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Introducing a New Horse to a Herd

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Introducing a New Horse to a Herd

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Due to a recent incident on a local yard I felt the need to write this guide.

When introducing a new horse to an existing herd it is very important to understand the problems that can occur. 

Do Not just put the new horse into the pasture with the resident horses and hope for the best - because the Worst is just waiting to happen.

  Accidents are caused, they don't just happen !

Any new horse should be put into an adjacent paddock to the main herd or group for two or three days to allow them to smell each other and gradually socialize over the fence, allowing a safe barrier between them should they wish to move away, reducing direct contact and removing direct conflict from the equation .  If an adjacent paddock is not available then a section of the main field should be sectioned off using temporary fencing such as 'electric tape'' fencing.

When introducing a new horse to an established herd or group of other horses, they will sort themselves out into a 'pecking order'.  The resident horses will approach and sniff the new horse and challenges will be made one way or another! 

Initially the new horse will react in one of two ways:

Flight

If flight is the scenario, then the new horse will run, and be followed/chased by the other horses, if and when it is cornered, it may well jump out of the field or be hurt or hurt the other horse/s.  

Or

If the new horse moves off to a respectful distance and start grazing, should this happen and the other horses are not persistent in there chasing or threatening of the new horse, then things bode well for the  stability of the introduction for the new horse and the herd in general.  

Fight

If fight is the scenario, then the confrontation of the existing horse or horses will result in striking out with the front hooves, boxing, rearing and biting.  The fighting can escalate to spinning their hindquarters around and kicking with the rear hooves.  This fighting can result in serious injury to one or several of the horses. 

These situations must be controlled!

How? You may well ask!

 

One method as previously stated is to start by putting the new horse into an adjacent paddock to the main herd or group for two or three days to allow them to smell each other and gradually socialize over the fence, allowing a safe barrier between them should they wish to move away, reducing direct contact and removing direct conflict from the equation . 

If an adjacent paddock is not available then a section of the main field should be sectioned off using temporary fencing such as 'electric tape' fencing.

Another method which works well is during the time that horses are being stabled at night, on the morning a new horse should be put into the pasture first and left to acclimatise, then one of your other horses introduced, and then another, and so on, monitoring the situation as you go making sure that the least dominant horse goes in first and leaving the most dominant horse till last.

Be careful to choose the initial grouping with horses that are passive and not dominant.  The pairing and friendships formed during this period of introductions will give the horses a feeling of safety and help them to fit in with the rest of the herd as they are introduced.  Dominant horses should be led into the field in a head collar and walked round before being let loose with the rest of the herd.

Care and time should be taken to supervise the introductions in the field.  Be sure that the horses have been fed prior to going into the field.  Observe and the behaviour for an hour or two and be ready to extract any horse that is being bullied or terrorized over and above acceptable levels of setting up the 'pecking order', or extract the offending horse.

After you have introduced a new horse to your herd, look out for bites, bruises, lameness, dull coats, snotty noses or any indications of illness as the herd sets up the new 'pecking order'.   Horses will naturally settle into the new order and you should see the chaos turn to order over a few days.  But be aware of the rare occasion that you have a rogue that has a vicious streak.  This is very, very uncommon but must be remedied extremely very quickly to avoid serious injury and well being of the herd.

Best Wishes.

Bob Howarth

 

Be Safe

Author of introducing a new horse to a herd   Bob Howarth, resides in the United Kingdom. He is a horse owner, trainer and writer.  For more information go to www.horserealm.com or e-mail postmaster@horserealm.com

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