Equine Behavior Questions and Answers

The Question: Does my wife's gelding see me as a threat to his mare?

I am new to horse ownership and have what I believe to be a behavior issue with my wife's gelding. The situation is this: we have had them both since 11/14/04. We have not ridden either horse since we do not have tack yet but have been with them in their pasture, walked them on lead in nearby open space, and walked them in our stable's arena on lead and off. Both horses sucked up tight to each other their 2nd day since then the mare has been taken out for farrier, vet, and dental work while the gelding was left in pasture. He whinnied, paced, and bucked then calmed down when she returned. How do I correct what I think is buddy sourness? Second, he has whinnied to my mare and popped his front up roughly 12" then went down and looked at me with his ears back. He did that once. Then this evening I was walking my mare around the arena while the gelding was loose in the arena. He began circling my mare and I at a prance, with his ears forward and his tail held high. He snorted and bucked and then slowed to watch me. His ears swiveled backward and forward. I hope I reacted properly - I stared him down as I stomped my foot and deeply yelled haw. This lasted for about 10 min then stopped. Later my mare urinated which seemed to stimulate him again for a moment then he was all good. I interpret this as me being the stallion and him being a subordinate male wanting to challenge for the mare. Please help! Thank you! Sincerely, James Bloom

The Answer


I think you have a few issues going on:

1) Your horses are quite bonded. Horses are very social creatures, so they form bonds to each other. If you take one out and leave the other alone, both will be lonely. You can help this by working them at the same time, having a third horse who can keep the horse in the pasture company, and insisting that the horse you are working with keep his/her attention on you. You might have to start out with -very- short work sessions (5-10 minutes) and work up from there. Also, I never exercise one of my horses when another horse is in the same area loose. It puts you in a dangerous position.

2) Your gelding is challenging you. You must - consistently - establish that you are in charge. When he misbehaves, correct him -every- time. If you let bad behavior slide just once, he will continue to try it.

3) I would really suggest you find a trainer who will travel to your house frequently to work with you. Since you are new to horse ownership, a professional may be able to help you correct some of these behavior problems and make horse ownership fun!

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