Is this mare too bossy? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 02:25 AM Thread Starter
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Is this mare too bossy?

We got our first horse, a 16-yr-old gelding, last fall. He's pretty mellow, and spent last summer at a kids camp. He was alone at our place for four months, and got pretty ornery without any friends.

Ten days ago, we brought home a 20-yr-old mare to try out before buying. She's been a 4H show horse, and has been owned for the last 5 years by a good friend of mine (used by his teenage daughter). At her old place, she played second fiddle to a bossy gelding. My friend said that she was always the sweetheart horse that they'd put beginner kids on.

Since the mare arrived at our place, the two horses quickly established a pecking order with the mare on top. That involved a few kicks by the mare once we finally let them into the same pen (after about 36 hours separated by a fence). We figured that was normal. I know the two like each other's company (as opposed to no company at all), because one goes crazy if you try to saddle up the other one. They often hang out near each other in the pasture (but not TOO near).

However, the mare seems to be getting increasingly bossy toward the gelding. She often corners him in his stall or the corner of the corral. (Both stalls open into a shared corral and then a shared pasture.) She frequently lays her ears back toward him, and kicks at him for no apparent reason. Most of those kicks seem to be of the "punch in the shoulder" variety, but a couple of them have been pretty hard. None have left a mark, other than mud. Not all of them make contact, and the gelding hasn't made noise about them except for the very first time. We haven't seen any biting. The gelding never responds in kind. He does seem like he's pretty dejected lately, though, after being very excited when she first arrived. Sometimes he won't eat after we stall him for the night, which is unusual for him (his hay net hangs in his stall).

Is it typical for the alpha horse to continuously assert their dominance like this? I would have expected that to settle down after a few days, but if anything, it's gotten worse. Before we commit to buying this mare, I just want to make sure that she's not being unusually mean to our gelding. I don't want to create a long-term situation where they don't get along.

All things being equal, we had wanted to get a second gelding. However, after being burned by a couple prospective sellers, the ability to buy a reliable horse from a trusted friend was a huge plus, even if it was a mare.

What do you think? Is our gelding probably doing fine, or are these two just not going to get along well?

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Just settling in with our first two quarter horses.
RIP Cochise, 2019-04-16. You will always be loved.
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post #2 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 03:42 AM
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That sounds pretty much how Mum's mare is towards mine. My advice would be to wait out the trial period, and then make your decision - but that being said kicking can be deadly. There's many a tale of broken legs and shattered shoulders... Do you feel that's likely to happen?

There are many many mares that aren't witchy to their paddock mates. Mine is one of them. If you decide not to buy this mare because of this issue, don't let it put you off mares as a whole. There are plenty of lovely ones out there.

MAKORA THOROUGHBRED SPORTHORSES
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post #3 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 05:45 AM
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Having shared a fence line for only 36 hours, I'd expect this to go on for a while. They're getting used to one another and the mare is telling the gelding she's going to be the boss and to get over it. No surprise there. I'd just watch and see if she starts kicking him instead of AT him and especially if she's cornering him to do it, that can make more likelihood of injury. I don't find her behavior over the top, mares just want to be in charge or have to be firmly put in their place by a more dominant herd member.
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post #4 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 05:56 AM
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Hi & welcome,

I am thinking the prob is not the mare's attitude so much as their environment. And so no, I don't think it's fair to assume she's a 'bully' of a horse. It is normal behaviour for the 'boss' to get the other horse(s) to move away. What you're seeing as kicking for 'no good reason' is because he has submitted to her, she has told him to get out of her space, but he doesn't(he's trapped in a stall/corral), so she punishes him for his impertinence. I would not advise you keep the horses together in a small enclosure. Not that I'd advise keeping horses in a small enclosure generally anyway...

My horses all get along great - as do the vast majority. Have lived together perfectly peacefully for years. But I still have to be careful at narrow laneways between paddocks etc. Mine know when I'm out there I am 'boss cocky', that regardless of what's going on, they're not allowed to indulge in 'horsey politics'. But if for eg I let a lower ranking horse thru the gate & one of the 'bosses' is at the other end of the laneway, I need to stay & supervise or boss might come tell underling to move & they have nowhere to go.
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post #5 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 07:13 AM
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Fully agree with @loosie . The risk of injury isn't because of the horses' behavior, but because of the environment that they find themselves in. No horse ever schemes to trap another horse to inflict the maximum amount of injury. Let them "sort things out" in an environment where the gelding always has a chance to yield to the mare's pressure.
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post #6 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 07:18 AM
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Having access to their stalls from a corral is not a good idea because the timid one might go in a stall and then he is cornered there and can get really beat up.
I would keep them separated for a bit longer and if they are out in the corral together keep the stall doors closed and also if feeding them there make sure there are several widely spaced piles of hay so the timid one gets enough to eat.
If in the corral together I might put one in the stall overnight to give the timid on time to relax and get some sleep as he will always have to be watchful of the other one if always together.

If it looks like the bully mare is not going to settle down and get along with your horse by the time the trial time is over, look for another horse. Vet bills can run high.
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post #7 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 10:20 AM Thread Starter
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The stall / corral / pasture situation is the way our place is configured, and it can't change easily. Due to the cold weather, we've been shutting both horses in their respective stalls at night. They've never been shut into the 30x40' corral together, although we hope to start doing that at night once the weather improves. So far, their domain has been either separated in individual stalls (adjacent, with a barred window) or together in the entire 1.5 acres of fenced land. They have to pass through the corral to get from the stalls to the pasture.

Each horse has their own hay bag and water bucket in their own stall. They each get shut into "their" stall at night. During the day, they frequently visit each other's stalls and eat each other's hay. I've never seen them both in the same stall at the same time, though the mare will sometimes chase the gelding out of a stall that she wants to occupy. Other times, he'll be stuck in his stall while she hangs out right outside the door. Once she heads out to the pasture, he'll finally leave the stall.

They seem to do fine out in the pasture, where they can get some space. The problems generally arise when they both want to be near the barn. Once they're shut in their stalls for the night, there's no aggressiveness, although the gelding seems to mope a lot.

The agreement was that we'd keep her for a week or two to see how she worked out. We're now about half way through the second week, so we don't have a lot of time left to evaluate her.

She's been great for riding, and is friendly (though not in-your-pocket) with people. She still hasn't lost the nervous pacing in her stall that we hoped was just new-home jitters. Because our gelding used to bite us back when he was alone, her jitters make us nervous to enter her stall, although she's never been aggressive toward people like he was. We're just gun shy. Our gelding has mellowed considerably since she arrived. I'm just worried that she's turning into a schoolyard bully that will do more harm than good to our gelding. He used to be miserable because he was alone. I don't want him to now be miserable because he's got a roommate.

10 acres in the country.
Just settling in with our first two quarter horses.
RIP Cochise, 2019-04-16. You will always be loved.
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post #8 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 10:40 AM
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You will need to shut the stall doors during the day so the gelding will not be trapped by the mare. My stalls have two doors for this very reason; the horse can still get out.

If the mare is making contact when she kicks with the gelding, I would consider her more of the aggressive type. This may or may not improve, no real way to know except give it time. My horses do not make contact when they kick out. They are more in the nature of threats. My herd is a mostly peaceful group.

Have been in pastures with aggressive horses and they tend to pick on those weaker than they are and not let up. Your mare doesn't sound that bad.

These are both older horses, if she has kicked him he might be hurt, not just sad. Please have a vet or at least an experienced friend check him for lameness/soreness.

Definitely not a good sign that he won't eat some times. Could be teeth issues or he could be in a lot of pain. Horses do not display pain easily, they tend to hide their pain.

This may get better over time, but you have to help them. Close them up separate in their stalls to eat, and after letting them out in the morning close their stalls back up so they can't get in there during the day. That way your gelding will feel safer.
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post #9 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 10:40 AM
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The behavior isn't unusual but as already said, the living conditions could make it too easy for an accident to happen if the gelding can't get out of the way.
I think shutting them in at night is the best thing to do at present as he can at least have time to relax and not worry about his food being stolen.
Its very hard to advise in these situations as I lost a big Irish Draught sport horse when it had its hind leg shattered by a 13.2 bully pony that managed to get him trapped in a corner. Other owners on the yard had complained to the yard owner numerous times saying that the pony was so aggressive he was an accident waiting to happen but she dismissed it as just 'horses being horses' and finding another place to keep my two wasn't easy.
I had a pony mare of my own that could never be kept in with other horses.
Maybe look for another gelding and let the mare go back?
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post #10 of 31 Old 02-22-2018, 11:22 AM
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"No horse ever schemes to trap another horse to inflict the maximum amount of injury." This isn't necessarily true... BUT this mare isn't doing this. She's not chasing him or actually being aggressive, it's just the set up.

Agree, keep the stall doors shut for now. Either shut them in or shut them out, it will prevent the gelding getting stuck.

This is normal but you need to be careful.

As far as her pacing in the stall, some horses have the tendency to do this. She may be stressed at the new place or she may just not like being in.. some horses just learn to do this. I would just work around this, you say you don't keep them in often overall so not a reason to pass on her, of course be careful handling her but she sounds stressed not aggressive.

Can you shut them in the pasture out of the coral and barn? A large open area where they've been getting along is great. You can add other feature's once they're more settled.
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