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Mare having aggressive new behavior

Hi Franklin,

We have a 5 year old mare that we have had for 6 months. My husband has been working her in the round pen with just a lunge whip that is used in the proper way as taught to us by a trainer. Our mare has done very well and seemed to enjoy being lunged. We have shown her to some perspective buyers and again she has done very well. Over the last two days she has become very aggressive! My husband and I are the only ones around and there has been no changes in her life and no trauma. Within approximately 1-2 minutes in lunging her she begins kicking and circling closer and faster charging at my husband in the middle. He tried to keep her under control using the lunge whip appropriately but finally, had to leave the round pen because it was a dangerous situation. Today, I tried lunging her and with her third pass of kicking and cutting in closer and closer, she ran straight towards me within 6 feet, turned and kicked up at me! Of course, her ears are back and she seems annoyed just asking her to walk! We have checked her feet and legs and have found no problems. She is able to be saddled and ridden except about 3 days ago when she would bulk at going forward. We can halter, lead and walk her in the round pen. But for some reason lunging her has become a problem. We have never had this problem before but, are concern with this aggressive behavior, (and what we consider, dangerous), and feel that only a very experienced trainer could help. At this time we do not know what to do. She has 20.5 acres to share with a 25 year old gelding and is very well cared for.


Larry and Debbie

Hi Larry and Debbie,

Once a horse has intimidated a human, it will continue to do so until the human can become the good leader again. Also, you missed signs that the horse was testing you. Horses usually give subtle signs they are beginning to really test the resolve and skill of their leader. This is so they can survive in the wild. When you missed these subtle 'signals' the horse was sending, it kept escalating until you began experiencing the very overt, aggressive, behavior you are now having from her. Also, it is true that mares can definitely be more moody than geldings (especially during their estrus cycle). This could be part of the 'mix' of the situation as well.

You could try not pushing the mare as much. Try using a 'flag' (plastic shopping bag affixed to the end of a 5 or 6 foot whip), to fend the horse off. and simply keep the horse away from you and only move the horse off of a specific spot. The leader of the herd controls the territory (spacial aspects of where the horses are). She moves about at will and goes where she wants, when she wants. She does not behave aggressively towards the other horses, nor push them around. She simply goes somewhere and they move out of the way (or follow her). Consider acting more like the leader rather than the bullies of the herd that chase others around. Simply occupy territory by carrying the 'flag' and only using it minimally to have the mare move off a particular spot. Do this in the round pen so you do not have to move very far. After you stay on one spot a while, move to where the mare is and, as gently as possible, have her again move off that particular spot. Over time, this will establish your leadership which will transfer to other activities with the mare. The more you push her now, the more 'fight back' you will experience. Become a skillful leader, not a disciplinarian nor try to make the mare do anything. Simply occupy territory and do it for a few weeks and see if any changes occur in the mare's attitude towards you. Look for the mare to drop her head and lick and chew when she moves off or after she moves off. This is the signal she is becoming more compliant and beginning to accept you as her good, herd leader. Good Luck and please keep me posted. Be careful as well.

Sincerely, Franklin

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