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Horse training the herd and handling several horses at liberty at once

Hi Franklin,

I really need help. I used to own just one horse, a very head-strong mare. She's about 8. I recently bought a second horse for companionship, another mare that's 18. At first, they were fine around each other. The older mare went to the top as the leader, and everything was fine.

Recently, the younger horse got above the older one. Now, the younger horse attacks the other, bucking, biting, rearing... etc. I have no control of this, anytime I try to step in the young horse goes after me instead. Which, of course, i correct. But afterwards the young horse will keep going after the older horse. At one point nearly making the old horse damage her hind legs.

The old horse has cuts from the young one attacking her with her hooves. And now I am really worried that the young one will take this to another level. My question is: How can i stop this before my older horse gets badly injured?!

Thank you, Katarina.

Hi Katarina,

Not a good situation. If one horse become quite vulnerable in the eyes of the other because it has stopped defending itself efficiently, the aggression can escalate. Consider separating them over a fence. This has its own dangerous possibilities in that one or the other may kick through the fence rails, etc. But, it is something to try and keep a eye on. If the younger one was hobble trained that would really do the trick. But this takes a special bit of training.

The inability to provide a consequence for the unwanted behavior is a problem with unwanted pasture behavior. Usually it is up to another horse to do that. If you had a small paddock they could both be in together, You could handle them at the same time. Using a flag, haze them around together. if one gets aggressive to the other, separate them with your cues, flag and body language. Hold the aggressive one in a spot in front of you and ignore the good one who will go behind you. Then you move the other back and forth along the fence, putting it to work. Work it a lot along that fence. Soon enough it will show signs of wanting to stop and be a good boy. Then allow them back together and haze both gently. If the one gets aggressive again, repeat the process and do this daily for a while.

This process is part of herd handling. It takes a lot of skill and wisdom of the behavior and language of horses, along with very good timing and an understanding of body language and energy in relation to horses. I did this in Sparta Greece with a horse that was part of a small herd. This horse would actually try to kill other horses (it was a ‘proud cut’ gelding). A few times doing this and things settled down very nicely. When there is no other leader around, a bully will take over. Become the herd leader.

Sincerely, Franklin

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