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Mare with foal biting other mares in pasture

Dear Franklin,

I have read several articles about horse's biting, but none pertaining to my particular problem. I have three mares and two foals in the same 15-acre pasture. One, mare has deemed herself the alpha. She is also a major bully and it seems to be for no reason. I can't figure out why she is so agressive, and biting the other mares. She has not bothered the foals, one of them being hers. She is really making a lot of marks on the other horses and I am not sure what to do about it. I am not there to correct her when she is doing the biting, so I feel my options are limited. I really don't want to separate her but that seems to be the only way. I hope that you can help.

Thank you, Sandra

Hi Sandra,

Well, it is a bit of a sticky situation. The 'alpha' mare just could be being over protective of her foal. One of the problems is that she is teaching her foal this behavior. Usually mares with foals will get along pretty well together in the same pasture. Your aggressive mare could have a little bit of hormonal imbalance causing the behavior. If this is her first foal, she could be that insecure as to go to the other extreme to protect the baby. There are a number of possible explanations.

Solutions, however, are limited. Separation is the quickest and easiest. As the foal will learn this behavior, which would be very undesirable, I agree you must do something soon. You could also try a 'grazing muzzle' on the mare. She will still be able to eat and drink, but not bite. Once she gets that her biting is not making a difference to the other horses, she may drop the behavior or her behavior will be modified for the better. However, another possibility is that she may still be aggressive and chase the other horses no matter what and still teach this to her foal.

It is always better to be able to put mares with foals together. They teach each other valuable lessons naturally. Mares with foals kept on their own are a particular problem as there are no other horses to teach the baby manners and social skills. These lessons will then be up to you to teach the foal. So you are caught in a hard place. I wish I had more to offer you in this area, but I think your options are limited. Good luck and thank you for reaching out.

Sincerely, Franklin

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