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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was about to post this thread when I found RescueRocks' thread on her horses fighting in turnout which gave me some insights on my own problem. But I'm going to post anyway, see what you all think of this one:
I just exchanged one of my mares for another mare, and the change in 'herd' composition has caused an upheaval. I have a 4yo filly who was strongly bonded with the mare who has gone, and the newcomer (13yo mare) acts quite aggressive to her. They have been in separate, nose-touching lots for two days, but I only really have one turnout area and yesterday I tried them together.
The filly is curious and friendly; she has always had a close friend in her first home and with me, and she acts dependant on her older companion. The new mare isn't interested in having a young follower and sends her packing. So far, fairly simple. The newcomer will establish her dominance and my filly will get used to her stand-offishness and things will be ok.
The problem is my position in the hierarchy. The filly always follows me around in her turnout. She crowds a bit at times and I correct her, but perhaps I'm too gentle with her on this. Now the new mare also approaches (jealousy?), the filly gets nervous and looks to me for protection, and the new mare goes for her.
Who is being disrespectful?
The new mare behaves fine on her own; I've only had her for two days but her ground
manners are quite acceptable. I don't know if she was kept with other horses in her previous home (she came via a dealer) though I suspect not. The filly always got on great with my former mare.
Will keeping them separate for longer achieve anything? In the long term they'll have to share their turnout. Are there any groundwork exercises that might help? Is it just a questions of asserting my position of herd boss and letting them sort themselves out?
I wonder if the filly saw my former mare as boss rather than me? We all got on fine, I could handle them both perfectly when they were loose, groom, etc. Perhaps I've relaxed too much in my relationship with them and I need to tighten up now the 'herd' has changed.
 

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I believe you are over thinking this a bit.

Now the new mare also approaches (jealousy?), the filly gets nervous and looks to me for protection, and the new mare goes for her. Who is being disrespectful?
When you're in a group of horses, everyone must behave or you're going to get hurt. If your new mare goes for your filly when you're around them, you need to run off the new mare. It's a simple rule for me, whomever fusses around me gets chased away.

Will keeping them separate for longer achieve anything? In the long term they'll have to share their turnout.
Probably not. We typically keep new ones separate for 3-5 days, but if no one is getting seriously hurt, leave them together.

Are there any groundwork exercises that might help? Is it just a questions of asserting my position of herd boss and letting them sort themselves out?
Ground work won't help the pecking order fussing. They need to work that our themselves. As I said above, when they are around you, however, you need to be the boss and chase bad behavior away just like a boss mare.

I wonder if the filly saw my former mare as boss rather than me? We all got on fine, I could handle them both perfectly when they were loose, groom, etc. Perhaps I've relaxed too much in my relationship with them and I need to tighten up now the 'herd' has changed.
You're over thinking here. Although you always want to be the boss, you're not a horse and your relationship is always different than a boss mare's. A boss mare is always the boss. You just need to be the "boss" of the boss.
 

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Firstly as they're going to live together, I'd be inclined to let them settle together & work out their own relationships - & that won't have happened after 2 days, or if they're separated. Keeping them apart for longer will only delay the 'sorting process'.

I think there are different ways you could handle it, depending on herd dynamics etc, as to how much you allow the new mare to call shots while you're around, but for safety & convenience's sake, regardless of herd dynamics, I tend to enforce the rule that when I'm close by, I'm the only one allowed to be bossy or discipline 'people', regardless of whether I'm playing with Mr Lowdown & Miss High & Mighty wants to own me or not.
 

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Human should always be running the show. Or human will be under the show, so to speak.

I do not put up with any "get out of my way" attitude from horses in any situation, I am the prima ballerina, and the only heifer in pointe shoes, in other words.

If you watch lead horse in a group of horses? The others are very careful to not act the fool, or overstep their place.

Jostle the leader? And get bit or kicked or run off. Leader does not put up with foolishness and neither should you.

All horses need to view you as boss no matter what.
 

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Last year we had two mares and brought in a new gelding. Had everyone separate. The one mare that was next to the gelding just wanted to kill him the first night. Kicked the barn wall and would rush at him something awful. Then they switched the next day - he would go after her. Working out who is going to be boss. The OLD mare wanted nothing to do with either of them. I probably waited a couple of weeks before I put them together. By then, they got to know each other and work it out over a rail fence.
when they went together it was pretty uneventful. A bit of posturing and he kicked at her, she ran.
When I went in with them, he thought he was the BIG MAN and he was going to be herd boss. The younger mare looked to me for protection and he went after her with me in there. I wish I had had a whip with me to smack the ground or just have something with me. But I just puffed myself up towards him and yelled at him and waved my arms. He backed off, put his ears back up and that was that. I've had him now for just over a year, and he still tries to assert his authority with the mare. The old one is gone - we had to put her down due to old age issues. So it's just the two now.
He mostly goes after her near the barn. When they are up on the 5 acre hill, all is just fine. But if he even looks at her wrong, I just say his name with a very stern voice and "NO!!!!" And he behaves, ears back up and just turns away. If you watch two horses and one looks at the other cross eyed, the low one on the totem pole looks away or moves away. That's what you want with your aggressor. You are part of the herd when you are in there with them. And you have to be top dog. I got badly kicked once because I didn't assert my authority. Two horses were arguing and I was in the middle and well, I lost.
 

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My broodmare is VERY possessive of me. Not so much as she was a few years ago, but if she gets the chance to run another horse away from me she will take it. She doesn't act up when I have my hand on her and won't make even a sour expression if I am petting another horse. It is when I step away she will run the other off. I do keep an ever wary eye and ear on her no matter where I am. I know what she does.

My solution is when I want to pet another horse, I send her off. She listens very well. All I have to do is point and cluck, occasionally I need to enforce with a stick of some kind(though I never have to touch her with it) or something else, but I move her about 50 feet from me and keep an eye on her until she starts grazing again. Occasionally she gets ****y and pouts. She will throw her head and bite her chest, but normally she just goes back to her business until I am ready for her again.

So, I think yes, groundwork will help you, just so she knows what you are asking. You can make your personal space as big as you like with horses. It could be five or fifty feet for you to feel safe and it changes with the situation, and they must abide by it.

If the new mare attacks, get out of the way. Don't get between the two horses. Don't try to stop it when it happens, though get to know the new mares signs so you can stop it before it happens. You protect you and let your filly worry about herself. While you are the boss of both, you don't control the horse herd hierarchy.
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone for your advice. I must admit the new mare's aggressive reaction to my filly surprised me. They were separate for tthree days and the new mare started getting very nervy, especially whenever the filly went out of sight.
When I finally let her out with the filly, the new mare went running to sniff her, the filly squealed (anticipating a fight) and so the mare went for her with her hind hooves. They split up pretty fast, and as long as the filly leaves her alone, the mare is fine.

But when I take the filly out to ride her, the mare goes crazy, neighing frantically and charging up and down the fence. Apparently she was kept on her own before, and I think she's thrilled to have a companion but not quite sure how to interact. We seem to be dealing with a real love-hate relationship here!

The new mare respects my personal space just fine - it is actually the filly that's the problem here. She was very pushy and clingy when we got her last summer, and while she has improved, I realise I've been letting her get away with invading my space. So I'm working on that with her now.

It's SO easy to get slack with their manners, and until something went wrong, I didn't realise it was time to pull my socks up!
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I don't allow other horses to run off the horse I am interacting with. If a horse (any horse) comes into my imaginary working bubble uninvited, they get chased off with whatever force is necessary to get them moving with a purpose in the opposite direction. Otherwise you may wind up between a fence, a low-ranking horse that is getting panicky and a pushy high level horse looking to run the other off. Way too dangerous for my taste. Too easy to get run over, kicked or otherwise hurt when you're in the middle.

I just look at it as though I own everything. And if I want Horse A next to me to interact with, Horse B WILL stay away from both of us until I send Horse A off myself and invite Horse B into my bubble for interaction. They can do whatever they like when I am not there, but when I am there, everyone will play by my rules. No exceptions.
 

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The mare may associate you with bringing treats or feed, memories of her past life. She's not about to share. Always carry a dressage whip or handy stick whenever you are in with the horses. They get to squabbling and someone gets hurt. Whatever you allow the filly to get away with now it will be twice as bad when she's bigger. Be a leader and demand that they back off. Don't worry if they won't love you, worry if you can gain their respect.
 
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