A dominant mare

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16 Dec 2009 19:57
I would Really appreciate and REALLY need some advice to help me with my 7 year old Dutch warm blood mare.
I have only owned her for 2 1/2 weeks and when i tryed her out at her previous yard she seemed fine and relaxed, her owner said she could be a little grumpy and pull faces when having her saddle put on and i saw a little evidence of this on the 3 times i saw her but nothing like she is now.

She has turned into a real dominant mare, teeth baring and hind quarters swinging if i go into her stable.
I am now having to tie her up really short with a hay net even to get her rugs changed and she is like a viper going for my face when I'm doing up her neck straps :(

I have tryed growling at her and pushing her away and she seems to take this as a cue to fight and gets worse.
I am getting really worried as she bit one of the staff at my yard and i need her to be on part livery as i have small children.

This makes it even worse as the lady who sold her know i wanted a family horse and my small girls want to come and meet her which at the moment is not going to happen !!!

Please any advice even small is really really welcome,
Horse Hero Guru
16 Dec 2009 23:59
Hi Alex

Sorry, but first there are a few more things I would like to know.
Has she suddenly turned nasty with you or has it just got worse gradually (if 2 ½ weeks can be gradual!)?
Is she worse with you or is she the same with everyone?
What is she like with other horses?
What horses does she get turned out with?
What horses did she go out with when she was in her previous yard?
What is she like when you are riding?
Is she getting the same feed as she was when she was in her old yard?
What is her feed routine – do you put her feed in as she pushes you out the way or do you make her wait?
Is she getting the same amount of exercise?
Is she getting the same amount of turn out?
What are her manners like when you are leading her – does she push you about or can you move her easily in all directions?
Most importantly, are you scared of her?

I know it is a lot to ask but you need to work out whether she is upset by her move, a change of routine, too much food, too little work or whether she has just decided that here I someone I can control.

Whichever it is you need to establish the fact that you are the one paying the bills and that for your (and her) safety she has to do what you ask when you ask. It doesn’t have to be nasty, just a simple establishment of a few ground rules in the relationship.

I look forward to hearing your answers and, in the meantime, have a look at the Richard Maxwell video on here
19 Dec 2009 14:13
hi Alex,
your mare is a typical dominant, pushy and sometimes lazy horse. She is very clever, and by the time you have stepped through the gate/stable door, she will have devised a plan to get you. what you need to do is get her to respect you, but not thruogh fear.One thing you can do is have her lose in her stable, and establish your bubble. It can be any size, arm's length is fine, and all you have to do is guard your space. Horses respect horses that respect themselves, so you are showing her that this i YOUR space, and she can only enter if you invite her. To stop her entering your bubble, flap your arms/glove(anything you have to hand!)at her face until she moves her feet away, then imedeatly stop, and wait for her to lick her lips and think about it. If she tries again, repeat each time, but always stop when she has moved. Don't move your feet while you are doing this, as otherwise she will think she has won the game or you are attacking her. If her back end is pointed at you, put pressure around the flank area, to move it away. With dominant horses it is easier to move the back end than the front end, because dominance is usually directed through the front, and defence is directed through the back end. I hope this helps, and good luck, if you need any more help you can just post it on here-i visit the forum regularly!!!
19 Dec 2009 19:49
Thank you both for getting back to me.
Horse hero guru in answer to your questions -
When she first arrived she was very tense and jumpy for the first few days and i tryed to reasure her but very quickly she changed to be dominant and pushy.
She is only handled by me and one other girl and she acts the same to both of us but has never bitten me.
She is turned out in a field with 4 other mares and things have seemed OK with no major fights, she was in a mixed field before and i was told she was 2nd in the dominance but kept herself to herself .
On the plus side she is fantastic to ride both in the school and on hacks around the farm, she seems really brave and unflappable (a riderless pony came galloping over a hill at us and she didn't really react) For the last 2 weeks i have ridden her 4 times a week but At the moment because of the weather and the ice on the yard i have not turned out or ridden for the last 3 days :(
I know that she was ridden 4 times and lunged 1 time a week at her old home , she came from a comp home and she was worked hard.
Saying that she in not a forward going horse and can be quite so off the leg at times.
She is not nice around feeding times i go the yard early around 6.00am and feed and turn out then, I do make her back up and let me put the food down, but she will turn her back on me first, she is out for around 8h in the day about the same as old home.
Leading has got a lot better (got some great tips from the Richard Maxwell and Kelly marks films) and the start she would be all over me, crossing my lines and leaning on me, but so much better now and i can stop and back her up.
Thank you
19 Dec 2009 19:56
I forgot to answer your last question,
which was am i scared of her ??
I would say that I have become very aware of her and am not happy to be in the stable with her, i suppose now I am less confident with her as always looking out for her biting or kicking out.

NH Girl, thank you so much for your suggestion, at the moment i feel less than confident to be in her stable for long with her, do you think this is some thing i could try out in the school on a long lead rope ?
Many thanks
One lady
19 Dec 2009 19:58
She sounds a lot like my Dutch Warmblood mare. It took 8 months to get her settled in her new yard. After visits from saddlers, physio's, dentists & the vet she's now fairly laid back most of the time, she still pulls faces but is far less aggressive. The things that have made the most difference have been Oestress, work, routine and rescue remedy. It's taken a while to get where we are but she really tries to please and when she's good, she's very very good. All the best!
One lady
19 Dec 2009 20:02
I forgot to say... the rescue remedy was for me & the horse ;-)
Horse Hero Guru
19 Dec 2009 21:42
Ok, so you are happy riding her and she is fine under saddle, but she has trained you well and within a few weeks has managed to get you scared of her when you are not on top. When she arrived she was working out her position in the hierarchy and has now worked out that it is in control. When she says ‘feed me’ you give her food and run away, when you change rugs or groom her you duck around her and do it all on her terms – she is the boss in the relationship. The fact you are feeling nervous around her means that she is even more sure of her position – and yours!

Now you have to change this and change it as soon as possible because her behaviour is not only ruining your pleasure, it is dangerous. She has to learn that you are the boss. For the moment you have to forget about being her friend, you have to be the herd leader.

Although your problems are in the stable and when putting on rugs this is just because these are the times that you are intruding on her space. As she asserts more dominance life will become harder for you in other areas.

Since you don’t want to work with her in the stable then I suggest that you work in the school and do exactly what Richard Maxwell does at the beginning of the video posted of him teaching a horse to lead politely. Use a simple pressure halter – it is more forgiving than many of the rope head collars on the market and actually fits the horse’s head rather than hanging loosely as most head collars do. Then, by letting her put herself under pressure which releases when she moves as you ask, you will gain control of her feet and body. Once she learns that you can control her body she will rapidly view you as the leader and her manners will improve in all matters. The key thing is that she has to learn that you control her not the other way around.

There are more videos to come of Richard Maxwell working with problem horses and watching them will allow you to watch the same process again and again and see how effective it is. If you gain control of her in this way it will reflect in al aspects of her behaviour.

With regard to feeding (and if you have time at 6am), when you take her feed ask her to step back from the door so you can go in. If she turns her back on you to drive you away then go away, with the food, leave it a few minutes and try again. She only gets the reward (her food) when she moves back and lets you put it in safely. It would be sensible if all people feeding her used the same technique.

Good luck – even when you have mastered her, it will take time for you to gain trust in her again, but I am sure that you can do it.
20 Dec 2009 20:22
hi Alex,
the arena is a very good place to teach her too. make sure you use this method all the time, otherwise it won't work! if you have her on a rope, make sure you allow her to move away from you, because people often end up pulling their horse on top of them without thinking. As for feeding- do exactly the same, the food is no excuse for her to be dominant- defend your space!!!! when you are putting rugs and saddles on, try to use approach and retreat, so if it is bothering her to have things on her show her that they are ok, by letting her smell it first. Then you slowly put on the saddle/rug, and take it off as soon as she relaxes, then gradually she will be relaxed with the saddle or rug for longer. If you need any more help just ask, and Good luck with your mare!
01 Feb 2010 14:18
Hi All,
I Just wanted to say Thank you for your advice and give you an update of how things have been going with my mare Vienna.
The day of my last post we had very heavy snow and all the pipes burst on our yard turning it into an ice rink !!
At the time i felt sick at the thought of having to deal with her in her stable but in hindsight this was the best thing that could of happened as i had to work with / around her in the stable and that was really the start of our new relationship.
I followed your advice and moved her around the stable, making her back up away from me, not feeding her until she turned and faced me (she really is pretty without teeth baring !)
With out really having to do much with the rugs she is just so much happier to let me touch and move her around.
We have had some extra help from a Parelli teacher and are really enjoying playing the games together, also changing her feed to simple systems seems to have calmed her too.
I have now had her for 8 weeks and feel that this is the start of a fantastic partnership instead of the nightmare !!
Many thanks,
Alex and Vienna
Horse Hero Guru
01 Feb 2010 18:49
I am really pleased to hear that things are going well for you and your horse. Keep up the god work so that you have a long and enjoyable relationship together


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