How To Put New Horses Together!
My daughter bought a horse (her first) 1 1/2 weeks ago. He is so good and calm. He has been in a seperate pasture but is going to be with another horse. The other horse has been across the fence and they have been getting acquainted some. They were talking about a storm tonight and it was decided to integrate them so that they would both have access to some shelter. The other horse is the dominant one and we knew that ours is the quieter one. Needless to say, it did not go well! After our horse went through much and fearing some for him, we managed to separate them again. The ultimate goal was for them to be together. The place we are keeping it at has the other horse and they wanted company for their horse. What should we do? Do you have any advice of how to try this again at a later date or should we not? Please help!!!
First we must as humans understand that horses are a herd animal therefore they must live life with another horse. It’s essential for their emotional and physical well being. They are not programmed to live alone or separated it is hard wired into their system that herd mates equals safety. No exceptions to this rule.
It rarely looks through our human eyes that an integration of two horses goes well. (Even I have bit my lip a time or two watching and hoping the horses don’t get hurt) How horses interpret each other is very different than how two people would get together and meet. They are concern with their own personal safety and determining who is best to lead the group. This can only be done in their own way which often looks very mean and sometimes cruel to us. But rarely do horses actually hurt each other in this process. The anomalies are with horses that have already lacked a natural social upbringing with other horses to learn proper etiquette amongst their species (which is taught from the mature horses to the young horses).
Here’s a term that refers to this situation perfectly, called resource holding potential (RHP). What this refers to is how horses are able to claim space, (holding resources) territory or food from another horse which demonstrates their dominance, ability of strength which leads to establishing the order of hierarchy (or pecking order). Horse’s personalities and dispositions play a large role here. For example: a confident horse will take the food from a lower raking horse, we see this all the time. The other horse you described was simply demonstrating his ability to do just that. He will no doubt end up being the leader of this small group but again time can change things.
Now there’s a couple of things that I would like to know that would help me to help you further:
How old are these horses? How long has the other horse lived in this current environment? How long has that horse been alone? What size is the paddock each horse is currently in and how big is the area that they will live in together? What sex is the other horse? And any history of upbringing regarding these two horses.
Now depending upon the above information, the amount of space is what’s most important here and how safe fencing to footing is, but you definitely should try again.
Here’s how I go about this at my place. First all my horses live in a herd, currently there are 7 and we will be getting a new horse in the next month.
I can separate a paddock from the current environment just by closing some gates that is approximately, 60 x 100 feet. It has its own shelter, water, salt, and of course the new horse will have access to their own hay 24/7. All of the horses can easily approach the new horse over the fence line to introduce themselves. (worse case scenario is I get a broken board now and then). I wait and watch for all the horses to get their opportunity of introduction and for the moment when it seems that no one cares about this new horse. This can take a few days to a few weeks, it depends upon the personalities I know about all the horses involved. ( I also utilize this time for this new horse to get to know me too!) Next when all is calm and quiet, I put all my horses into a paddock and let the new horse out all alone to investigate the rest of the environment that he will be living in with the herd. For the most part this consists of a few acres with the indoor area in the middle (doors are always open). That’s in the winter months, if it was summer and the horses are on a grassy paddock then that could be available too. Again I wait for this new horse to seem comfortable and familiar with the whole area. (There is even a horse that lives next door he would probably want to meet too) I might let this horse out for an hour a couple of times over the next few days if needed but it’s rarely needed more than once or twice.
Another step I might do is take one of the horses from the established herd and put them in with the new horse to bond, but you need again to know which horse this would work best with and which sex, dominance and disposition you are dealing with. I find it best to allow the horses to decide who they like best or get along with for themselves. We humans are not really capable to determining this for horses.
From here, I make sure there is plenty of hay available in many different areas of their usual living space, open every single gate so no horse can get caught in a corner and hold my breath while letting them all in together. The antics start, from squealing, running, chasing but this is soon done within about 10 minutes. They sort it all out every time. It’s later that further changes might take place because this new horse and the other horses will have the need to find out where they fit in within this new herd pecking order.
With two horses this should be even easier especially given enough space that the lower horse can find a place to leave the dominant horses space when asked to do so; there shouldn’t be a big fight to the death at all. In the end this is a human problem of horse keeping methods, not a horse’s problem of herd structure.
P.S. We keep our horses barefoot and in case someone doesn’t know, new horses should not be put together if they are shod. That’s like bringing a gun to a stick fight:0)This book, “Revealing Your Hidden Horse” will also offer you tons of thought provoking valuable information!
Horses by Nature