Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Behavior: aggression

Contributor(s): Bonnie Beaver, Rachel Casey, Prof Katherine Houpt, Paul McGreevy, Daniel Mills, Natalie Waran

Introduction

  • Aggression can be intra- or inter-specific, or directed against objects.

Aggressive horses can be dangerous - wear appropriate safety equipment.

  • Thorough clinical examination should eliminate physiologic and painful causes before behavioral assessment.
  • Accurate diagnosis requires specialized knowledge and experience.

Every case of aggression is unique, so treatment programs must be appropriately tailored.

Treatment success is dependent on accurate diagnosis of motivation for aggression, and owner co-operation.

  • Causes: can be split into:
    • Normal equine behavior occurring inappropriately, eg direct responses to painful or fearful stimuli, learnt responses to previously aversive stimuli, 'dominance' aggression due to conflict over resources, maternal behavior, frustration-related aggression.
    • Truly abnormal behavior, eg brain tumors, Cushing's disease-induced behavioral changes, hypertestosteronism in mares, stereotypic mutilation of self or other individuals.
  • Presentation: variable from uncooperative behavior, eg ears back, moving around, to lunging attacks.
Print off the Owner factsheet on Aggression Aggression to give to your clients.

Evaluation of the aggressive horse

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Futher investigations

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Conclusion

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers
  • Crowell-Davis S L (1993)Social behavior of the horse and its consequence for domestic management. Equine Vet J5(3), 148-150.
  • Houpt K A (1984)Treatment of aggression in horses. Equine Pract6, 8-10.

Other sources of information

  • Mills D S & Nankervis K J (1999)Equine Behaviour: Principles and Practice. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK.
  • Casey R A (1999)Recognising the Importance of Pain in the Diagnosis of Equine Behaviour. In: Proc BEVA Specialist Days on Behaviour & Nutrition.EVJ Ltd, Newmarket, UK. pp 25-28.
  • Lieberman D A (1993)Learning-Behavior and Cognition.Brooks Cole Publishing, 2nd edn.
  • Fraser A F (1992)The Behavior of the Horse. CAB International, Wallingford.
  • Gray J A (1987)The Psychology of Fear and Stress.Cambridge University Press, UK. 2nd edn.


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