting on them, to a point, especially when it comes to hugging and petting around on their faces. Some are more tolerant than others, but they are just NOT an affectionate species like cats and dogs are. Most horses like petting and scratching a lot better when it is confined to the shoulders and withers. These are the places they cannot reach easily themselves and these are the places that they chose to mutually groom each other.

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post #8 of 15 Old 01-03-2015, 07:33 PM
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I would wonder about her heat cycle. I have known mares who are sweet as sweet can be but then when their heat cycle hits they are awful.
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-06-2015, 07:48 PM
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^as usual, what Cherie said! & while being niggly due to 'PMS' might also be a factor, it is not THE problem, just maybe further 'icing for the cake'.

I do disagree Cherie with the 'not affectionate like cats & dogs' tho - I reckon they're affectionate as much as cats - that is, so long as theres something in it for them & it suits them to be!
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post #10 of 15 Old 01-06-2015, 09:51 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Fernley, Nevada
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I called my vet who came to check her out. He said she is in season, and that her recent weight gain is throwing off her cycles. I appreciate your response Cherie, but I am not a novice with horses. Whisper just happens to be the first mare I've had and am unfamiliar with their heat cycles. I watch my horses reactions to everything and make sure to respond appropriately. She is not dominating me, and will not as I DO NOT give her ground. I worked with her these past few days and she is back to being her same gentle self. She was just in season. She is a very wonderful horse, and I completely disagree about horses not being affectionate. This horse is extremely affectionate. When my three year old tell her to give him kisses, she bends down and gives him tiny licks. This is just one part of her being affectionate. I'm sure many other horse owners will agree that horses can be affectionate animals.

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