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Trouble adding 3rd horse????

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  • Trouble adding 3rd horse????

    Any suggestions? (all drafts, usually calm and laid back)
    My horse (#1) has had 1 pasturemate(#2) for past 2 months. They got along fine, my horse was boss, but not aggressive or really noticeable. Not a lovey relationship, but not bad...just "there" for each other.
    New horse (#3) came Sat.
    I put #1 and #3 together away from barn. Got along fine, no drama, actually started grooming and eating out of same hay pile.
    HOrse #2 can't go home like he was supposed to so I attempted to put him with #1 & #3 yesterday. I put #3 and #2 together first and removed #1, so #3 could bond with new horse. #3 change demeanor, squealing and raising front leg, but after a while #2 and #3 were grazing okay so added my horse #1.
    #2 started acting ugly to #3 again, then chasing him away...then #1 and #2started ganging up on new #3 and chasing him together (not the way I've seen some horses do, like to kill, but just not gelin').
    I removed #2 and he is in pasture by himself away from #1 & #3.
    Any suggestions on how to get this to work? I have to keep #2 for 2 more months and don't want to have to keep him separate.

  • #2
    I had this same problem when I added a third horse. I already had a 7-y-o mare and a 23-y-o mare, and added a 3-y-o OTTB filly.

    Unfortunately, the only thing I've found after years of fostering rescues and having horses come and go from the property is to stand back and let them work it out—scratches, bites, etc (as long there's room for the newbie to get away, and they're not SERIOUSLY trying to kill each other). None of mine wore hind shoes, so I wasn't too concerned about that kind of damage. I did check everyone over carefully each day and treat the small wounds, but after about a week, the filly settled into her role at the bottom of the totem pole and peace reigned once more.

    I didn't like to separate them if they started acting up, because each time they're re-introduced, you're basically starting all over again. And mares seem to be worse about this than geldings.

    I hope everything works out for you!
    "Dogs give and give and give. Cats are the gift that keeps on grifting." –Bradley Trevor Greive


    • #3
      It's just horses being horses and trying to figure out the rank and order in the herd.

      It's not that you had 2 horses and now a 3rd is a problem. It's that every time you swapped the configuration, you essentially created a "new herd".

      Then when they figured it out, you changed the herd again.

      You've got a boss horse and two more dominant followers. Both followers recognize the boss as boss. Between the two followers, they figured out who was on top when it was just the two of them. But when you throw the boss back in, the two are fighting for second in command and boss horse wants a say in it as well.

      As long as they're not trying to kill each other and are in a big enough space that they actually CAN get away from each other safely, I would just observe and let 'em work it out. I would also set out at least 5 small piles of hay far apart so everyone can have a spot to eat even if they get run off their pile. Adding a few more piles than you have horses helps IME.
      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

      Might be a reason, never an excuse...


      • Original Poster

        All 3 are geldings and unshod. But BIG!!!
        The other 2 horses I am leasing, hence my hesitation to keep them together to "work it out"!
        I don't want to break my lease contract with horse #2's owner, but am unsure what to do....


        • #5
          I would tend to agree with BuddyRoo. However, the fact that you are leasing some of these horses puts things in a different light. Perhaps confer with the horses' owners, to see how much risk the owners are willing to expose their horses to? You may have to keep the horses separated for the next two months, to avoid the risk of serious injury to a horse you don't own.
          My Equestrian Art Photography page


          • Original Poster

            How about influencing who becomes "boss" in herd?
            I really wanted the new horse #3 to be boss over my horse #1. #3horse is level headed and calmer than my #1 horse.
            however, it seems as though my horse #1 has taken over, when all three were together he ran around trying to boss everyone. He is very immature emotionally and is the youngest he's 6, new horse #3 is 8, #2 is 13yo.
            I know....let things naturally happen, but don't want a "fruity" herd that listens to a fruity herd leader....


            • #7
              Your initial instincts were right, but just make it longer for a difficult mix. Keep each (group) together every other day for a week or 2, and then put the 3 together. Any chance of doing the "3 together" in a new pasture, that they don't feel at home in?


              • #8
                We usually keep the new horse paddocked separately for a few weeks to give him space to learn his surroundings and let the others meet him over the fence. After the herd settles down about the new arrival, he is turned out into the herd, and watched carefully for several days. Perhaps a miniature version of this would work for you.

                When you do get back to full group turnout, I would put them into the biggest pasture you have so they can sort things out without injuries. If they don't accept him, and there isn't room for him to go off and graze on his own without being harassed, then he might be happier being individually paddocked until horse #2 goes home.
                "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                • #9
                  Yikes - if all the horses were not mine..that would change everything. It is always a risk when you change up a herd situation and normally I would agree with the other poster who told you to let them "duke it out" as long as they are not wearing shoes...but when you are dealing with horses that you do not own, that is totally different. I would just change them up; 2 together and 1 apart; for the next 2 months since the 3 horse senerio is temporary.

                  A long time ago we boarded a huge QH gelding that would hurt a new horse coming into the back pasture...chase all day long if I allowed - bite - kick... We had to take him out of the herd, introduce the new horse for no less than a week and then put the gelding back...and we STILL had to 'babysit' him for 24 hours to make sure he did not attack the new horse! I was secretly glad when the owner sold that horse...

                  Good Luck - and please post back about what works and what does not.


                  • #10
                    Well...the fact that you don't own two of them does change things a bit. Can you speak with the owners of the other two horses and get their input? If they're okay with letting the horses work it out then fine.

                    I guess I didn't realize that you hadn't yet done the quarantine and then allowed horses to share a fenceline for awhile. I missed that.

                    As a sidenote, I really think it's unwise to just throw a new horse in w/o quarantine at minimum.

                    As far as trying to change who the herd leader is? It's their personality. I don't see that changing unless they run into a horse who challenges them and they decide to go with it.
                    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                    • #11
                      Agreed...there are multiple variables...
                      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                      Might be a reason, never an excuse...