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Horse Behavior and Training

Older mare creating disharmony.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed

Hello everyone.

My mare Amira who is 19 , a half Arabian and half Danish sports pony is beginning to cause unrest and disharmony in the paddock .
We had the vet call last month for yearly vaccinations and she checked Amira because she has an old injury on a hind leg which swells now and again , she has also had Rosen in the same leg, Amira I also showing early signs of impaired sight, with a Grey tint over her eyes.
With all of this we have prepared for the worst and have agreed with the vet that as soon as Amira cannot follow with the flock because of either her leg or her sight or both then she will be given rest.
( put down ).
She is extremely dominant over the others in the flock, she gets increasingly protective over hay in the paddock.
If I have my trailer in the paddock and want to train with one of the others she runs them off, keeping them away from the trailer and keeping them for herself.
She stands alone a lot, gets upset when another approaches her, and so on.
The others play together, and are very harmonious .
I know that she is the leader and should keep the others in check but I feel that she goes overboard at times and wonder if her behavior is caused by the fact that she is not fully healthy.?
She eats and drinks well, is very sweet around people .
Of course it would break my heart to put her down, but if she is stressed because of the injury and her sight then it would be better for her... Wouldn't it ??
Any thoughts on this anybody?.


vicci - UK (North Wales)
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed

As a lead horse she has to work at maintaining her leadership and this can be exhausting, particularly for a horse who is experiencing health/pain/sight problems. She is not going to give up the role easily but maintaining it sounds like it's making her frustrated and tired.
I cannot tell you what to do Dionne, in terms of ending her life, this is a very sensitive and personal decision. What I can offer maybe is a couple of objective thoughts.
It may be important to split the issue into two parts so as not to accidentally create a false cause/effect/solution chain. The two issues being (a) she has health issues that may be affecting the quality of her life and (b) she is struggling to maintain her role as herd leader and is finding it stressful.
Regarding (a) When she is on her own/away from the stresses of being a herd leader is her quality of life in relation to her pain/sight levels acceptable? You say that she eats and drinks well and is sweet around people suggesting that she copes well but you know her better than anyone so you are the best person to measure this.
Regarding (b) Can she be accommodated away from the others while maintaining her freedom of movement/quality of life thereby relieving her physical and emotional responsibilities/pain/issues?
If the answer to both is yes - then her life would appear viable and the problem solvable. If the answer to (a) is No then the quality of her life is the factor to consider in your difficult decision regardless of her placement.
If the answer to (a) is yes but (b) is no then this is the more complex area where consideration needs to be given to where and how she she lives rather than whether she lives.
It is a hard decision to think about Dionne, one we all dread and I know you will reach the right answer for you and your horse and there is no judgement on my part whatever the outcome. You are right to take time to analyse it. Good luck.

dionne4210 - Denmark.
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed

Thank you Vicci.

Do you mean that I should try to put Amira in a paddock by herself?, this is possible, and she can also keep an eye on the others .
I just thought that it might create stress because she cannot fysically control the flock.?

After watching them in the paddock yesterday, I can see that Shilo sometimes is leading the herd, he also puts the small boys in their place.
When Shilo walks away from the others, they follow him, also Amira, but this isn't happening all of the time.
Could it be possible that Amira is handing over the reins, as it were ?

Yes, it is a very hard decision, her health seems to ' swing' some days she looks and acts like a 4 year old and other days she just stands all day not really connected to the others.
I just want to do best by her.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed

Hello Dionne and Vicci. Your topic if conversation delves into one of the very most difficult areas for horse owners to consider. Vicci, your thoughts on helping Dionne assess her mare`s ability to maintain a healthy life are so well stated. We are all faced with the same eventuality at some point with our horses.
The only thing that sent up a RED FLAG to me was what Dionne mentioned about her mare standing by herself at times. Depending on what is going on with her, she feels separate from the herd during these times of aloofness. Horses do this when they feel that they cannot keep up with the energy of the herd.. An injury will bring about this behavior as well as an illness. Something for sure is going on. I would observe her on a continuously basis for a while and give her a chance to speak to you. My wife and I watch our older horses like a hawk when we feel something is not quite right.
Another thought would be that Shilo just recently came back into the herd and she is re-assessing her position with the group.
Good luck with your observation time. I have always felt that this is the time that I really learned new things about my horses.
My best to you all.

dionne4210 - Denmark.
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed

The day that Shilo came home, Amira acted like a sheep dog, steering the small boys away from Shilo, and not letting him come near.
After a week everything seems back to normal , also with Amira standing by herself, the other day she stood in pouring rain just by herself , even though we have a shelter and a lot of places she can get away from the rAin and wind.
Yesterday and right now she is together with them, so it's really really difficult to assess her.
She does not appear to be in pain, the vet also has said this.
She is stiff in her back legs and runs like a rabbit, ( when she runs ) I haven't seen her bump into anything yet, but the grey shadows on her eyes are very clear to see.

vicci - UK (North Wales)
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You're right Dionne, it is tricky - you could try her in a small paddock on her own and see what happens but it may be difficult to then reintegrate her again. It's interesting your observation about Shilo sometimes establishing leadership - it is possible there is a tussle between Amira and Shilo for this role emerging (Shilo still being young but Amira being weaker now). Amira may finally decide to hand over control to Shilo but I agree with Bud that spending long periods of time on her own suggests that she is struggling; she may welcome the respite from the others. I wish there was a clear answer for you Dionne but hopefully what this discussion has prompted is that you are watching more closely and noticing things that will inevitably help you to make an informed choice. Keep us updated.