July 9, 2016 at 3:45 pm
I need a little input on what to do for my mare’s bad habits, and/or what I may be doing wrong. I purchased her about a month and a half ago, she is a 12 year old Mustang with a motor that never stops running. The lady I purchased her from said she is “too much of a horse” for her and wanted something calmer, and I think she is perfect for me because every day presents a new challenge and she is turning me into a more confident and experienced rider!
However, I’ve run into a few issues and I really need some input on what to do. I think it is important to note that she is currently the only horse on my property. I was told from the start that she is difficult to catch, and we thought a little alone time would be great to get her focus away from the herd and on my instruction instead. There will be a gelding joining her soon but he is currently staying at a friend’s farm for his own reasons.
Anyways, this past week my mare has been extremely difficult to catch at certain times. It started on Thursday when I tried applying Swat fly ointment to her face, as soon as it touched her she bolted across the pasture and paced the fence line for 3 hours. I was able to free lunge her in circles around me, she would switch direction on command, she just wouldn’t stop. On a normal day “whoah” brings her to a complete stop. On Thursday, as soon as I would ask for her to apply the brakes, she went right back to pacing the fence. I was afraid maybe she was having a reaction to the Swat but everyone I talked to said they’ve never had a bad reaction from it and it wasn’t near her eyes or mouth. Her body didn’t say “distress” either, ears and eyes were relaxed, and it was almost like she was dancing around saying “Hah you can’t catch me”. I know it’s never good to leave a lesson on a bad note, but I did end up walking away after 3 hours of trying to get her under control. It was in the upper 90s, she was covered in sweat and my main concern was getting her to cool down and get a drink of water, so I went inside and about an hour later she was acting like her normal self. I went out to her pasture and she let me snap the lead rope right on without an issue. The same thing happened today only under different circumstances. I put her in our “portable grazing area” since she has mowed down most of the grass in her pasture, left her in there for about an hour, and when I went to move her back she started prancing in circles, again not distressed, but also not cooperating.
Does this sound like normal behavior for a mare’s “time of the month”? That is my best guess as to what could make this behavior start up so suddenly. I am also wondering if she is doing this trying to get me to offer her a treat. I do give her treats but only when I want to, not when she’s asking for them. For example, after a good ride, sometimes she gets a carrot, and sometimes she just gets verbal rewards with extra belly scratches.
The other issue we have stumbled upon is that she throws a fit when I take her bridle or halter off. She never gives me an issue putting it on, she lowers her head and takes the bit, but when removing it she has a serious issue with the top brushing against her ears, and I’m afraid it’s going to end with one of us getting hurt. Our last ride resulted in a set of reins being broken into 3 pieces. I had the reins around her neck so I had something to hold onto, but when I went to remove the bridle she jerked back so suddenly and bolted across the paddock dragging the bridle behind her, I was so terrified she was going to get her legs tangled up in the mess and fall. I have now learned to just leave her halter on underneath so I have a more secure grasp, but even then she jerks back and acts really uncomfortable, and I feel like that is more of a bandaid than a fix to the underlying issue. Her previous owner did say she doesn’t like her ears being touched ever since an ear infection she had several years ago. I just find it weird that this also just started about a week ago. Our first few rides together were great and she let me remove her tack without issue, that’s why the last time really caught me off guard and now it’s happening every time I try to remove her halter as well.
Sorry about that novel I just typed up there lol, I just wanted to be as detailed as possible. I would love to hear any input on things to try and also what I may be doing wrong. Is this typical mare behavior? Do you think her being the only horse could be the problem? She was previously boarded around about 20 other horses, and I know it’s not good to keep a horse alone for very long but my intention was that it would help me gain more of her focus. I’m definitely going to have her vet come check her out just to be on the safe side, but I’m almost positive it’s behavioral and want to find a solution that works for us. Thank you!!!July 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm
For one thing, she is likely lonely. Horses need company. As for catching her – don’t. Make her come to you. Bribery works, to start, but eventually she will see you as a good thing. Mine meet me at the gate, and “catching” has never been a thing I’ve had to do (thankfully, as I am too old and too lame for that!). Do you have a barn, run-in, stall or some other confined space for the bridling issue? I think it would be safer for both of you NOT to do that in the field. When you groom her, does she have ear issues? One of my mares was fussy about hers when I got her, but not any more. Another way to work with getting her to come to you is to take a chair and a book, and just sit in her field and read. Eventually, she will want to be a part of this new game. Also, I cannot tell from your post, but I am not in favor of riding or otherwise working any horse in its turnout place. That is where she relaxes (or not), plays, etc. Work should be done elsewhere. You really have not had her long enough to establish a solid bond, so everything will take time. Never hurry, and don’t chase after her, as she may think that is also a game; one which she will always win because she is bigger and faster than you can ever be. I doubt her breed has anything to do with it – it is more likely her past experiences. Mine, if they are not already at the gate, now come when I call them, but it did not happen overnight, or even in a month.
It is never the horse's faultJuly 9, 2016 at 5:19 pm
Thank you so much for your response Joe-Joe!
I figured her being lonely was part of the problem, especially since she didn’t seem to come with these issues, they have just recently started. Luckily she will have a friend joining her very soon.
The “catching” thing is weird. Normally she does come right up to me, she gets excited to be loved on and will follow me around willingly. I never try to chase her, my scrawny little legs could never keep up! It’s this recent pacing thing that I’m trying to figure out, like something in her snaps and she is a completely different horse. She is trained to come to me when I hold out my hand, palm up, and 99% of the time it works, but when she is in one of her little moods she just trots around and ignores my commands. I will have to try letting her do her thing while I sit and patiently wait, thankfully I just got into a good book I can’t wait to finish!
I do have a run in as well as a stall for her with cross ties, and honestly since the first freak out I haven’t tried unbridling her in the barn. I’m curious as to why you say unbridling her in the building may be safer; my logic was that a freakout in a confined space could be potentially more risky than out in the open where I can get out of the way alot quicker, no? I do trail riding and want to get her ready for some overnight camping adventures, so I like tacking her up in different places to prepare her for situations where we may not have a barn available, so I’m thankful we are getting the kinks out now and not out in the open! Also, I do not work or ride her in her “play” area. We have a separate area for work as well as a round pen and fields for riding.
As for the ears, she is sensitive to them during grooming but not as bad, it’ll just be like a twitch or something. I don’t believe they are causing her any pain because she doesn’t have a problem with me putting the bridle on, and she will let me adjust it around her ears without a problem. She only freaks when I take it off.
We definitely do still need more time to bond. I like to make sure every one of my visits doesn’t result in work, sometimes I’ll come out just to scratch her itchy spots! I think a lot of this could just be her testing me, in a herd she likes to be alpha mare and it will take more time for me to establish dominance and show her who is boss! She started out with a bad bucking habit that her previous owner said she had been doing for years, and we got that under control within a few weeks. I guess I was just expecting every issue to resolve as quickly as that did. Thanks a bunch for your advice!!July 9, 2016 at 6:06 pm
Bridling her inside is safer, because she won’t have anywhere to run off to, possibly dragging you. She is not a baby, although she is still young. That is just my opinion, after 57 years of experience (mostly with racehorses). My Arabian mare was much worse with the halter while in the field than ever with the halter or bridle while in a stall. My Arabian gelding and Morgan just always stuck their heads in whatever when I told them to put on their clothes (I am odd), and Selena is now doing as well as they do, at least for me. She is still difficult with other people. The Morgan, purchased from a kill pen in December (she only weighed 712 lbs) paced a LOT for a couple of months, but has now settled in and has two very nice friends in her field. Everything at your place is new to her, you are new to her, and she will probably settle down just fine – time is all important. Every time the two of you interact, you are both learning something. We all have stories of things our horses do that no one other than another horse person would ever believe (Selena is afraid of eggs and small children, and Joe Joe thinks there are dragons lurking in the bushes to steal his peppermints).
It is never the horse's faultJuly 9, 2016 at 7:37 pm
Very true, I will definitely make sure to unbridle her in a building next time. Come to think of it, this just started happening when I started tacking/untacking outside, I know horses are creatures of habit so it might be confusing to her to not be on cross ties.
There is nothing weird about that! We call her fly mask the “velcro monster” because she isn’t a huge fan of it lol! My boyfriend makes fun of me because every morning he hears me outside talking to her like most people would talk to another human. I will definitely try to speed up the arrival of her buddy so she isn’t so lonely, I don’t think my 20lb dog is the best company for her when I’m not home.July 9, 2016 at 8:48 pm
Mine think that sheets and blankets are pajamas, fly masks are hats, and so on. I totally startled one of the barn kids one day when I told Joe Joe (he’s my profile pic) to take his clothes (halter) off. No matter how odd it may sound to others, talking to your horse all the time is a good thing. Joe Joe will even pick his head up from eating grass when I tell him he needs his sunscreen.
It is never the horse's fault
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