Monday, 16 March 2015

Do horses get jealous?

I think that this is a really interesting question.  Some people will think it is ridiculous but many of us will have experienced jealousy in a horse to some extent.

What is jealousy?
The definition of jealousy which seems to fit best for horses is 'fiercely protective or vigilant of one's rights or possessions' .  Horses are not jealous of achievements or advantages but they can be possessive and protective of their food, space, herd position, attention etc.

Horses often seem to become jealous when a horse (or pony) has been in the same family for a long time and probably been the only horse.  If then, after a number of years, another horse comes into the family - jealousy seems to appear!  Having been the centre of attention, the one that is groomed, cuddled, ridden etcetera will find it difficult to see another horse having the same treatment as them!  

I think that some horses are jealous and some aren't, just like people.  Some horses will be aggressive and noisy, others will sulk!  In some cases if the owner greets one horse before the other the jealous one will bang the door and squeal.  I have read about horses that jump the fence if they are not brought in from the field first, horses that attack their 'friend' when they are put back in the field after being ridden and horses that will snort and stamp until they get attention.  

Fidget is not in the least jealous, he really could not care less if he was groomed, cuddled, patted or ignored.  This is definitely not the case with Chesney.  He has been in the family for a long time.  He was never on his own, in fact I had another horse, Josephine, soon after we had him and jealousy didn't seem to be a problem.  Whether the fact she was a mare is relevant I am not sure.  

However, after I lost her, Chesney was the only horse  that was ridden, groomed and really fussed over for several years before Basil came along.  Chesney is now unable to be ridden and he is jealous when I ride Basil.  When I take Basil into the arena Chesney stays by the fence and tries to bite Basil when we go past.  Luckily the fence is far enough away that he can't quite reach!  He also sometimes shows me his 'sad' eyes that make me feel really guilty.

He also tries to prevent me getting Basil in from the field to tack up.  If Chesney is tied on the yard and I am changing Basil's rug or picking out his feet in the stable Chesney will try to reach over the door and bite him.  If he can't reach because he is tied up short then he will just pull faces, put his ears back and bare his teeth!  This happens whether I have already done Chesney or not!  

The problem really is that actually they are both really jealous.  Neither of them like it when I groom, change rugs or just talk to the other.  If I have them both tied on the yard and am grooming Chesney then Basil will not stand still and keeps moving and pulling faces and is really impatient.  If he is on the yard on his own he stands fine!  

It can be quite tricky.  I do try to ensure that if one gets a good groom so does the other, if I wash one tail, I do the other .... I swap who is done first too.  However, they are very careful not to push me or bite me and when I go to catch Basil in the field they are both very good.  I can't bring Fidget in before them though as they will chase us, run around us and generally scare Fidget!

Tips for Dealing with Jealousy
  • Divide your time equally. 
  • If the jealous horse can't be ridden make them feel special in other ways (grooming). 
  • Check if it is about herd status - the dominant one would expect to be fed first, patted first etc .... 
  • If possible find out what happens when you are not around, either with a camera or by asking other people from the yard/barn. 
  • It often gets better with time as the new horse settles in and the older one adjusts (not always as Chesney and Basil demonstrate!). 
  • If possible work with one out of sight of the other. 
  • If necessary turnout separately. 
  • Try a Bach Rescue Remedy
Do you have any good tips, please share in the comments below.

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Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I read this article properly. This is one of the best posts. Thanks sharing this article
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