Magic Mustang Tamer

Behavior: Stallions Play Rough

Tigger (the ungelded zebra-pony) spent much of his time mixing it up in mock battles with the geldings in the barn pen. He would neck wrestle Tesla and Cracker Joe for hours until the moment they got annoyed and short-tempered with his persistence. It forced him to learn some patience but allowed him to become lightning fast and solid muscle.

During the summer of 2017, we took in a feral stallion from the Humane Society. We called him Valoroso. He had gotten caught stealing hay from the flea market in Gallup, New Mexico. The Gallup veterinarians had tried to geld him, but he was too wild for their restraining equipment. He needed to be gentled to be safe. Once at Mustang Camp, he had to live alone or just with geldings during training, but he spent a lot of time playing across the top of the fence. His high energy and wanting to play started to interfere with his training.

I got the idea of putting my rambunctious boys together for stallion playtime. They had played a lot over and through the fence, so I thought there was a good chance it wouldn’t turn into a fight.

This clip shows 2 minutes of the ten-minute play session. The handlers are standing by ready to separate them if trouble erupts, but they never get angry in this session. The result of this activity was that Valoroso did not try to play with me during his training session. He was tired and seemed to want to take the easy way. It was a success for the moment.

Tigger and Valoroso were able to play three times over the course of a week before they started biting too hard and getting angry with each other. We were able to separate them before things escalated further but they never got to play a fourth time. The featured image shows what angry biting looks like.

Stallions have to live fairly restrictive lives compared to geldings. When I have kept stallions with their own band of mares, the stallions remain happy, but rather than breed more horses, it seems better to get them gelded. Tigger is sterile so he could live in a mixed herd without the danger of fathering foals.

Now Tigger lives in Virginia as a gelding. Valoroso is a gelding in Albuquerque.

As you watch the clip try to notice:

  • Do Tigger and Valoroso have different styles of fighting?
  • What do they do to keep things a game instead of a fight?
  • Is one more likely to initiate the sequence than the other?
  • Do they have different goals to their game?


4 thoughts on “Behavior: Stallions Play Rough

  1. Marlaina W

    This video was worth the price of admission! I watched it over and over. I was previously unaware of the tactic of one biting the other’s leg to get them to drop to the ground. It’s similar to pinning in wrestling!

  2. Jill Schultz

    It seems Valoroso initiates more often, but also retreats as soon as Tigger is down.
    Valoroso uses his mass advantage while Tigger uses his (lack of) height to go low.
    They seem to ‘take a break’ when it gets a bit too serious – Valoroso trots about and lets Tigger stand back up.
    I presume both of their goals is to try to demonstrate dominance.

  3. Dr. PBI Post author

    I would avoid saying that they are trying to demonstrate dominance, and instead choose to interpret it as they are testing themselves against a worthy challenge.

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