Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

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Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by Cyndi on Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:20 pm

Hi all.

I have a question regarding "guarding" (for lack of a better word). I've been away for a few days and finally got a chance to go see my dear horse this evening. She followed me around like a puppy!! I loved it!!! Yes, I think our relationship is heading in the right direction Very Happy I'm also checking into a different boarding facility, which would make my life so much better (to be away from the nasty lady at my barn!), and it appears as though three horses that Fanny is with now will be moving too, so she'll still be with them at the new place.

Anyway...back to my 'guarding' question. There is a new horse in Fanny's field - she's been there a couple of weeks. The new mare is settling in quite well and Fanny has gotten along with her whenever I've been to the barn. However, the last time I was at the barn and was cleaning up the run-in with Fanny in it with me, Fanny nibbled a bit at the new horse when she came to investigate what I was doing. Today Fanny all out charged at the new horse when she stuck her head in the run-in when I was cleaning it out (Fanny was in the run-in with me again while I cleaned it). Is Fanny just being a jealous horse and wants me to herself, or does Fanny think she's dominant over me and is telling this other horse to stay away from her "herd"? I'm not sure how to react when she does that. Do I just let it go and ignore when she does that, or is there some "deep" behavioural thing I should be aware of?
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Re: Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by Admin on Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:50 pm

Hi Cyndi,

It certainly sounds like your relationship with Fanny is progressing well.

My mare also will keep the others away from me when I am in the field, but she certainly doesn't show any dominant behaviour towards me and I would be able to go to the other horses. however she is the dominant horse of the group.
Horse hierarchys are far more complex than simply a dominant horse and the others are ranked below, they are often quite fluid depending on the circumstances especially among mares.

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Re: Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by mazrush on Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:20 pm

Hi Cyndi

Hope your move works out well. Ther's nothing worse than someone undermining your confidence all the time. I can't offer an opinion on the 'guarding' but I have a mare that I've owned for years and she has always been a difficult and complex character. I used to ride a horse for someone else and this horse was much better than my own mare. I was standing outside my mare's stable when the owner of the other horse said it was up for sale and was I interested. I was very tempted and told the owner I would think about it but would have to sell my mare. Then my mare bit me quite hard on my shoulder. That is the only time in 16 years that she has ever bitten anyone. I never did sell her. Sounds Like Fanny is fond of you.
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Re: Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by Cyndi on Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:04 pm

I was VERY surprised to see Fanny "charge" at this other mare, because normally she is so sweet and gentle. Even when she first arrived, she would never fight back when the other horses chased her away and tried biting and kicking her. Actually, if they chased her away from the feeder, she'd just circle around and come right back. She was very persistent and I think they finally gave up on chasing her away. LOL Now, she will stand in the run-in with the alpha mare, as well as eat at the feeder with her, whereas before the alpha mare would go out of her way to drive Fanny away. There are still times when the alpha mare and the alpha gelding can clear the feeder, water trough, or run-in, but for the most part they are okay with Fanny. When a new horse came to the field next to Fanny's, she (Fanny) was the first one to stand next to the fence, nickering softly at the new horse.

Fanny will go and graze with the lowest ranking horse in her field, and has been a good pasture mate to the new mare that has joined her herd (except for the one incident that I had mentioned). She is such a sweet horse, I think she could get along with just about any horse. I adore my girl flower

Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder... at least in Fanny's case. She seemed very happy to see me after I was away for six days. I have been enjoying just being with her. I set a plan for what I want to accomplish with her each time I see her, but if things don't go as planned, it's no big deal. I can honestly say that I am enjoying her very much. Thinking of moving to another barn is also keeping my spirits up. Since starting a part time job, I don't get to see Fanny every day, so it seems that when we are together we just make the best of the time we have.
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Re: Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by Cyndi on Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:17 pm

HI Mazrush,

OUCH!! I don't even want to think about getting bit by a horse!! My dad got bit on the chest once, because the horse went after something he had in a breast pocket of his shirt. I hope your shoulder was okay!

When I was hand feeding carrots to Fanny, that made her a bit "nippy" with me, so I stopped doing that and she's been fine. I bought a cloth "Frisbee" dog toy that I put treats on, and feed Fanny from that. That way I can still treat her, yet it saves me from getting nibbled whether I have treats or not, and she hasn't tried to nip since I've been using the Frisbee. I can even toss the Frisbee away from me and she will go to it because she knows that when she sees it, there are treats around somewhere Smile
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Re: Horse Behaviour - "guarding"

Post by Sydney on Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:21 pm

I work around a lot of horses like this at the place I work. It sounds like a typical case of a horse climbing up the herd ladder and trying out their new found "I can push you" skills.
Horses that were previously bottom of the pecking order often show increased aggression towards other horses. A lot of them still hold the fear of the other horses that were once dominant so they make sure they stay out of the sneaky bite range by chasing them away.
Indigo does this a lot. Shes always curious to see what I am doing and chases other horses away when I am around. It could be that shes just waiting for a treat or shes real curious and doesn't want the other horses around wile she concentrates on what has her attention in case they might sneak in a bite. I haven't seen her do it enough to be able to experiment with it.
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