Mean Girls? - Moody Mares

“Witchy” behavior in mares is almost always blamed on their heat cycles, but the fault can lie somewhere else.

By Breanne Hill

Sugar and spice and everything mean. That is what some mares seem to be made of when they are in heat.

As is the case with any animal, horses can be affected by the hormonal changes that occur during the heat—or estrus—stage of the reproductive cycle. This phase, in which a mare is most receptive to breeding, commonly manifests itself through such behaviorisms as tail swishing and squealing when around other horses and can be accompanied by a short attention span and a bad attitude.

In practically every equine discipline, there are trainers and owners who dislike working with female horses for this reason. They simply don’t want to put up with the monthly hassle created by a mare that is in heat.

To assume estrus is the only reason a mare gets moody, however, is a mistake. Veterinarians recognize that a horse that seems mentally imbalanced may be going through more than just the usual hormonal changes. She could be experiencing any number of health problems that have her behaving in a less-than-nice way.

Shaylyn Bliss, DVM, an equine reproductive specialist at Performance Equine Associates in Whitesboro, Texas, cares for hundreds of mares every breeding season. She says the key to determining whether your mare is being affected by a standard estrus cycle or is suffering from another medical condition is to know what is “normal” behavior for her.

Tags: health, broodmare, horse health, Mare and Foaling, your horse's health, Barrel horse health, mare attitude, mare in heat, heat, estrus, moody mare, behavioral problems, healthcare, mean girls, moody mares