Toning Down Playtime

How can I make my horse a less attractive target for his pasturemate, who likes to tug at halters and fly masks?
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If the pesterer is young, chances are his playfulness will subside as he matures. | Photo: iStock

A.My horse lives in a pasture-­boarding situation, and a new horse recently moved in who likes to pester the other horses into playing with them by tugging (and tearing) blankets and pulling muzzles and fly masks off. I’m worried because my horse doesn’t really seem to enjoy “playing” like this (he’s always stayed away from playful horses, but the new one seems to be relentless), not to mention the health concerns associated with his muzzle getting pulled off so frequently. Is there anything I can do to help make him a less attractive target for the new horse? Moving him to a different field isn’t an option.

—Greg, via e-mail

A.That is a very interesting question. It is kind of you to think about how you can alter your horse’s attractiveness as opposed to targeting the perpetrator—certainly not the usual story I hear in these situations. I don’t know offhand of anything to recommend to make your horse less attractive to the playful pestering

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Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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