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Would you board here??

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  • Would you board here??

    OK, first foray into boarding my horse. I've had horses at home for 34 years but we are now gone so much that it seems boarding is the way to go. I saw one place today that was clean and close to home BUT he would turn my gelding out with the other geldings - maybe 8 or 10 of them - immediately. No getting acquainted over a fence for a few days (or preferably weeks), just show the new horse the water/hay situation and let them work it out. This makes me CRINGE. Opinions?

  • #2
    It might work out if the existing herd is used to new horses coming and going and aren't likely to make a big deal out of it. 19 years ago, I had to board in an area with few options during a temporary assignment, so I picked the only place that had all day turnout. I didn't ask about the process up front, and they just tossed my two horses out with the rest. It will sound awful, but it really worked out just fine from what I could tell. There were about 15-20 horses turned out in one 4-acre field. Mares, geldings, ponies, you name it. When it was time to bring them in, they ran them through a really long L-shaped chute (fenced driveway) from the gate to the field to the gate to the barn (they otherwise had no access to the driveway area). Then they'd halter and lead one or two at a time into the barn.

    I was there for 9 months. My horses never got hurt, and I don't recall that any others did either. My dominant mare made different friends than my lower ranked gelding (who had a little trouble finding friends of his own at first because he kept trying to hang with my mare, who was now one of the cool kids and had no time for her "little brother").

    At my own home, for my last addition (a medium pony), I attempted to split my pasture with electric tape and step-in posts for a gradual introduction. That lasted about 1/2 hour before one of my jokers burst right through it. My existing three chased the new pony around for a while. When it died down and she tried to get close, one of them would chase her off again. I don't think any contact was ever made, just bared teeth and chasing. They all settled down pretty quickly, as long as the new pony kept a respectable distance. Within a couple of days, they all got along. This was three horses who hadn't had a newcomer in about 6 years.

    Ideally, I'd still want to go with a more gradual introduction, but I'm not sure if I'd rule that barn out just yet.


    • #3
      Absolutely not!
      "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White


      • #4
        I take my horse out to pasture every fall. The composition of the herd varies from year to year. They sort it out in a few days.


        • #5
          If they have lots of room to get away from each other likely to be fine - find you need 2 horses or a double digit herd for peace. I would want to make sure they are checking health records of incoming horses if they don't do any sort of quarantine of new horses.


          • #6
            My now 25 y.o. gelding established himself as the alpha around 2002 or thereabouts. He in on pasture board and most of the herd is the BO's lesson horses. The group has varied from 6-7 to a dozen. Adding new horses is typical as they work out a new order. He has never been challenged. One thing I would look at is whether their bodies and/or their blankets look chewed up or ripped. That hasn't been a problem since the core group knows the routine, Most of the action when a new horse arrives is amongst those towards the bottom. My guy doesn't do much unless his teeth appear when they don't get out of the way fast enough. When he heads for a round bale, everyone stands back until he finds his spot and they fill in. Same for the waterer and the run-in shed, Most of his cues are pinned ears and a poke of the nose.

            What has gotten interesting is that he seems to be easing into retirement and delegating some responsibilities to the number 2. There have been 5 new guys in the past 6 weeks, way more than usual. Quite a few people have noticed the different dynamics. He has been wary of newcomers. #2 has kept an eye on him and will insert himself between the newbies and my guy. Dynamics in the core group haven't changed. He has started hanging out with a few of the new guys. I picture him becoming the alpha emeritus. He is in excellent condition, holding his weight, and I still ride 5-6 days a week. He also does a few therapy lessons, which he is very good at. No need to change anything per the vet.

            A couple of new Paint geldings have been together forever and are glued to each other. We didn't know at the time that the Haflinger mare in the next turnout was the third member of that group. Electric fence didn't slow her down. They gave up moving her back. Nobody cares.
            Tussman's law: Nothing is as inevitable as a mistake whose time has come.

            "Providence sometimes takes care of idiots." Agnes Morley Cleaveland, No Life for a Lady, 1977.


            • #7
              While I know for a fact that it's done all over with minimal impact..... it would be a no from me.
              COTH's official mini-donk enabler

              "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


              • #8
                I think the composition/ history of the herd would matter to me - are they 8-10 geriatric geldings without hind shoes? Or are they 8-10 active competition geldings? Our herd is the former - when we've added in horses before, they're too old/ lazy to notice or care. None of ours are especially attached to each other, either, so no jealousy issues. Usually what happens is the old men shuffle out to the grass and new horse is a smidge afraid of their big new field, so they hide under the awning until they feel ready to venture out. This is all during the summer though, when they have ~7 acres of grass. I would be way more hesitant of doing this in the winter, when we break the herd up into shifts with hay outside. The old men get territorial of their hay!

                Can you ask for individual turnout next to the field of geldings for a few days?


                • #9
                  It's not the worst situation, not ideal but depending on the horses in the herd and the space available it might be ok. You could blanket and boot him up, turn him out first so he has room to move.
                  Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                  • #10
                    Most boarding barns I have been to didn't really do more than introduce them over the fence then turned him out with the group. I think one place turned out with one gelding they knew would be quiet for a bit first. But for sure, the introductions didn't last more than a couple hours though before all were put together. Only one barn, and it is the most recent and a retirement place for my horse, introduced very slowly over the course of a week or so.


                    • #11
                      Getting acquainted over the fence for "a few weeks" is completely unnecessary in most cases.

                      In a perfect world where people allowed their horses - particularly as youngsters - to grow up in a herd and learn manners and equine social graces from aforementioned herd, I'd have no issue with my horse being put out with a large group right away PROVIDED there is enough space for everyone to feel like they can get away if they need to.

                      However, we don't live in a perfect world, and very few horses get to grow up in this way, which often means they are denied the chance to learn how to socialize. So we have things like individual turnout that is almost a required offering at most boarding barns because Dobbin never learned how to get along with others.

                      For that reason, I would be hesitant to throw my horse right in the mix - it's one of those "I'm not worried about you, I'm worried about all the other idiots out there" scenarios you hear parents telling their kids when they first start driving. My horses are well socialized and I can put them with almost anyone and they figure it out within minutes. But that is simply not the case with a lot of horses, and for that reason I'd be cautious.

                      That said, if this is a group of 8-10 that otherwise gets along well and you can observe them interact and no one is beaten all to heck, it'll likely be fine. Just have your horse turned out first, then introduce one at a time.
                      Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


                      • #12
                        Does anyone have back shoes? That would be the biggest factor for me. And the value of my horse.


                        • #13
                          I do it all the time with my guys and that's way we did it where I used to work (one of the most well known sport horse farms in the country). I don't find that getting to know each other over the fence is a good idea at all. Sometimes if it's dark when a newbie arrives, I'll put them in a stall overnight with a horse that's going to be in their field. But really, as long as there is space, let them work it out.
                          Wouldst thou like the taste of butter and pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?


                          • #14
                            I've tried the slow introduction approach and in my experience for my small herd, it doesn't make a difference. Although I feel better knowing the new guy got along individually with everyone first, the group's first interaction goes the same way no matter how much prior interaction they had. Honestly, the whole process of the new guy getting accepted into the herd goes much quicker when they all go out together right away (I still try to individually introduce them beforehand, just not to the extent I used to). I think the reasoning is each individual horse I have is pretty mellow, but my horse is very protective of the others. I would think a herd of 8-10 would not be as close knit, and therefore maybe not as much of a fuss. I would personally want to be there for the first group turnout and make sure my horse has some sort of a blanket or sheet on and boots.

                            Of course every situation is different, but if this is a larger, well-run facility that has successfully been introducing new horses this way for years, I would be more inclined to trust their actions (a bit).


                            • #15
                              They do it at the barn I'm at. There are some pre-requisites:

                              No hind shoes
                              Horse stays in for a while first to acclimate to facility and be quarantined, then goes out during daytime hours.
                              Horse is intending to stay for a significant period of time. No reason to go through the motions if horse is there short-term

                              Pastures at this facility are very large with multiple round bales dispersed. There is room for horses to move away.

                              We actually may have more injuries related to horses visiting "over the fence" in the pipe paddocks.


                              • #16
                                I am hesitating when it comes to slippery ground and/or greedy horses and hay. If we are talking about a huge pasture with enough grass and nice horses this is something different.


                                • #17
                                  I would not rule out the barn if everything else is good and you can't find anywhere else. If your gelding is either neutral or low man and there is a large space, then I would go ahead. The BO/BM should know which of their horses "may" be a problem if there is a "problem" horse in the group and perhaps plan accordingly.


                                  • #18
                                    I've never once boarded at a barn that did a gradual introduction. For 10+ years, any new barn we moved to, my horse was always tossed out with their new group upon arrival. I personally don't really see how "meeting over a fence" changes anything about how they interact once put out in the field together. Sniffing over a fence doesn't enable them to establish their hierarchy, which is typically the point of any shenanigans. It doesn't matter if they've smelled the other horse before for a week, hierarchy is hierarchy and it must be established.
                                    Now having my own farm, all my fields have 12' aisles between them, so there's really no way for horses to "get to know each other" over the fence. I'm certainly not going to walk a horse up and down the fence line for hours. Sure, they can see each other in neighboring fields, but can't sniff or interact otherwise, there's too much distance. If I ever thought any particular group would be troublesome, I'd use a small lot and introduce the new horse to just one other horse for a few days, then put them out with the bigger group, but thus far there's been no need for this. Herd changes are always done first thing in the morning, so that I have all day to monitor before night time.
                                    Custom tack racks!


                                    • #19
                                      A barn I worked at did just this and had no problems. The BO was good about putting " like minded" horses together.

                                      We had several bullies who had their own large paddocks just for that reason.

                                      It made me cringe when she did it but it always went fine....


                                      • #20
                                        I've seen it be not-fine enough times and in serious enough ways that I don't board at places that introduce new horses to herds abruptly.

                                        Because it's not just your horse's introduction into the herd that you have to worry about, it's the introduction of every subsequent new boarded horse that gets turned out with your horse. Letting horses work things out in a herd that will be somewhat settled makes sense -- I used to do that with school horses who I knew would be sticking around. But a boarding barn where horses cycle in and out with some frequency is a higher risk situation IMO.

                                        If someone brings in a pasture bully and doesn't disclose their horse's propensity for beating the crap out of others, you can be in for some big vet bills right quick, even if your horse tends to be a get-along (or get out of the way) kind of guy. At least when new horses have a day or two on opposite side of a fence, management can get a better sense for whether the new guy is one of those who just cannot stop making aggressive overtures or has zero boundaries when they go on the attack, and adjust plans if they sense that kind of trouble.