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Trainer Q&A - Behavior Problems & Quirks - Is it possible to modify aggressive behavior in the herd?

Is it possible to modify aggressive behavior in the herd?

Sarah_lutz Asks:

I work at a summer camp in Northern Michigan and we rent our horses for half the year. We received a new horse that is a great horse however, she will back up 16 feet to double barrel one of our geldings no matter how strong you are with her. Also, she beats up on one of our other mares. She is fine with any of the other horses but since the 16 of them are pastured together I cant really keep her away from the the gelding and the mare who she beats up on. Is there anything I can work with her on to stop these behaviors?

Our Trainer Answers:

Horses are herd animals with herd instincts. They live in a highly adapted social hierarchy when allowed to live in large herds. The strongest, smartest and fastest horse will always be at the top of the pecking order, or horse #1. The entire rest of the herd will also have their place, be it #2, #3, etc. all the way down to #16. The roles will change from time to time as, lets say, #6 asserts her dominance over #5 and moves up a spot. Position in the herd is very important to horses, as is it relative to survival in the wild. 

You new mare is probably just trying to find her place in the pecking order, however, when horses are this aggressive it is best to separate them. In the process of kicking her herd mates it is very possible that one will suffer a broken leg, or at the least lacerations requiring veterinary attention.

I do not know of any lessons or exercises to teach that will carry over into the social nature of the herd.

Thank You and Happy Trails!

Christy Mellington