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horse behavior: Jealous Mare


I have a 6-year-old mare-in-foal Belgian cross. I had owned her for a year and a half before I bought an almost 2-year-old Haflinger gelding. She was fine when she was by herself, but when I brought the Haflinger, she would turn her rear to me every time I approached her. I assume this is her way of letting me know she was jealous. I always make sure I approach her first and feed her first. This went on for a few weeks and she finally got over it. I turn them out together hoping they will form a bond. But if I am in the turnout area with them, she chases the gelding away and tries to bite and kick at him and not let him get near me. When I leave the area, she will tolerate him. He follows her around like a puppy dog and takes the abuse. She has never hurt him, though.

She also seems to have a trust issue. When she see me, she happily nickers to me and comes up to me, but always stops at a distance from me and won't let me pet her (While the gelding always trots up to me and puts his face in my face). She will let me come up to her and pet her and she will even let me hold her head in my hands and hug her, but when I approach her, she turns her head away from me. What can I do to get her to "like" this gelding and to trust me better? I have a feeling she sees me as just the person to bring her food to her and cater to her and wants me to leave her alone the rest of the time. She acts like the "queen of the roost". I am worried because she is due in August and I don't want her to act aggressive towards me when she has the foal.

Thank you for any advice you have.
I do not have a round pen by the way and she is 9 months pregnant.

Well, what do you do with your horse beside feed it? Perhaps I should say ‘horses’. If there is no action on the ground with your horses, there is no relationship. Bonding with a horse and developing a relationship over time requires right ‘action’ and activity. If it were a child we were talking about, you wouldn’t just feed the child and clean him up and have a bit of conversation. You would be doing things with that child such as activities, games and outings and all kinds of things to interact in a way that brings you both together. This is how your relationship would get rolling. It is the same with horses. Trust, respect, closeness and all the wonderful things that make great relationships are formed over time thru appropriate, successful and right action. Horses are like very big children and need the same kind of great parental leadership. You do not need a round pen to play ground games with your horses. You can get skillful with lead ropes and lunge lines and use paddocks to dance with your horses on the ground. I shall have several DVD’s/tapes available thru my website soon. They would be most helpful to you. Please consider the possibility or acquiring one or two.

Something that I do to socialize horses to each other is to work them together in small paddocks or areas. I also can lunge two horses simultaneously. These are skills I cannot give you in an email. Please also consider some telephone coaching. I provide this to a number of folks looking to improve their horsemanship skills. It is convenient, easy and cost about what a piano or riding lesson costs. That is available anytime.

If you do not get your mare over this she will teach the foal to stay away as well. You should be handling the mare a lot now to get her fine with your presence and touching. Lead her, circle her a bit, do something with her to have some interaction. Don’t do anything too hard, strenuous or anything other than gentle and easy. Just something that allows you to ‘lead’ her in the dance a bit. This will help. Let me know how it goes.

Blessings to you and your critters, Franklin

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