Handling an Aggressive Mare in a Group Ride

Question: I have a mare that tries to go after any other horse that rides near her; she even threatens horses at the opposite end of the arena. I spur her on and correct her as soon as I feel her intentions. Is there any way to overcome the problem without always having to be on guard with her? She is aggressive in her paddock, too. She is very sweet to people and respects me. – Horseinwinter

Clinton’s Answer: When your horse goes after other horses, it’s a sign of two things: 1) she isn’t paying attention to you and 2) you’re not in control. She’s basically telling you that she has nothing to do and all day to do it in. A big part of the solution is keeping your mare focused on you during your rides by moving her feet and suppling her five body parts. If she’s having to focus on where and how you’re directing her feet, it’ll be impossible for her to pay attention to other horses and chase after them. Horses can only think about one thing at a time. When you’re working with them, it had better be you.

If the horse does get aggressive toward another horse, let her commit to the mistake. That means even though you can tell what’s on her mind, don’t correct her until she pins her ears and commits to getting snarly with the other horses. When she does, reprimand her by really hustling her feet. Bend her head to the side and yield her hindquarters quickly, then bend her the other way and yield her hindquarters quickly on the other side. It doesn’t matter how you make her move her feet, just that you do it with a lot of energy. Make it very clear to her that she made a mistake.

You may think I’m being pretty aggressive with my correction, and you’re dead set right. A horse that gets cranky around other horses, chases after them, threatens to kick them, etc. is nothing to mess around with. It’s a very serious business. You or another rider or horse could easily get injured or killed when your horse goes after another horse.

After you’ve hustled your horse’s feet, then put her back on a loose rein and immediately go back to what you were doing. Dare your mare to make the mistake of getting aggressive again. If she does, immediately repeat the process.

Making a horse hustle his feet as punishment for a wrong behavior is far more effective than reprimanding him in any other way. Horses are basically lazy creatures—they’ll always choose the option with the least amount of work involved. After repeating this process a couple times, your horse will realize that when she gets aggressive, you’re going to hustle her feet like your life depends on it, so she might as well ignore the other horses.