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Aggressive behavior in Mare

We have 25+ palomino quarter horse that we rescued from starvation almost two years ago. She has truly been a "saint" to us. My 10 year old along with a lot of young riders enjoy riding her frequently. She has never kicked, bucked or anything. The worst thing she would ever do is put her ears back when tightening the girth. Just recently instead of walking right up to us in the pasture she runs away as soon as she sees us. To top if off the other day I went to get her and when I got up to her she put her ears back, kicked and bit me really bad in the stomach. I'm in total shock and don't know what has happened to her. We have been part-leasing her to a mom with two small girls. I'm wondering if the girls have done something the horse doesn't like to her? Also, she has cataracts, do you think it may be something having to do with her vision? Today, the same thing. We went to the pasture and she put her ears back and appeared to look like she was about to charge us. Needless to say, I'm a bit frustrated at this new behavior. However, when we do retrieve her, she is the same happy, calm horse as always.

Do you have any ideas or advice for us please?

Hi Dawn,

A few things that may be going on are: The mare may be in pain from something. Have a veterinarian and perhaps an equine chiropractor, check her out thoroughly. Radical changes in behavior often come from a horse developing pain (neck, mouth, back, feet, legs). If you first rule out pain, then ask questions of the other person handling the horse to see if they are experiencing the same behavior. Also, your abilities with horses and understanding of how to be a good leader for the horse is important. The horse may have been getting progressively 'sour' (ill tempered and annoyed) over time and you did not notice and address this through proper handling and a bit of re-training. Eventually the horse gets fed up with the lack of appropriate handling (leadership) and begins to fend for itself (behavior you have now experienced).

Just because she is fine once haltered and "retrieved" does not mean she is happy. She is avoiding being caught which means when she is caught she is not a happy camper with all that goes on. I would suggest doing some fun ground games before saddling and riding. If all she gets is being saddled and ridden, that is not enough. I would address the horse being 'girthy' by looking for girth gauls and not saddling the horse if sores are present. For re-training, get a soft towel and have a friend with you. One person on one side of the horse and one on the other. Put the towel on in the girth area. Re-assure the horse a lot and see-saw the towel in that area for a few moments, stop, give praise, then do it again. Prepeat this process for a while and then try the girth. If the horse is still girthy, repeat the process again. Try having someone walk the horse forward while you do up the girth in little stages. Do it in little stages anyway. Sung a little and walk a little, etc.

She may also be unhappy about how you are 'catching' her. If you are timid, less than sure or confident, have the kids along with you (they are vulnerable to a horse), this may be part of the problem. Horses want and need a confident leader. Never assume a horse will be the same way everyday. Just like us, things change for them. Go Slow. Have the horse checked for any pain, this is important. Be careful and Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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