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Mare behaves badly around feeding time

I have kept horses for years and not yet have I come across this. I've just bought a 2.5 year old filly. She's a lovely bright little pony who is coming on nicely. She's fine (now!) with the other ponies and with people.... that's until its feed time!! I've never seen anything like this... she turns from this gorgeous, sweet pony to a wild and rather frightening one when it's feed time or there's food around. Ears back, she swings her rear round ready to kick anything that may go near her. When you try to hand feed her treats she grabs it and then shies away as if you're going to take it from her. My first impressions were that she was obviously from a big herd or something and had to fight for her food time has gone on nothing has improved. She's not at all fat, but has a LARGE tummy. Thought she could possibly have worms so I've wormed her, no improvement on any part. Now I've been told that she used to run with the stallion where she was kept previously to me buying her. I'm really worried that she is in foal as I've only ever had geldings, have no experience with foals and nervous that she may be a little too young herself to cope. Sorry for the extra long e-mail and thanks for your time.

Hi Jodie,

You could have a vet check her to see if she may be pregnant. It may not show up yet, but I would try anyway. Over two she is sexually mature and could possibly be in foal. Would this account for her behavior around food? Probably it would not. I agree that perhaps she may have had to fight for her food so she got enough. If she were low horse in the pecking order before you got her and now she has the opportunity to display and push others around, she is going for it.

To help the situation you could try haltering her long before feeding time and as feeding time approaches and she begins to get antsy or in any way aggressive, have her go to work right away by asking her to circle around you on the lead rope 5-6 times in both directions (short line lunging). Then offer her a bit of peace by saying WHOA! and standing there. If she continues to be antsy, do it again and again and again. Sooner or later she will want to stop and stand still. You may have to train her to lunge first, I don't know. You need to repeat this quite a bit for a few days. This will modify the mare’s actions and attitude around food. Putting the mare to work when she acts out is a non-abusive way to modify her behavior. You are making the wrong behavior hard and the right behavior (standing quietly next to you) the easy thing to do. She would only get fed if she stands patiently by you and waits. Do not give her treats for a while until she is fine around the regular feedings.

As far as your insecurity and lack of experience around mares and foals and the young mares immaturity, nature will take care of the mare and some good books can give you a lot of information on 'bringing up foals'. It is not hard. It is mostly common sense and I promise you, it is nothing beyond you. You can do it, if this is the case.

Please let me know what happens. I bought a young quarter horse mare once that was kept with a young stallion. I didn't think the colt was sexually mature. If he was he would have needed a step ladder for sure as he was quite small. Sure enough 11 months later a wonderful little filly came along. What a shock it was. Miracles do happen............

Sincerely, Franklin

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