© 2006 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com
"Ask Cherry" Issue
newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting
stories and helpful tips for your
horse care, training, and riding.
to Other Horses
Will Hormones Help?
Suitable for Breeding?
Blanket Sometimes or Not At All?
"Ask Cherry" Special Issue
This month, I'm devoting the entire issue to answering some of your questions.
Pasture Manners: Separation
you please give me some advice on how to correct aggressive behavior due to separation
anxiety in pasture horses? Also, will this behavior be picked up by my other horses
My problem, specifically,
is as follows: I have a big bay mare (16 hands, 1200 lbs.) 5 yrs. old. She has
always been a bully with any other horse that she is pastured with (kicking to
the extent of vet. trips, sutures, etc.) Recently, I purchased a 7 yr. gelding
that eventually obtained dominance (after several deep gashes and numerous abrasions).
Now, however, when I try to take him out of the pasture to ride, she attacks him
while I am trying to lead him out because she anticipates the separation. (They
are the only 2 horses in this pasture, which is about 2 acres). I have moved her
to another smaller pasture, which I had to take my weanling foal out of, as I
was afraid she would be hurt by the mare. Can I correct her behavior, or must
I continue to keep her isolated?
already been kicked accidentally by her while attempting to take him out. She
is big and very strong and I am afraid she will hurt someone, as well as the other
horse. She had been by herself for about 1 year before I got this gelding, so
gets extremely agitated at separation, attacking and kicking him to prevent me
(or any one else) from removing him. Please send advice - my other horse is well
behaved and I don't want him following her example. Also, the foal (in the next
pasture) gets very agitated and starts rearing, charging around and whinnying
frantically, as this scares her. Again, I don't want her learning by example.
I appreciate any advice you can give.
I am glad that you are aware of how
dangerous this is. In fact it is one of the most dangerous situations - handling
horses in a "group" situation - even though the group is only two. The
problem is that the horses are still behaving in their wild horse mode, or at
least your bossy mare is, and you only have control of the gelding. It is one
of those no win situations as is. You need to develop mental, verbal, and body
language control over your mare so she will respect YOU when you are in the pasture.
What I would do if I were faced with this situation is this:
Separate the mare from both of your other horses.
2. Work with
her regularly so that she really respects you on the ground, has a job, has plenty
of exercise and is more tired than full of it. Do lots of in-hand exercises (see
my longeing book set for in-hand exercises) that make her pay attention, give
you personal space, turn on the forehand, long whoas on a long line etc. She may
never be the type of horse that you can pasture with another as she will get too
"buddy bound" to him or her. Some horses are like that. Whenever I see
the first sign of something like that, I immediately separate those two horses
and give them a new environment and routine. Herd bound or buddy sour horses are
some of the hardest to deal with once the habit has become deeply ingrained.
After you have worked with the mare to the point where you can feel you can do
anything, any time, anywhere with her in hand (including leading her along the
fence where the other horses are), then if you MUST put her back with another
horse, be very cautious, and you might want to make a habit of going to get the
mare first, taking her up to the barn and tying her, then going to get the gelding,
tying him, then taking the mare back out and turning her out on pasture.
just is no way you can discipline a loose horse while you are trying to lead your
good gelding. But the better her ground training is, the more respect she will
have for you and your space and the more she will pay attention to your body language
and your voice. Also, be sure to continue working her regularly and ride her often
so she doesn't use her excess energy up on you and the gelding!
You might want to consider having your vet check her because there is a chance
that she could have a hormone imbalance that causes her to be so aggressive.
think you already realized when you wrote that you probably have to keep her separate.
It simply is not worth the risk. Do be careful.
Pasture Manners: Aggression to Other Horses
What should I do about my gelding attacking
his turn out mates? My horse is a 19 year old gelding, quarter horse that stays
in a paddock with two other horses; another gelding and a mare. He is fed twice
a day, gets hay 2-3 times a day, and has 3-4 hours/day grassy pasture time. I
try to ride for an hour/day with one day/week off. I keep him at a stable that
has 15 other horses. Most of the other horses are in a stall. I have owned him
for 4 months. He was at his previous home for 7 years and shared a paddock with
another paint gelding for the last 3 of those 7 years.
My horse seems to get along great with his new paddock mates - they have been
together for 3 months. However, about once a month, in the middle of the night,
he will attack one of the other two. We don't know what provokes his behavior,
because no one stays on the premises overnight. He has bitten the mare on her
back pretty bad and has kicked the other gelding in the chest and in the leg.
The injuries were not bad enough to call an emergency vet, but they were bad enough
to cause the owner of the barn to panic.
horse is a pleasure to ride, but he is older and can be a bully. What can I do
to fix this nighttime behavior? Is it ok for horses to share a paddock during
the night? Should they be separated or do you think they are just displaying typical
Thank you for your help! Amy
It sounds like your horse is living in ideal conditions.
But, from what you describe and since nobody is at the barn at night, how do you
know it is not the other gelding fighting with the mare? Since they are the two
that have been hurt, they could be fighting with each other - quite frankly, from
the location of the wounds, it sounds like the other gelding teased the mare (biting
on the back is dominant sexual behavior) one time and the next time, she didn't
want to get bit or teased so she kicked the gelding in the chest.
you are convinced it is YOUR gelding that is doing the attacking, you need to
do more detective work to determine if it is feed related (after all, that is
the MAIN reason horses battle) or hormone related. It might be that when the mare
comes into heat, the geldings fight over her attention.
If he was my
horse, I would take the mare out and see if the night time fighting stops. If
the geldings still fight, then they will have to be separated. It is possible
that any two of these horses may be able to live together without fighting but
not all three.
what age would a horse with retained testicles be a cryptorchid? Do retained testicles
become cancerous? I have a 30 month old horse whose testicles have not yet descended.
Some tell me to treat him with hormones, others to leave him alone as they will
come down later, others to operate. I would leave him alone, but I have been told
that the testicles where they are can develop cancer. The vets around my area
do not seem to know. Can you help?
(retained testicles) is generally considered an inherited abnormality but it has
not been definitely proven to be so. Some cryptorchid sires produce no colts with
the abnormality. And the condition seems to vary depending on the breed by breed,
being most prevalent in Percherons and least prevalent in Thoroughbreds.
Most foals are born with both testicles descended. If one or both testes are retained,
they may be retained in the inguinal canal or in the abdomen. Normal castration
is a simple, on-the-farm procedure. Testicles that have descended to a point somewhere
in the inguinal canal can usually be removed through the flank with the horse
standing sedated. Castration of a horse with testicles in the abdomen requires
abdominal surgery with the horse dorsal recumbent (on his back) under general
anesthesia which is more complicated, riskier, and costlier.
Usually retained testicles will not descend after three months of age, although
in some rare cases testicles may descend up until three years of age. The determination
of whether a young foal or an older colt IS actually a cryptorchid should be made
by a veterinarian.
A horse with retained testicles is typically
not used for breeding because the stallion could pass on the congenital abnormality
and besides, the retained testicle(s) usually do not produce fertile sperm due
to the high heat in the abdominal cavity. Trying to manage a cryptorchid as a
gelding usually doesn't work well as the horse will still have stallion behavior
due to the testicular production of testosterone.
testicles are more prone to developing cancerous tumors when compared to normally
descended testes - another reason for castrating the cryptorchid.
Hormonal therapy is being used experimentally to encourage the suspended testicles
of an inguinal cryptorchid to descend. Either Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
or Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) is administered for a period of weeks.
This is not a proven technique nor is it know why it helps in some cases. At this
point, there are more questions than answers related to hormone therapy for treatment
of retained testicles. Should you consider hormone therapy for a cryptorchid?
Only you, in consultation with a veterinarian can make that decision.
Suitable for Breeding?
a cryptorchid be used as a stud? I just found out today that the 7 year old paint
I bought this years is a unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. While he has been
at a barn with 11 other horses, 4 geldings and 7 mares, he has been no problem
but he displayed stud behavior when turned out in the arena which is why we got
him tested. Our vet tends to be on the cautious side and encouraged me to sell
him. We really like him and he is a beautiful animal. I only wish he could stand
as a stud as people have already asked if he was a stallion wanting to have him
cover their mares.
He has never caused any
concern about being aggressive but did nip me and run off in a playful manner.
I sent him off to work letting him know that was not acceptable and he worked
really well and behaved well. That just drove it home to me that I needed to treat
him like a stallion regardless of how well behaved he is. He is well behaved now
but we have not gone through a spring with him.
The trainer said her mares have been going through their cycles and he has never
once been too much to handle. I am not that experienced with stallion behavior
in the spring not having owned one before. I assumed that with continuous work
with his training keeping his manners under control and being on top of any changes
with corrections would take care of it.
is extremely focused when we are working with him and loves his work. It doesn't
matter what is going on around him, you can keep his focus. He does work hard
to please. We really don't want to get rid of him but of course if he changes
in any way toward aggressive behavior we would not think twice about selling him
to someone willing to deal with it.
wishes they could operate to drop the testicles and be able to use him as a stud.
I don't think that is possible but I will ask for him. The options presented to
us were to go ahead and geld him with a 50/50 chance for losing the stallion behavior,
or selling him as is. Of course we would also have the option of doing nothing
and see how his behavior develops and changes. What are your thoughts and feelings
about our situation? Look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks a lot from me and the paint that I love. Joy
It's tough when there are things about a horse that you
like but there is one big issue that stops you in your tracks. The bottom line
is this. Your horse is not suitable for a breeding animal (read the first cryptorchid
Q&A in this newsletter). You are right, the testes cannot be dropped into
proper position surgically. Researchers are just experimenting with hormonal treatment
for certain cases of cryptorchidism, so it would only be an option if you have
access to a veterinarian or clinic that is using this technique and your veterinarian
feels your horse would be a candidate.
Possibly your horse
was a unilateral cryptorchid and the previous owner had the one descended testicle
removed and hoped the horse would act like a gelding. If only the visible testicle
is removed during gelding, then the cryptorchid horse may appear to be a gelding
but will likely display varying degrees of stallion behavior - chasing or herding
mares in the paddock, mounting mares or aggressive behavior towards other male
So, I'd say, if a veterinarian's examination reveals
that this horse has one or two testicles in the inguinal canal and gelding can
be performed through the flank with the horse standing, this would be a pretty
good solution. If the exam reveals that there are one or two testicles in the
abdomen, weigh the cost and risk of abdominal surgery with your attachment to
the horse. If you decide to sell the horse, be sure to let the new owners know
about his condition. If you don't they could be hurt when his stallion behavior
Is it OK to blanket sometimes and leave my horse unblanketed at other times?
During cold weather (i.e. below zero), is it okay to blanket my horse and then
remove it once the temperatures are more tolerable (i.e. around 20 degrees or
warmer)? Or am I better off to not blanket at all if I don't keep it on all the
It depends on the type of winter coat your horse has
grown and what type of shelter he or she has. If your horse has a very good winter
coat and you don't do a lot of grooming or bathing in the winter and your horse
has shelter to get out of the wind and wet, you don't really need to blanket at