Friday, July 6, 2007

I've Created a Monster!

Just the other day Tia reminded me that she is just a horse after all even though I view her as my best friend and love her dearly. I went to the barn around 7:00 am before going to work for a grooming session for both her and Rio. I usually arrive around 6:30 am and take Tia for a 20-30 minute ride but it had rained the night before so the ring probably wouldn't have been in the best shape. As I entered the barn I greeted both her and Rio in my normal fashion and proceeded to enter the stall with Tia's halter and lead rope in hand. When I went towards her she suddenly lunged at me, teeth bared and ears flat! I was stunned. I attempted to halter her again and she lunged at me a second time! Now this was extremely uncharacteristic for my mare and I thought there's got to be something physically wrong with her. I quickly checked Rio to make sure she was OK in case Tia had been taking out her frustrations on the foal. I stood there for a moment wondering what to do next. I was alone in the barn with a fractious mare and foal who just wanted her morning grain. I haltered the baby and took her just outside the stall thinking Tia would follow and then I could slip the lead rope around her neck. She continued to pin her ears back and wouldn't budge. I called my husband and asked him to come down to the barn and give me a hand as I didn't want either of us to get hurt. When he arrived I had him take Rio completely out of the barn so Tia would wonder where she was. I closed the inner stall gate so she couldn't run past me. When she came up to the gate I talked to her gently and slipped the lead rope over her neck. I expected her to pull back but she didn't so I haltered her. By this time I was quite upset and shaking a bit. I brought her out of the stall and checked her for any obvious signs of illness or injury. Nothing. She seemed fine once I had her haltered. I racked my brain for reasons why she would behave this way out of the blue. Had the storm last night rattled her, was she tired and didn't want to ride, had I somehow startled her when I entered the stall? What could it be? Feeding time has become a bit of a hassle as Rio has a foal feeder but we had to take the rods out because she wouldn't put her face in far enough to get to the grain. So naturally Tia would come over and eat Rio's feed. Then a few weeks ago Rio began eating Tia's feed now that she could reach her feed tub. They are being fed two different feeds so we constantly need to shoo Tia from Rio's feeder by waving a hand or yelling "No!". Is Tia mentally and physically tired from motherhood? Could this be the cause of her erratic behavior? The next morning when I went to halter her she pinned her ears and retreated to the back of the stall but did not lunge at me. I left her know in no uncertain terms that this behavior was unacceptable and I eventually caught her without too much fuss. I'm still perplexed and upset by her behavior and hope that it does not continue. I sometimes forget that she is just a horse and does not have the emotional ties to me that I do to her. I am looking forward to when I can wean Rio and I pray that I get my mare back...just they way she was!


At July 9, 2007 at 7:13:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor you! It must be awful when your favorite horse acts out. You might try tempting Tia with a favorite treat, and once you catch her petting her so she understands that being caught doesn't equal hard work. Other than that, I hope your mare returns to normal-she's awesome!

At July 9, 2007 at 8:59:00 PM EDT , Blogger Michelle M. Smith said...

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I was quite could my baby want to eat me for breakfast! The last few times she pinned her ears back slightly but allowed me to catch her without too much fuss. I've let her know that I won't tolerate disrespectful behavior so either she's feeling more like herself or has come to the conclusion that I'm the alpha mare:)

At July 10, 2007 at 1:58:00 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mares can sometimes, as you know become quite hormonal and just out of the blue, yes.
We do often forget that they are horses and we are their natural enemy so as we approach them they often get aggrivated. When I go to the barn I never enter any stall or paddock untill the horse comes to greet me at the door. That way I'm showing respect for their personal space and they appreciate that.
You could try it. It really deepens trust between you and your horse.

At July 14, 2007 at 9:34:00 PM EDT , Blogger Mellimaus said...

I know how it is, too. I had, and have, to teach my mare who is the Alpha all the time. She has her own ideas....:-)
Have a great weekend!

At November 16, 2007 at 10:41:00 AM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you let your mare know it was unacceptable, with words or physically? What worked for you?

At November 16, 2007 at 12:09:00 PM EST , Blogger Michelle M. Smith said...

When Tia misbehaved in her stall I spoke very sternly to her (she knows her name well)and also waved a coiled leadrope at her back end to get her moving. If she showed any aggression I thumped her a few times on the rump with the lead rope. Eventually she got the idea and allowed me halter her. Over time her bad behavior dissipated and I am happy to report that we no longer have any issues in that regard.

At September 4, 2008 at 10:42:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I am just reading this for the first time.I have raised many foals and let me tell you all the hard work is as you know worth it in the end. Did you make sure your tack was fitting your mare? This could have caused her to act this way as you had been getting her out in the morning to ride. They can change shape drastically after having a baby ( don't we all) I know this is all behind you now but could be good for future reference . Good luck !!

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