Managing Moody Mares

Managing Moody Mares

We all love our mares, but there is no doubt that most of them can be difficult and unpredictable in the way of classic moody mares. One day she’s perfectly behaved, the next the ears are pinned, the tail swishing; she squeals and kicks out at other horses and she’s adamant she’s not going to work or do anything you try to persuade her to.

It puts me in mind of a nursery rhyme I learned in childhood:

“There was a little girl and she had a little curl

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good she was very, very good

But when she was bad she was horrid!”

Mares have a reputation for being grumpy and as most of us know, it’s mostly down to hormones. Just like women with PMS, mares can be temperamental in accordance with their estrus cycle.

Mares are polyestrous – they come into season in spring, summer and autumn and usually have three week cycles lasting between five and seven days at a time from April through to October.

Longer hours of daylight stimulate the reproductive cycle of mares, so there is usually some relief in the winter months – a time known as anestrus – when the cycles temporarily stop.

Handling Moody Mares

If you’re handling a grumpy mare it’s a good idea to track her cycles so you can be prepared for the worst in her behaviour while she’s ovulating.

This way it’s also possible to judge whether your moody mare’s behaviour is actually hormonal, or perhaps is indicative of some other problem that is making her unhappy – this could be anything from an ovarian tumour to a bladder infection. If you suspect there is more to her bad behaviour than just her reproductive cycle, have a vet investigate.

So how can you make your moody mares, and yourself, more comfortable during their cycles?

There are a few precautions you can take to limit the impact of grumpy behaviour during the most difficult days in her cycle:

Be cautious around her – be aware she may be aggressive on her most hormonal days. Avoid approaching her from behind, and if possible keep children at a safe distance.

Be patient and empathetic with moody mares – she’s only being a victim of a natural cycle that she can’t control.

Limit her workload and don’t expect too much of her; riding her when she’s volatile won’t be a pleasant experience for you or her.

Keep mares separate from geldings to avoid any aggression that might lead to injury.

If your mare’s hormonal behaviour is really excessive, you can consider giving her supplements and in extreme cases have a vet prescribe some medication.

There are cases where surgery has been used, there isn’t much conclusive evidence though that an ovariectomy (removing the ovaries) has an impact on behaviour.

Supplements for Moody Mares

There are several good hormonal supplements containing herbs, various minerals and/or pheromones available that help to regulate the mare’s cycle and also have calming properties.

Here’s some recommendations you can try:

Dodson & Horrell’s “Stroppy Mare”, which contains chamomile and vervain for calming’ St John’s wort and chaste tree berries to support hormonal function; and raspberry leaves and peony petals to benefit the reproductive system.

NAF Oestress, a herbal hormone balancer in liquid or powder form which also contains high levels of antioxidants and magnesium to limit muscle tension and anxiety.

ConfidenceEQ® is a synthetic copy of the naturally emitted equine appeasing pheromone. It’s applied into the horse’s nostrils using your fingers, and works quickly to de-stress the animal in difficult situations.

Equine America No More Moods is a liquid chaste berry supplement that helps balance hormones. It has added magnesium and vitamin B1.

Global Herbs Frisky Mare Plus contains a blend of herbs traditionally used to help comfort and balance mares’ reproductive systems.

Medical Intervention for Moody Mares

The medical means of controlling moody mares is to maximise progesterone and minimise estrogen in their systems, and there are various ways of doing that if bad behaviour is extreme. You will have to consult your vet, but the criteria for a successful solution is that any medical strategy should be safe, tried and tested, cost effective and reversible if you decide to breed your mare.

One option is daily oral administration of a synthetic progesterone, another is periodic injection of progesterone and yet another is a progesterone implant under the skin.

There are other methods too, all aimed at suppressing estrus. Consider the pros and cons carefully and discuss everything with your vet before deciding on any medical course of action.

Here at Totally Tack we have two boys and one moody mare named Cilla, so we are well-versed in the problem. Give us a call on 01373 228 242 or drop an email to if your mare is driving you to the end of your tether!