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Spinal Research



Aggression - self-mutilation

Posted by Rach - 20 September 2001

I have a 5 year old Irish mare who has had a tough life! When I first got her she was very very aggressive! She'd bite and kick....

now, she won't do it to people so much, but she will stand there and bite herself! She nips her leg and kicks the wall!

I don't actually understand why! - Why it is that she feels she has to bite herself? It is at feed time and other times of the day, especially if strangers are near her!

Any ideas how to calm her -I've tried the stroppy mare- it didn't make a bit of difference!

Posted by ammatthews

I know I'm applying human concepts here and it's probably rather fanatical, but it sounds like she's attempting self mutilation.

But seriously, is she lashing out in anger or, more likely from what you say about he past, in fear. If she shows others that she is violent and strong, they might not hurt her?

If this is the case, the only way to cure her is to show that humans are nice. But then you say she's ok with some people.

hmm... not quite sure where this post is going. Sorry! Just a few random thoughts.

Posted by Alison Woods

I've a mare who kicks her stable to gain attention when she thinks you're not paying her enough attention - we went through months - if not years - of the 'only child' syndrome and it took loads of patience and loads of kind but firms no's.

The biting herself if as you say increases when strangers are around will improve as she gets more self confident.  Try moving her to a box at a quiet end of the yard and use some jumps poles etc to cordon an area off so strangers can't get too close.  Slowly you should be able to introduce new people and then eventually remove her "safe zone".

Also to discourage her biting herself try bathing the areas of her body she bits in something which tastes disgusting.  There is something you can get at most chemists humans use to help stop biting fingernails - it may not be suitable in this instance but you know the type of thing I mean.

My Irish mare came from Ireland and was the most contrary monster to start with.  We couldn't tell her off about anything for the first year and then gradually introduced a bit of discipline when we thought she was ready and was starting to take the mick!  She'd happily sleep on the end of my bed now if she got the chance - but is still rather nippy (I've a friend who calls her the alligator).

Posted by T L Equestrian

Self inflicted injury in humans is recognised widely as a frustrated cry for help! Few people realise that the same thing can manifest itself in horses. The thing is, it can rapidly become a habit!

You don't say much about your horse's routine etc. This problem needs to be accurately assessed so that steps can be taken to alleviate it.

Posted by Rach

She is out for the day, fed at about 8-8.30 am. I muck out, then I ride her!! (spend about 2hours mucking out, and poo picking etc..)  She then gets her hay.

I leave her in the field and about 6pm she will come in, be brushed, hayed and fed!  That's the routine!

I'm trying to think when she does this biting and it is when there are men around the yard!!  She's ok with my dad - she knows he won't hurt her, but the neighbours if they pop in to see me, and eg- say hello to her, she will then either go for them or go for herself!!

She doesn't have any problems with me, she sometimes snaps at me, but she will be told off for that, and will accept it!

Posted by TLEquestrian

You will probably think I am nuts but it sounds as though she has, at some time, suffered badly at the hands of a man, to the point where she decided that her best defence was to attack! Now she is obviously in a much kinder home but whilst she knows not it is wrong to attack humans, her subconscious still triggers her defence mechanism when men are around! She knows NOT to attack them, gets frustrated and so takes it out on herself!

Just a theory. Without seeing her and gauging her reactions and reading her signals, it is very hard to give a definite answer.

You need to try and build her trust in men again. Perhaps enrol your dad's help? Get him to handle her a bit more and then introduce another man with your dad present?

The main thing is, not to pressure her. Perhaps you 'new man' could just walk up close(ish) drop a titbit (apple or similar) into a bucket within her reach, say something soothing like 'good girl' and immediately walk away again! If the same man did this every day for a few days, she should soon come to look for the treat. You can then progress to the man standing by whilst she eats it .... etc.

Remember, slow but sure wins the race.


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