Equine Behavior Questions and Answers

The Question: Why does my mare have such a huge attitude?

I have a beautiful Appaloosa mare that has a big attitude. She thinks it is her way or no way! We have 10 horses and she rules the pasture. She is only 4 and we have owned for a little over a year. She keeps two of our geldings fighting. One minute she is budding up with one then the next day with the other. She pays no attention to the stallion. I know she has never been abused because the man we bought her from has had her since the day she was born and her takes very good care of his horses. But she has a temper like she has been abused. She flinches and does not like for you to show her attention. My other horses all love attention. She is moody all of the time. We will have to sedate her before our farrier will trim her again. If I knew she had been mistreated in the past I would have more patience but I know that is not the case.

The Answer


It sounds to me like you have an alpha mare. In the wild, alpha mares are the herd leaders. While the stallions protect the group by alerting them to danger, defending them from other horses or predators, and keeping them out of harm's way, the alpha mare leads the herd. She shows them the way to water and grazing, and she's the one who often disciplines those horses who get out of line.

An alpha mare can be aggressive with horses - biting and kicking others to get them to move where she wants. Unfortunately, sometimes those alpha mares decide to include people in their herds and then began telling their humans what to do. Because of this, you must be diligent when handling alpha mares and keeping them in their place.

While there are exceptions, many alpha mares aren't overly friendly towards their humans. They may accept petting, but they don't seek it out. I have talked to several people who believe that alpha mares can make great working horses - although they're often harder to train.

If a great, loving personality is very important to you, you might try to find her another home. She's probably not ever going to be a friendly, loving horse - that's just not her personality.

Good luck with her - if you decide to find her a new home, I hope you find a great one who is willing to work with her!

The Equine Behaviorist

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