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Horse Help Center

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Handling an Aggressive Mare

Hi Franklin,

I have a 5 year old Peruvian Paso Mare that was trained to the bosal when I had to pull her out of training due to a torn medial collateral legament in her stifle. She is 80% healed now and I have had her home with me for 4 months. I am told she is an alpha mare. I am new to horses. Most of the time she is like a big puppy dog. My trainer even wanted to buy her for his young son to ride because she is so calm. She loves the company of people.

I have a slight incline I must go up to get to the shed to feed her. She follows very close behind me with her ears pinned and head snaked out. When I turn around she stops the behavior and then continues it. On the occasion that I have run up this incline she goes into a tizzy. She will run around the yard bucking and kicking. This has happened 3 times and the time before last, it seemed she was actually aiming at me with both barrels. This evening she did it again but because I had a poll with me she ran around the paddock bucking. It is 90 x 30 so in some instances she can get pretty close to me if I am not careful. I have been making her keep her distance with a plastic poll when I go up the incline. I also make her wait now while I stand over the food for a while. Before I would put it down and leave right away.

I cannot make her run in a round pen because of her injury. I can walk her. I love this horse but have a small child and I cannot afford to get injured. She is mostly sweet and loving. She will come stand by me and put her head on my shoulder for a rub.

Thank you for any advice. She will never pass a vet check so I could not sell her even if I wanted to.

Thank you, Maria

Hello Maria,

Her display of lowered head with her nose stuck out a bit and pinned ears when following you is probably about either displaying for other horses to keep away from the food source, or directed at you so you do not keep the food away from her. When you run up the hill she probably gets a bit fearful the food is going away or not going ot be there and she does not like that at all. Good idea to hold something to keep her at bay when you have food present or at feeding time. Be careful not to tease this horse. Also, consider not turning your back on her until you have developed a better relationship.

Also, good to not allow her to eat until you are ready to allow it. Consider hanging out with her while she eats, with you holding whatever you have in your hand, just to keep her off of you should she get extrememly protective of her food. Running up the hill with her food or at supper time is sort of teasing her and will make her upset obviously. Running in the opposite direction with her food is also a bit of teasing her. Consider not doing that but rather simply setting and keeping a good boundary about waiting patiently for you to say it is OK for her to begin to eat. Move slowly with this horse for a while. What you are seeing is all about the food.

You do not seem to have any sort of really solid relationship with this horse. Consider working with her on the ground a lot. Playing and dancing with a horse on the ground is where a bond of trust and respect are formed first and foremost. There are lots of dvds that show ground games with horses and training techniques found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several in my shopping corral that would be helpful to you. No matter whose you get, get several and watch them. You will gain a lot of education and knowledge for a very small investment. It is well worth it. The best training is when the mind of the horse is engaged and that does not require much movment. Learn about the mind and psychology of horses, as that is where the real magic happens.

Riding is great, fun and I love it. But, for me, the real magic happens within the conscious relationship with the horse. This is fostered through skill, knowledge, compassion, patience, slow motion activity led by the great dance partner (you) and lots of reward for the horse trying to comply with requests. I have written a lot on these topics. It is all available for free within the Help Center archives on the website and the articles - essays section. Good Luck...

Sincerely, Franklin

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