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Mare suddenly killing smaller animals.

Hi Franklin.

Sorry to send you so many emails lately, but i promise to stop after this one.

I am absolutely distraught, I have owned my PerchXTB eventer mare for many years now and she has always proved to be a predictable loving horse to be around. We have always owned goats, as they eat all the weeds that the horses don't touch. they walk in and out of the paddocks and across the property at will, the only places being off limits are fenced with goat wire, being the stallion yards the training facilities and the house yard. The horses have always loved them and never had a problem with them. Until yesterday, when my beautiful mare went INSANE, a mother and her kid had been in her paddock all day, when suddenly Amber for no particular reason spun around and literally trampled them both to death. I couldn't believe it, and once they were dead she went back to grazing like nothing had happened, I was so upset and took her into the stable complex and away from the goats. I brought her out today and let her see the goats grazing and she went insane once again, but this time I had control, and there was a lot of fencing in between. What could this sudden change in behaviour be about? I've had her since she was 18 months and she's now 16 and she has always been surrounded by the goats the whole time?

Please give us an insight as she is living in one of the stallion yards at the moment, but that will soon be occupied again, so she needs to go back.

Sorry for the lengthy email.


Hi Hannah,

No problem with the emails. Lets see if I can offer some assistance and food for thought.

Like humans equines can experience abrubt and extreme changes in behavior due to a number of influences. A horse trampling and killing a smaller animal is not unusual. Sometimes it is because they view the smaller animal as a predator. Sometimes they will kill foals that are malformed at birth. Viewing this behavior is always disturbing and unsettling. We think we know our horses. Why, after living all these years around goats, would the horse suddenly want to kill them? Your mare is reaching senior citizen status, age wise anyway (although she is certainly not old) and changes in her hormones, brain chemistry, disposition and are likely to occur. There are many things that go on for horses that we cannot understand too. They are not us and we are not them. There is mystery that will remain forever I think. Look for any other personality changes occuring now too. They probably will not be as extreme as this, but they may be there. Has your mare had a foal? This may enter into the equation as well. Some mares will kill foals of other mares if they can get to them. It happens. Perhaps your horse, all of a sudden, views the goats as foals of other mares, sees them as vulnerable (without protection of their mother) and has decided to eliminate them so to provide her foal with a better chance of survival. This is actually very likely and natural behavior. Is your mare pregnant?

So you see Hannah there are a few possibilities here. For a while I would keep them separate as the behavior will likely continue for a time, at least. Let me know the answers to my questions about her foaling history and if she at present is in foal. Please understand, while the behavior is very disturbing, it is still natural and very within the normal nature of the mare to do this. She is not all of a sudden a vicious, mean and dangerous horse. But she is certainly dangerous for the goats and, perhaps, other smaller animals. I look forward to your responses.

                                       Sincerely, Franklin

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