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Introducing a new horse to the herd

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  • Introducing a new horse to the herd

    I need some advice on how to safely introduce a very playful/aggressive youngster to a new herd. Unfortunately he has to go out with this herd. It is the smallest herd at the barn, just a couple of horses in a large pasture. The main herd is much larger, so I thought this would be the best bet.

    He had 2 days of getting to know the other horses over the fence. Lastnight I turned him out with the other horses. I ended up pulling him out after a couple of minutes because he and another horse sniffed noses and then turned their butts to each other and then just started whaling on each other. Luckily neither of them have back shoes. It was like they were playing chicken, neither of them flinched they just kept going. I was pretty sure things would settle after they "duked" it out. But they took a 15 second break and then started back at it. I ran out there and grabbed the new guy out. I decided to give him a few more days of sniffing noses over the fence.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to introduce him to the herd in a more controlled manner? All I can think of is to wrap both horses up in bubble wrap or those inflatable sumo suits.

  • #2
    Do you know the approximate acreage of the pasture? Some people's idea of large and others differ significantly, that's the only reason I ask.


    • Original Poster

      They rotate the fields. But the one I introduced him in lastnight was the smaller one. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on him. And I'd say it's 5 acres or so. It's perfectly flat, and there's nothing to get caught up on. And then their big field is 15-20 acres but it has a pond and trees and is hillier. So I was afraid I'd lose sight of him if I turned him out in the big one with them right away.


      • #4
        Was the sparring partner a very dominant horse? Sometimes allowing a new horse to bond with just one member of the herd before introduction to the main group helps. In this case I would choose a different horse than the one he got into a kicking match with.

        Agree that the more room they have the better, but eventually thry will have to make peace in the group. I'd put the youngster with a more benevolent, higher-on-the-totem-pole buddy if I could, keep them together a few days, then try again.
        Click here before you buy.


        • #5
          I don't know if you can do this, but I always introduce new horses here to one of the herd at a time. I start with the lowest ranking equine, which is my pony (I have a small private boarding facility so I feel better about "risking" my own horse-- not that it has been a risk). Then I move up the pecking order, adding in another horse every couple of days. During this time, the new horse can see (but not touch noses) the other horses on the farm. It usually goes uneventfully, but I have pretty mellow horses here now.

          Five acres is plenty big!

          Good luck.
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          • #6
            deltawave said it perfectly. I was just making sure that the 'large' pasture wasn't a half-acre paddock or something.

            They will have to figure out a hierarchy eventually - and kicking is just one of the ways horses do it, unfortunately.

            Like I said, I think deltawave is spot on with the one buddy suggestion.


            • #7
              I usually pull a member of the existing herd that I know to be reasonably decent to newcomers and put that one and the new one next to each other for several days and then let them share a corral or large pen. Once they are buddied up the two of them go into the herd (which is on almost 20 acres). If the herd buddy is about half way up or more in the herd structure it seems to work well.....buddy is not high enough that she feels the need to beat the snot out of the newcomer nor so low that any faintly assertive newcomer can walk on her.
              Colored Cowhorse Ranch
              Northern NV


              • #8
                I put the new one and the dominant horse in adjacent pastures (noses touching, but with a line of electric along the top), for a week. That's after a 2 week quarantine, where the new horse is across the driveway from the others. Then I turn out the new horse with the dominant horse for a couple of days. Then I turn them all out together. The new horse and the dominant horse go out first in turnout order. My dominant boy will always protect his new friend. Never had a problem except for the usual little tiffs.


                • Original Poster

                  I guess the problem is that the new guy thinks he is going to be top dog, and of course the current top dog doesn't want that. The new guy didn't seem scared at all. He went trotting straight up to the dominant horse, didn't even put his ears back just turned, put his weight on his front legs and went to town. He had no plans of backing down, or running away, he was loving the challenge :/ I'm just afraid they won't figure out who's number 1 until one of this is seriously injured (both had scrapes/cuts on their hind ends just from the couple minute ordeal).

                  I think I will try turning the two of them out together alone eventually. Maybe the current dominant guy won't feel the need to protect the rest of the herd if he's alone with the new guy.


                  • #10
                    HOw radical are you willing to be?

                    I had a problem with my husband's new gelding (the lead gelding really took a disliking to him) when I brought him home. After a few days of over the fence a nd broken fence boards, I took matters into my own hands. I brought both into the corral for 4-5 hours and day and tied them up where they could see each other but not kick each other. After 2-3 days, problem solved. Turned them out together a nd they got a long great.


                    • #11
                      Oy, geldings.

                      Mares work this all out with mean faces and squealing. Boys feel compelled to act out their herd dynamics physically.

                      If New Guy is going to be alpha, and Former Alpha is going to object, then some fur may fly. Maybe turn them out at first in heavy cotton sheets so they can't make as much contact? Only half joking . . .
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                        Sometimes allowing a new horse to bond with just one member of the herd before introduction to the main group helps.
                        This. New horse has an ally and herd member usually acts as a buffer. I pick a horse that is pretty high up in the herd and allow the new horse to form an alliance with them for at least a week. Then, when the twosome is introduced, it makes the transition much smoother. IMHO.
                        JB-Infinity Farm