Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Suppressing Undesirable Behavior in Mares

If a mare’s behavior issues are related to her reproductive cycles, suppressing estrus might help.

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Suppressing Undesirable Behavior in Mares
The first step is to determine whether your mare's undesirable behavior is estrus-related. | Photo: iStock

We usually pick up on behavioral problems in performance mares when they’re not training or performing up to our envisioned or expected potential. While almost invariably we blame the ovaries and estrus for her lack of focus or abnormal behavior, in most instances other factors are at play. Differentiating these from reproductive problems is essential to correcting the issue.

Undesirable behavior might be related to physical abnormalities, training problems, or estrous cycle activity. Common complaints from mare owners include back pain, attitude changes, tail-swishing, aggression, kicking, excessive urination, reluctance to move forward under saddle or be separated from other horses, and sensitivity to being touched.

When trying to pinpoint the cause, your veterinarian will gather a detailed history to determine when the behavior occurs. Be sure to provide a description of the undesirable behavior and whether it is continuous, intermittent, or cyclic. Your veterinarian will then perform a physical examination and supplemental diagnostics to rule out causes such as back pain, lameness, gastric ulcers, urinary tract infections, or dental pain. While more difficult to diagnose, your veterinarian will also consider fear, submissive behavior, or response to handling and training as possible causes.

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Written by:

Karen Wolsdorf, DVM, Dipl. ACT, is a specialist at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute’s McGee Fertility Center, in Lexington, Ky.

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