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Perplexing Behavior (Mare mourning foal?)

My family has been involved with pure bred Arabians in Jordan for as long as there has been any interest in horses there. Currently, I am very attached to an Arabian mare about 5 years of age who is exhibiting some strange behavior. Typically, she would follow me without a rein through the stables to the paddock where we would play and run around but recently when I run away from her she is putting her ears back and making some distressful sounds as she chases me. Is she becoming too attached or is she trying to convey some specific herding behavior? She had just lost a foal over a month ago, and I believe she may have begun exhibiting this behavior ever since. I would love to get your take on this as I am perplexed.

Thanking you in advance.


Is this the mare's first foal? That may be significant. The fact that she did lose the foal is important also. Why did she lose the baby? Please give me the specifics. No matter what, she will be needing some real TLC from you for a while. They are such emotional and feeling critters that the loss of the baby probably has much more effect on her than you can imagine. Bottom line is to show her a lot of emotional support and empathy. Imagine this is a human friend who lost a baby at birth. What kind of rehabilitation and support would that human need? It is not much different for the horse. Patience, compassion and loving kindness are what is called for here.

Please keep me posted. I am very interested. Thank you for your question. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Aloha, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply. Though the specifics of her foal's death are not clear (yet) as I was not in the country when it happened, it was not her first but her second (her first born survived and is doing well). As you correctly suggest, the death took a terrible toll on her both emotionally and physically. She actually abstained from eating for about 3 days and was getting severe stomach cramps. Once I returned to the country she had lost so much weight that she was bony. But with constant care I managed to nurse her back to health by helping her regain her appetite... perhaps a testament to the importance of a horses' mental health.

However when I have been taking her out to the paddock as of recent she has, like I said in my previous email, been exhibiting strange behavior when I run away from her. She follows, very nervously, with her ears straight back and while making distressful sounding grunts. Is it possible that she could be getting too attached to me or could she be conveying some other herding behavior? I am also worried what would happen to her if I am unable to spend as much time with her as I have been doing recently. Very curious to hear your input.

Thanking you once again,


Hi Nasser,

Greetings. I hope you are well and that the mare is doing better. You state that you "run away from her". Why do you run away from her? Why do you not walk calmly away from her? I have known Arabians who are so high strung that running with them or away from them prompts a wide range of behavior that is undesirable. In my training of Arabians I find precise, calm, affirmative, conscious and confident movement works best to keep the horse attentive and confident. If I turn my back on some Arabians, this seems to upset them or confuse them (perhaps both). Try not running away from her. Rather, walk away or have her walk with you. Playing with her while you are moving quickly on the ground may be something she does not enjoy. I have trained Arabians who, as soon as you speed up around them, get upset and go up on their hind legs or start to play really rough very quickly (nipping and jumping around aggressively). As your mare is pinning her ears behind you, I would not turn your back on her all that much. Stay very connected and appropriate. I would not push her. She may well be very attached to you. In which case she will miss you and exhibit withdrawal should you leave for long periods of time. Perhaps there is someone there you could introduce her to who you know can fill in for you in your absence?

I hope this helps a bit. Please keep me posted. Blessings to you and you horse.

Aloha, Franklin

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