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Gelding attacking mare

From: Diana

Hi Jessica!

Thanks for providing such wonderful advice, especially for beginners like me! About 18 months ago I purchased a wonderful grade gelding about 6 yrs old. I boarded him closeby where he got daily turnout and I took a lesson on him 1/week. Then out of the blue, my husband and I were able to purchase about 5.5 acres with a barn and a fenced pasture of about 1.5 acres. So my lifelong dream came true. I brought my best friend home! The property is not fancy, but servicable. No fancy grill work for the stalls, or heated wash racks. We made minor improvements to the stall and fence as needed. I planned almost everything. I have neighbors on 2 sides with horses, so I was able to get on their farrier rotation. I had the vet out. I have a manure management plan! I will put in a second pasture this spring. I also wanted to get a second horse. I didn't want to rush because I didn't want to get something I couldn't handle. I am a beginner, after all!

My horse is out 24/7 with free access to his stall/run-in area. I supplement grass with @ 1 lb of 12% sweet feed and give grass hay when the pasture isn't producing. He's under just light riding around the fields here, although he likes to run the fence line with the neighbor horses. (We share a fence line.) A wonderful opportunity presented itself when another neighbor had a nice mare for sale. She's @15 years old and trail safe, even for little kids. I know her history. No bad habits, current on shots, etc. My neighbor and I worked out a deal because she really wanted me to have her. (The reason for selling her is that they have too many horses for their pasture.) My neighbor would like for this mare to have a nice home, and at my place she would still be able to see her.

Well, here's the problem..(Finally, huh?) My gelding hated this mare. We walked the mare over and let them sniff through the fence and over the stalls. We walked them side by side on the lead lines. Just some curiosity, but neither my neighbor nor I tolerate bad manners when leading so that's not a good indicator. But when we turned them loose, watch out. My horse pinned his ears, snaked his head, and chased her like he wanted to kill her. The mare was terrified. We separated them, and started over. Same thing, but this time he got her on the ground. I did manage to get him away from her before injuries occurred. He does have enough respect for me not to run me down. My neighbor was kind and took her poor mare back home. We were shocked, and my neighbor is an experienced horsewoman. My gelding was not aggressive at the boarding barn. He's very friendly to me and my family, always coming up to the barn when he sees us. What happened? And what can I do about bringing another horse home? Do you have any advice for me. Currently, I do not have the opportunity to have separate pastures. Is my horse doomed to a single life? Thanks for your insights!

Diana


Hi Diana - Your gelding's behaviour isn't a reflection on you, or your farm (which sounds very nice to me!) but it IS a fairly typical illustration of why not to put mares and geldings in the same pasture. Although the introduction was far too quick, from your description, I don't think that was the problem - it's the basic mix-and-match idea that's at fault. At good barns where safety is a priority, you won't find mares mixing with geldings. There will be a mare pasture and a gelding pasture - end of story.

Some geldings - even otherwise perfectly peaceful geldings - simply go mad when they see mares in the field, and are determined to kill them. Every year, at farms where people either don't know what is safe, don't observe safety precautions, or can't be bothered to follow the barn rules, there are injuries, sometimes very severe ones, sometimes fatal ones, when mares are turned out with aggressive geldings. Even when geldings aren't aggessive, they still aren't necessarily going to be suitable candidates for turnout with mares - some geldings become amorous instead, and that can cause different kinds of physical damage to the mares.

A one-and-a-half acre enclosure makes a nice grass paddock, but it's not really large enough to allow one horse to escape from another, aggressive, attacking horse. Even if you had a ten- or twenty-acre field with very strong, horse-safe fencing, the problem would still exist, and although it might take a little longer, there would come a time when one horse would be caught between the other horse and the fence... and at least one horse would be badly damaged. It's just not worth it.

Everyone knows ONE gelding who can be safely turned out with ONE particular mare. But by and large, it's just not a good idea or a safe barn practice. If you bring another horse home, and you plan to keep it in the pasture with your current horse, get another gelding. They'll play gelding games, do a lot of rearing and biting at one another, and probably remove strips of skin from one another on occasion, but overall, it will be much safer for everyone concerned.

Meanwhile, you might just want to allow your current horse to be a "lonely only" until you can fence another enclosure. Since he has fenceline contact with other horses, he isn't likely to be really lonely, and he HAS some equine companionship. Fenceline friends can become quite good friends. Don't worry that you're depriving him of companionship - there are other horses he can see, smell, hear, and talk to, and he has your family for companions as well. The horses who desperately NEED a pasture companion are the ones that find themselves alone all the time, with no other horses for miles around their lonely field. A horse in that situation WOULD need to be provided with some sort of companion - another gelding, a mule, a donkey, a goat... just something for company.

The mare sounds very nice, and if you really want to bring her home, perhaps your neighbour will be willing to keep her a little longer, until you can provide her with a safe turnout, maybe her own acre-and-a-half turnout with a strong fence between her and your gelding. Or perhaps, if this neighbour has too many horses, she might have an equally nice gelding for sale or lease? It can't hurt to ask.

Good luck with the place - you have good ideas and good plans, and I'm VERY impressed that you not only lined up the farrier and vet so quickly, but also have a manure management plan in place. Good on you! I think you and your husband are going to have a wonderful life there. But when it comes to the horses, you'll need to keep the boys and girls in separate playrooms, for safety's sake.

Jessica

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